Taking part in this activity practically issues a license to dream, ensuring the participants project themselves into unlikely, lavish scenarios forecasting how they would choose to handle fame and fortune.
What is the lottery?
What is “American Idol”?
(Softer, more judgmental) “Noo.”
What is, my friends, the “Jeopardy!” online qualification test?
Trebek: “Correct. Also acceptable: What am I doing here?”
I like to play along.
You know the type. There’s one in every house: “Jeopardy!” is on, Trebek reads the question and out comes an answer in question form — always under the assumption of first buzz-in as if we have the reflexes of a spider monkey familiar with 19th century literature. We tally our score when we are correct; we say, “Ahhh, of course it was [correct answer],” and brush off the fact that we just lost hundreds of Jeopardy! dollars when we are wrong. We are aware you probably hate us.
This behavior comes from the broad assumption that we could hack it given the chance to get behind the blue podiums. Maybe we’re good at Trivial Pursuit, maybe we took Latin in high school, maybe we’re good at shouting — trust, though, somewhere the dream’s out there.
Thanks to the Internet, we have a chance to make that dream a reality: The “Jeopardy!” people periodically offer an online test to qualify for the show. (Yes, there was a way to get on the show before the Internet, too, but my research suggests it required dark sorcery and a rotary phone.) Tonight, I once again will be taking the test.
If I am being realistic, there’s just about no chance that you see me striving syndicated for Daily Doubles. But this test, this all-inclusive entry level to game-show destiny, represents a large enough sliver of hope for my imagination to do gymnastics off.
As some fantasize about lottery winnings — all the while bemoaning the tax code — I wonder how I would write my name on that big blue screen in front of the podium. What I’d bid in Final Jeopardy, or, rather, what witty thing I’d write when I was so far ahead that I need not bid anything. What I’d choose as the subject of my playful banter with Alex after the first commercial break. Whether I got to choose the subject at all? (Trebek: Stay on your toes.)
Will the newspaper be OK with me taking off when I win multiple episodes? Will Ken Jennings and I become friends? Will the “Jeopardy!” producers bring out the Watson computer if I start taking too much of their money? I hope not. That Watson makes me uncomfortable. You’re not going to “Matrix” me, computer!
Will I have to hire a bodyguard to protect me after I win all that money? Will Ken Jennings like my bodyguard? No, I don’t want to be on a reality show, TLC. Of course I’ll be a panelist on one of your “I Love the ’10s,” VH1! Gangnam style!
Of course, I’ve crashed down into a needless funk every time I haven’t made it. Yet every time the test comes around, I sign up again.
Alex, I’ll take “Keep Dreaming” for $400.
Andy wants to thank guest star Alex Trebek for his appearance in the column and notes to his editors that he’ll be taking the test on his dinner break. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.