Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A 'Great Mind' Wins Jeopardy!

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A 'Great Mind' Wins Jeopardy!

Article excerpt

Editor's note: According to Society logic. Scott Harris qualified as a "Great Mind, "part of a Phi Kappa Phi marketing campaign, upon his chapter initiation at University of North Texas, from which he earned a master's degree in library and information science this spring. Another sanctioned example of his erudition occurred last October when Harris won a game o/'Jeopardy!. the long-running quiz show on syndicated television - and $19,201. The episode aired on Jan. 20. The next day viewers saw the defeat of the returning champion, who is the librarian at Imagine School in the Valle, a charter elementary and middle school in Las Vegas, Nev. But he triumphantly used the prize money - $21,201 before taxes for the two-game total - to pay off credit card bills, buy home electronics, and plan a trip to Washington. D. C, for himself; his wife, a marriage and family therapist; and their two sons, age 6 and I. Here's an edited account from Harris, whose 1990 undergraduate degree in film studies is from University of Utah, about how his "Great Mind" brought him a lucrative, if momentary, claim to fame. Email him at

Three years ago. this trivia bufi" since middle school set a goal not just to appear on Jeopardy! but to win. I took the online qualifying test of 50 clues in 50 categories once a year (per the rules) for two years, but no luck. In early 2010 I passed it and was invited to try out that April in Culver City, Calif, where the show is taped.

I hugged my family goodbye and practiced the game during the five-hour drive. Invitees pay their own way, dress as if on the show, take another similar written test, and then play a brief mock game. Between 25 and 30 aspirants gathered at a hotel near the studio for the two-hour process. I didn't win or lose the audition game since scores weren't tabulated: deportment and appearance were judged.

I heard nothing for months and figured I blew it. But last September I got the call to appear on the show in six weeks.

The theme from the movie Rocky played in my head as 1 trained, doing crosswords, studying trivia books, scouring newspapers. I watched Jeopardy! while standing behind my La-Z-Boy as if it were a podium and using a pen with a clicker for the buzzer.

I couldn't sleep the night before taping. Then 1 remembered a documentary about baseball great Ted Williams, the last to hit .400 for the season. An umpire told him that, given his preparation, all Williams needed to accomplish this feat was to "stay loose."

The show does not pay travel expenses for contestants, generally speaking. My wife and I dropped the kids off with my parents and she quizzed me on the drive to Culver City. …

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