While most of my peers were sleeping in on the weekend of October 3, I flew to Boston for Sports Jeopardy! auditions. Over the course of two and a half hours, I was able to show off my sports knowledge and hopefully set myself up for an opportunity to appear on the game show.
In order to get to the in-person audition, I had to pass an online test, which I took in May and completely forgot about until I got an e-mail in mid-September.
The e-mail informed me I had been “selected for a follow-up appointment at an upcoming Sports Jeopardy! contestant search for the Boston area, exclusively for those who successfully passed the online test. This is the next step in becoming a Sports Jeopardy! contestant.” I was given a specific date and time for the audition that was non-negotiable. I quickly and eagerly RSVPed before booking flights and a hotel.
During the few weeks between receiving the e-mail and the actual audition, I added trivia segments to my radio show and had friends pepper me with questions whenever I ran into them on campus.
I drove to the Columbus airport for a 7:30 AM flight on Saturday morning, doing homework on the plane instead of cramming sports trivia knowledge. Hours later, I arrived at the Boston hotel that held the Sports Jeopardy! auditions.
My audition time was 3 PM, and it was the last of three audition times offered that day. There were also regular Jeopardy! auditions being held in another conference room. All of the members of my group, except for one, were male. At 20, I am pretty sure I was the youngest one there.
Before we entered the room, a few people (including Jeopardy! clue crew member Jimmy McGuire) came out to take Polaroid (they still make those?) headshots for each of us while also briefing us on the events to come. They also made sure each person had filled out their audition form, printed it out, and brought it with them.
Once we entered the conference room, we were greeted with two columns of tables facing a projector with the Sports Jeopardy! logo on a screen. One of the women who had taken photos was dancing around and chatting with us, trying to loosen our nerves. The song “S.O.B” by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats was playing as she had us dance around (we all looked ridiculous, I’m sure), smile big (with our teeth), and use our big gameshow voices. She also told us a funny story about a flight she was on with some famous athletes.
At this point, a 30-question written exam was administered. Each question was given its own category and was delivered as a Jeopardy! clue, though we were told not to write our answers in the form of a question. We were given a few seconds after each clue to jot down a response using Jeopardy!-branded pens (a souvenir!). I felt this exam was easier than the online test, but it was still very difficult.
All of the Sports Jeopardy! representatives collected the tests, our audition forms, and our Polaroid headshots. They left the room for a few minutes, possibly to grade the exams, but it was an opportunity for all of us to mingle and relax for a bit.
Once everyone had returned, it was time for a mock game. We were called up in groups of three and given buzzers. (Side note: I have no idea if these trios were random or ordered in some way, but I would guess people were picked in a certain way) After a handful of clues that saw every contestant answer and call out selections, everyone put down their buzzers and the interview started. It was an interview just like the one Alex Trebek does following the first commercial break, asking us about what we wrote on our audition forms. There was someone who had been on Stump the Schwab, people who had met their sports heroes, and someone who mentioned that he was also in the running as a contestant for regular Jeopardy!.
I was in the final trio for the mock game and was expecting a question about interviewing ESPN President John Skipper on my radio show last semester. Instead, they were curious about what I was studying at Denison and when I mentioned my voice minor, they wanted me to sing. Now, I had been up since before 5 AM that day and had nothing prepared, so I ended up singing a couple lines of Happy Birthday for everyone. I followed my performance by talking about going to Iceland last spring with the Denison Chamber Singers. Hopefully that makes me more interesting and well-rounded as a possible contestant.
At the end of the audition, we were debriefed and informed we would be e-mailed a few weeks ahead of a taping date if we are chosen, though that e-mail and a flight to Los Angeles (where the show is taped) do not guarantee an appearance on the show. Otherwise, there will be no follow-up from the audition.
Right before we were dismissed for the evening, there was a giveaway of a Sports Jeopardy! hat. The woman who had taken photos and tried to loosen us up asked us to remember one of the minor characters in her flight story; I raised my hand, gave the correct answer, and won the hat. As long as I am wearing that hat, I no longer have to speak in order to assert my sports trivia dominance around the Denison campus.
I really enjoyed the fun audition setup; it seems like Jeopardy! has the process down to a science. Even if I do not get on the game show, I am glad I took the weekend to fly to Boston and audition for Sports Jeopardy!.