Last week, on a casual work call to meet new colleagues, discussion turned to favorite television shows to binge during the pandemic. I smiled and nodded casually, unable to join the conversation about anything that was mentioned. Then someone asked me what I watched. And I told them Jeopardy!
Jeopardy! has been my favorite television show for as long as I can remember. From sitting on the floor of my parent’s living room as a kid watching the Teen Tournament to evenings in high school spent watching Jeopardy! over dinner to having my parents record a couple episodes for when I would be home on breaks from university, the soundtrack of my life is the familiar theme music, Johnny Gilbert’s voice, and, of course, Alex Trebek’s reassuring and compassionate hosting.
I had just gotten out of the shower and picked up my phone to find some music to dance to when I saw the family group text. The tears came before I knew what I was reading. Alex Trebek had died at the age of 80.
Alex Trebek was more than just a game show host. He was a comfort to me and millions of others around the world who tuned into his program each night to learn and to grow. Jeopardy! made learning cool. Jeopardy! brought us together. Jeopardy! made our lives better. And we owe a lot of that to Alex Trebek.
I’ve taken the Jeopardy! test basically every year since I was old enough to throw my hat into the Teen Tournament. I’d rehearse my stories that I would talk about at the contestant interview portion. I thought often about being on that stage, but more so about meeting one of my educational heroes—a man with grace and wisdom. For a long time, my dream job was to be on the Clue Crew with Sarah and Jimmy.
When I first moved to New York City and was working insane hours at multiple jobs to pay rent for a less-than-ideal apartment with people I didn’t know, I can recall a specific night when everything felt like too much. New York has a way of pushing you to those extremes sometimes. It was that night that I decided to treat myself to dinner at one of my favorite neighborhood pizza spots—and the only place I’d have willingly paid more than $1 for a slice.
I handed over my $5 for 2 slices, but rather than return to my apartment, I slumped into the plastic chair and mindlessly returned a couple text messages on my phone. Then I heard the song. I looked up to the familiar blue screen, morphing into the introduction of Jeopardy!. This is an almost 5-year-old memory and I can still remember the comfort of looking up to a tiny screen above a stack of empty pizza boxes and seeing a piece of home. A piece of all of us.
I sat in that pizza place for 30 minutes.
Alex Trebek hosted over 37 seasons and 8,200 episodes of Jeopardy! He made us all better.
Thank you to everyone who works to create Jeopardy! Thank you to the Trebek family for sharing your loved one with us. And thank you to Alex. Thank you for everything.