It all began as a gag, one of those "kick up the dirt and see what emerges" kinds of things. We played long into the night - I was accused of cheating on multiple occasions - until finally in exasperation Clifton said, "Man, why haven't you been on the show yet? You kick ass at Jeopardy."
So do a lot of other people, I thought.
I had determined a long time ago that I was great at trivia. Trivial Pursuit, 20 Questions, and The Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon were all my domain. I can't explain it - I like knowledge.
Lo and behold! College Jeopardy! was coming up. They were looking for contestants. Of course, I wasn't about to fly out to LA for some audition in some small room with 100 tight-lipped, type A Trekkie nerds ..
They're auditioning in Houston?
I live in Houston! Maybe I'll go after all. Trekkies don't bite, and they're usually pretty scared of anyone over 5'10".
June 16, 2002
Early Saturday morning. Denim jeans, a nice white Oxford, sleeves rolled up, my hair barely kempt, some Cool Water on the old cheekbones, and off I go. Downtown to the Hyatt Regency, where I'm relatively early. I walk around, chat with some of the employees, and then it's time, and I walk in to the testing room.
There are maybe 100 people here, and they all seem rather non-nerdlike. Most of them are dressed a little nicer than me, but everyone's polite and quiet - I think we were all probably pretty nervous, and there was definitely that buzz of dread and adrenaline in the air.
The coordinators walked in, introduced themselves, told us some gags, tried to calm us down, passed out the required paper and pencil, and the test began.
Each answer was read off one at a time via a speaker system by none other than Johnny Gilbert himself. 50 in all, with some ranging from, "The only professional football team in Wisconsin" to "The M in MASER stands for this." Not too difficult, I knew I had done well, turned it in, and the sweating began.
Ten minutes later, they returned, and announced that 21 people had made the cut. Out of 100? I began reconsidering my savvy confidence. But sure enough, they called my name, and I was safe.
We filled out some paperwork about our hobbies and interests. We had to come up with 5 of those "interesting tidbits" for Alex to glaze over after the first commercial break - I've never felt so boring in my whole life. Mine were as follows:
Riveting, huh? Like I said, dull, dull, dull. I groaned and turned it in.
Next, the mock game. We were grouped off into 3s and called up before a mock Jeopardy! gameboard. We were shown how to buzz in (when lights on the side of the board light up), what to do when called on, and most importantly, we were encouraged to "shorten up" category names - later I learned this meant more commercial time for Merv Griffin Enterprises.
I did pretty well in the game, and in the mini-interview immediately following, making the judges laugh once or twice, but I didn't see how they could possibly narrow it down based on that scant amount of information. The other 20 contestants all seemed nice and intelligent and funny, too! And there were only 15 spots in the Tournament. I went home, happy with my experience thus far (and thankful to have made it to where I had). They said they'd only call if I made the Tournament. I wasn't holding my breath.
September 9, 2002
Having only been back at school for a week, I was humming along on summeritis - hanging out at the radio station, playing catch up with CDs I had neglected for 3 months, cleaning up our newly made vinyl shelves, and generally not acknowledging my presence at college. The phone rang, and I picked up.
CALLER: Hi, this is Susan Jeffries. Is Kyle Hale in?
KYLE: Hello, that would be me.
SUSAN: I'm calling to ask if you'd like to be in our Tournament.
(At this point, Kyle's face scrunches up in confusion. Tournament? Radio stations have tournaments? A prank?)
KYLE (unsurely): Sure, absolutely.
SUSAN: Great. It's going to be taped at Ohio State University on the weekend of October 5th and 6th.
KYLE (in his head): Ohio State? Wait .. she said Jeopardy, not Jeffries!
KYLE (out loud): You're from JEOPARDY!
SUSAN: That's right. Now, I'm going to be sending a ...
KYLE (out loud, much louder, to best friend Mike, also at station): She's from JEOPARDY! Sending a what now?
SUSAN: ...a package. It'll have flight information, some things you'll need to fill out, just some general information. There'll be something you'll need to fax back to me.
KYLE: Ok! Anything! Thank you! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!
SUSAN (laughing): You're very welcome. Talk to you soon, Kyle.
I called my mom, who had given Susan my number and already knew the end results. We both screamed deliriously, and then I called my girlfriend - more delirium - and my dad - a reserved delirium, but delirium nonetheless. Things were looking up ...