Centrepiece Online | Spring 2009
Endpiece: I'll Take Fame for $400
Here are three Jeopardy! questions that my Centre education would have prepared me well for had they appeared on the two games I played:
1. Ancient Greek Art: This concept was introduced when sculptors created statues with their weight shifted to one foot. What is contrapposto? (Everyone learned that in Humanities 11, right?)
2. The University of Slang: This mid-1990s campus term can mean anything from making out to a one-night stand. What is “fling”? (Come on, surely you did it, and if you didn’t, you knew lots of people who did.)
3. Fire and Art: The large metal sculpture called The Flame that Centre College students run to and from naked is this artist’s best known work. Who is _____? (I would have missed this one. Does anyone without The Flame right in front of them know who made it?)
But those questions were nowhere to be seen.
Instead my episodes, which aired Dec. 30 and 31, 2008, featured categories on weather, “Sports on the 8s,” ballet music, political rock and roll, and Scarlett Johansson.
Thank God for Scarlett. My arcane knowledge of her career helped propel me to win my first game and rake in the 85th-highest one-day payoff in Jeopardy! history. (Unfortunately, I lost the second game, which because of the show’s production schedule started filming 10 minutes after I won the first time.)
To put it bluntly, not one bit of academic knowledge I accumulated in my four years at Centre helped me become a one-day champ on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show.”
But I doubt I would have ever done as well had it not been for a truly beneficial life skill I learned at Centre.
When I got The Call to be on the show, after two rounds of auditions, the anxiety almost overwhelmed me. I started preparing like a fiend. Besides studying The World Almanac (I highly recommend reading it—really), I scrutinized something I had never thought about in my nearly 35 years: How and where do I learn and accumulate these random facts that clutter my brain?
I can’t explain the “how” but I can answer the question of “where”: I read. A lot. About lots of topics: great fiction, newspapers, entertainment magazines and Web sites, nonfiction books, blogs, pamphlets . . .
I think it was in those hours and hours and hours I spent in Doherty Library that my brain matured and became a sponge soaking up random facts that were pretty much useless until Jeopardy! came along.
So when I came away victorious from my first game on Jeopardy!, I owed something to Scarlett Johansson. But I also have a big thanks to give a small, lovely, liberal arts college in the heart of Central Kentucky.
Scott Shive '96, 34 is an assistant features editor at the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., where he lives with his partner, Marc Roland, and their two dogs. Since his episodes of Jeopardy! aired, he has stopped watching the show regularly—the mystique is gone.