Watching Jeopardy! always makes me feel like an idiot. I am not very good with random knowledge. Or mental processes in general.
I rationalize this major shortcoming as an impetus for learning, as if knowledge is somehow a finite reservoir. The way I look at it, the more I know, the less there is to learn. It would be pretty boring if I knew everything.
And I no doubt would be more insufferable than I am now.
Like I said, it is a rationalization. One that I confront every time I watch the endless parade of seemingly ordinary contestants on Jeopardy! blurt without hesitation all that I have ever learned and forgotten and more.
In the pursuit of mental retention, long term and short term are fundamental measures of this.
What is parking?
Let’s be honest. Useless trivia is redundant. Demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of random facts is impressive, but not all that practical. It is the high brow equivalent of seeing how many frankfurters and potato buns Coney Island hot dog king Joey Chestnut can cram into his mouth on the Fourth of July.
It is an interesting skill, but outside of notoriety and indigestion, it doesn’t have a great deal of practical value. Likewise, the only thing that makes useless trivia useful and non-trivial is prize money and bragging rights.
Which is why Jeopardy! is so entertaining. We get to watch ordinary people with an impressive command of obscure facts compete with each other for money and acclaim while sizing up our own capabilities on the safe side of the TV where our intellectual gaps are not public record.
Of of the three R’s in rudimentary education, this one ironically starts with the letter “A”
What is mathematics?
This is where Alex Trebek came in. He took an otherwise boring game show and not only made it entertaining, he made it educational and intimidating at the same time. As host, he was the aloof college professor who we could never impress and the understanding dad who we could never disappoint.
Being correct for Alex Trebek on Jeopardy! was a steady state of being. Being wrong was nothing to be ashamed of, but it was an imperfection that others could exploit.
Alex Trebek held all the answers and made us believe he knew all the answers. He was the final arbiter of truth. And his authority and integrity were unquestioned.
It is not surprising that he was a popular write-in candidate in the recent presidential election.
In law this represents the truth about things, as opposed to interpretation.
What is fake news?
Ooh, noooo, sorry. The answer we are looking for is facts. What are facts?
But as a game show host, Alex Trebek’s real skill was to deftly control the flow of face-paced exchanges where the answer to the question is the question to the answer. In the bass akward world of Jeopardy! there are no stupid answers, only stupid questions.
And with a touch of painful humor mixed with no-nonsense game play, Alex Trebek made confusing facts bounce back and forth like ferocious ping pong balls.
With a total of 14, this game show moderator has earned the most daytime Emmy awards ever for Outstanding Game Show Host.
Who is Alex Trebek?
No, I mean, the game show host with the most Emmy Awards is you, Alex Trebek
Please rephrase your response in the form of a question.
Who is Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy!?
Oh nooooo. I am sorry. The response we are looking for is Bob Barker.
Who is Bob Barker?
That is correct.
No, I want to know. Who is Bob Barker?
From 1972 until 2007 this award winning game show host moderated The Price is Right.
Who is Drew Carey?
Drew Carey? No, it is Bob Barker. You wanted to know who Bob Barker is. Let’s move on. Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Is that the answer or is that a question?
That is the answer.
What game show did Regis Philbin host?
Is that your final answer?
What? No, that is my final question to your answer which is really a question. What game show did Regis Philbin host?
Pheww! Game Show Theme Songs for $200, please.
You have 2 more seconds.
But I didn’t get the answer! And I can’t hear with this stupid music playing.
I am trying! What is the answer?
Oh nooooo. I am sorry. The correct response is What is the name of the theme song to Jeopardy!? Think!
And so on.
I imagine Alex Trebek in final jeopardy standing at the Pearly Gates addressing St. Peter.
This computer key is associated with the carriage return on mechanical typewriters.
What is Enter?
Yes. Enter. I think I will.