As I waited at red lights Tuesday at nearly every Second Avenue intersection from the Platte River to the Hub’s downtown Kearney office, I heard in my head the tune played during “Final Jeopardy!” written answer time.
I have watched the TV game show since its original decade, 1964-1974, so I often hear that ear worm when I wait in traffic, wait in lines and wait to get off “hold” during phone calls.
Younger folks know the tune from watching more current episodes of the 55-year-old brain teaser that currently is broadcast locally at 4:30 p.m. weekdays. “Jeopardy!” has been a syndicated show hosted by Alex Trebek since 1984.
It’s humbling to play along with contestants. I identify most with players who get “oh, no” looks on their faces when seeing categories such as opera, physics and the history of Albania.
At the risk of feeling uneducated and not at all well-read, I watched Tuesday’s first of what may be up to seven nights of a “Greatest of All Time” tournament featuring the three most successful “Jeopardy!” players to date.
Ken Jennings won the most consecutive games, 74; James Holzhauer, another multi-game winner, had the biggest single payday, $131,127; and Brad Rutter won big in 2000 when there was a five-game winner cap and then won several tournaments to reach record all-time winnings of $4.68 million.
The “greatest” tournament’s prizes are $1 million to the winner and $250,000 to each runner-up.
Two full games are played each weeknight, except tonight. The man with top total earnings for the night gets one point and the first with three points wins the tournament. Jennings and Holzhauer won Tuesday and Wednesday, ensuring that the tournament continues next week.
I was surprised at how many answers — in the form of questions — I got right in the first round of the first game Tuesday, mostly in national parks, current news and musical instruments categories. Shakespeare, not so much.
Categories about czars and chemistry left me mute in most of the second round. All three contestants knew most of the answers, so their biggest challenge was ringing in first.
All four of us had the correct first “Final Jeopardy!” answer in the “Presidents and the Bible” category. It was the first six words of the Gospel of John: In the beginning was the word.
I was sidelined during Tuesday’s second game by a lack of knowledge about time travel novels, architecture, philosophers, foreign words and astronomers.
Rutter, Jennings and Holzhauer have mastered other skills needed to win big on “Jeopardy!” — buzzer timing, making daily double bets based on their category knowledge and accurate “Final Jeopardy!” wager math to ensure earning at least $1 more than opponents.
How can they know so much about so many topics? Is it all accumulated knowledge? If they prep, how do they know what topics to study? How do they get quick access to facts in their huge memory files?
I often must pause in the middle of a sentence to retrieve a word. It can take me hours, days or weeks to match names and faces or come up with a fact I no longer need.
I joke that because my brain is so packed with 60-plus years of information, it’s an archive too big to be searched efficiently. The truth is a lot of valuable stuff has faded away and too much worthless trivia remains, taking up valuable space for potential new learning.
I guess that makes my brain a little like a game show whiz and a lot like an old woman.
Lori Potter is a Hub staff writer.