For the past ten years, watching Jeopardy! has been required in my house. My wife has not missed an episode without a valid excuse for even longer than that. Both of us look forward to getting a bit smarter, being entertained, and enjoying the peace that comes when a friend visits.
With Alex Trebek’s passing, we have lost a friend. The nation has lost an educator and, perhaps most importantly, a role model. Trebek will be missed dearly.
There is no TV show that I can think of that celebrates general knowledge quite like Jeopardy! has with Trebek as the host. The diversity of subjects, ranging from pop culture (my weakest category) to history and science, tells us that all knowledge is good. A correct answer for a $1000 clue on reality TV gets you the same award as one on Wagner’s operas.
Perhaps more importantly, knowing the answers is equally celebrated, not only with money but with recognition. Frequently, Jeopardy! losers applaud the winners. As we watch from our sofa, we often comment ed about the brilliance of successful contestants.
If you have watched Jeopardy! for any length of time, you will note that nobody is ever shamed or humiliated on the show. The categories of questions are such that a university professor may leave the show with no winnings (other than the $1000 given to the last-place finisher). Winners come from all walks of life, as exemplified by a recent mega-winner who identified himself as a professional gambler.
Trebek consistently showed dignity and respect for all contestants. It was a function of his personality. He didn’t seem to dislike anyone. He always was a bit self-deprecating, and he demonstrated a genuine interest in many contestants’ backgrounds. All this made just being a contestant on Jeopardy! a “win.”
Trebek’s basic decency towards contestants contrasts with the harsh tone, stone-throwing, and name-calling of today’s politics. Trebek would have made a great U.S. President, but persons born in Canada are ineligible for election.
For many years, I watched Jeopardy! shortly after arriving home from work. Not infrequently, I was tired and grumpy. My friend Alex usually fixed that. His upbeat tone, confidence in the benefits of knowledge, and engaging smile were all I needed. I can’t recall when I wasn’t in a better frame of mind after watching Jeopardy! than before.
What will the future hold for Jeopardy!? Only time will tell, but one can hope the producers appreciated what a gem they had in Alex Trebek. With luck, they will find someone who shares Trebek’s love of knowledge and easy manner with people. If they find such a gem, I will continue our family tradition.
Alex, thank you for making my life a bit brighter — and for making me a bit smarter. I will miss you.