Home > Life > Saad is a contestant on JEOPARDY! [part 2 w. In-Game Thoughts]

Saad is a contestant on JEOPARDY! [part 2 w. In-Game Thoughts]

Welcome back! In my last post, I described the lead-up to becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! including a section about what you don’t see on tv. Here, I will provide a “director’s cut” with my thoughts during the game.

By the time of my game, I wasn’t concerned about its outcome because just being at the studio as a contestant for a whole day made for an unforgettable experience, one that I knew I would be telling friends about for a long time.

**SPOILER ALERT** Everything after this point will reveal actual details from the game.

– The returning champion was Aaron and the other challenger was Barbara.

– You learn very quickly that the other players know most of the answers, too, and a huge part of the game is simply buzzing in first. Another thing the viewer at home doesn’t see: after Trebek reads the last word of the clue, one of the staffers hits a button that makes little lights come on next to the question board. Only after those lights come on can you buzz in. Too quick on the trigger, you get locked out by the electronics; too slow, another player is giving the answer.

– In our game, I was the only contestant to fall into negative scores. TWICE.

– Olympics category: So I don’t watch figure skating, but I knew that Kim Yu-Na is from South Korea thanks to my Korean friends going nuts about her gold medal in their facebook status updates.

– 1920s Lit category: I told myself, if I get a daily double in the first round, just wager $1000 to not have to think about it. Good thing, because it was a total brain freeze on the “Glinda of Oz” question, especially when you consider that Wicked is only one of my favorite musicals ever. For the Sinclair Lewis question, I knew it was “Arrowsmith” from studying the Pulitzer Fiction winners the previous month. When the James Joyce “Ulysses” clue was read, I didn’t know the answer, but… the night before, I randomly decided to read Joyce’s wikipedia page after dinner. So when the clue came up, I told myself, “Just be the first one to ring in, you can figure it out after that.” And so I did (but I needed nearly the entire 5 seconds to begin my response).

– Answering “RBI” in the “Sin” category: whoops!

– Funny thing about daily doubles: there is a screen visible to the contestants, used for the video clues. The screen also shows you when you get a daily double. I don’t know why, maybe so you can see the goofy face you make from the excitement of getting a daily double.

– In the interview, Trebek threw me a curve ball, since I was expecting to be asked about one of my three factoids, not my job. I think my answer was okay, considering how little time I had to conjure a response. Trebek got the last word, though, joking that “nano” was referring to his brain.

On to Double Jeopardy…

– Aaron rocked the Congressman category, using a true daily double to build a huge lead.

– Hooray for the Traffic category, which was, essentially, a category on US state geography. I surprised myself coming up with the Kearney (Nebraska) answer. I’ve never been to Nebraska or looked at a map of the state–how did I know that?!

Good for something besides hunting 2D buffalo and dying of cholera.

– Barbara made a huge comeback in the Tree Words and TV Adjectives categories. She really got in a zone with her timing.

– I didn’t enjoy that category with video clues… no timing there. At least I got the last question on Da Vinci.

About Final Jeopardy

– The studio crew bring up dividers to put between the contestants, so you don’t see each other’s writing.

– You have an eternity to decide your wager. The producers even bring you scrap paper so you can do the math based on everyone’s scores.

– Scores going into Final Jeopardy: Aaron $15,600, Saad $14,400, Barbara $9,400.

– The category was Actors. (Recall my prediction about getting a “fluff” category.) Given how close the scores were and that no one seemed to feel comfortable with this category, I was uncertain what to wager. I decided on $8,300.

Here is the clue:


Nope, not these black actors. (click for video)

My thought process: Denzel Washington, definitely. Another actor who could have won Oscars… Sidney Poitier? My parents had shown me “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” when I was a kid, but I didn’t know any of his other films. Poitier just didn’t feel correct. … My next thought was Morgan Freeman, since everything sounds more interesting when he narrates it, i.e., he must get recognition for being a serious actor. … My answer was Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

The reveal: The first answer given was Denzel and Poitier… and I stopped breathing until Trebek said it was incorrect. My answer was correct, but I don’t think I had a reaction to this; I was still trying to breathe again. When I saw that the leader had answered Denzel + (nothing), my mind went blank. No! Yes! Is this real?! Only when I saw myself on the video clue screen and Trebek said “Congratulations” did it strike me, I’ve won at Jeopardy!

Looking back at the game, my first thought was that it goes by very fast. I remembered very little afterward but days later clues and answers were coming back to me, like the “Glinda of Oz” one. Immediately after they film the closing credits with Trebek and the contestants chatting, one of the producers conducts an on-stage “winner’s circle” interview. I think I was pretty cool-as-a-cucumber during the game, but in the winner’s circle interview my continued state of shock/disbelief reduced me to near-complete incoherence. So to rectify that, I’d like to give proper acknowledgment to everyone I’m so excited to share this with: my parents and sister, who believe in me even when I pursue far-fetched goals like getting on Jeopardy; Raea and Guillaume, who told me about the online test; Ken Brandt, who showed me how the trivia game could be played; Jamie, who helped me write my factoids and let me watch on her tv so I could get used to answering in the form of a question; and, all my friends and mentors, who have been waiting for me to finally achieve something more meaningful in my life!

All the travel and hullabaloo had caused me to have little appetite throughout the day. Once the adrenaline wore off, though, epic hunger set in. As I wandered L.A. before my red-eye flight back to Nashville, I called my parents and sister to find out if they would be able to attend the next taping date a week later. Once off the phone, I located a steakhouse in Santa Monica (thanks, Bhuvan!) for what ended up being a victory meal.

Tastes like... napalm in the morning.

That’s all for this post. If you’ve read this far, thank you! And, I commend your stamina! I’m so glad I could share this with you. As you might have guessed, there will be another post for my game as a Returning Champion on Jeopardy!

Categories: Life Tags: ,
  1. July 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    your face at the end was precious. i think i’ll have to keep re-watching the episode just for that.
    i love you, brother.
    ps: i miss you as well.

  2. Imran
    July 12, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    congrats on winning. The expression on being declared the winner was priceless to say the least. As I watched final jeopardy I also thought of Poitier, if only because he was the first black person to win an Oscar. I guess its all about keeping your wits about you at the end which you did, quite remarkably. look forward to reading the next installment.

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Thanks, Imran. At the taping, I knew I’d made a face, but wasn’t quite sure what it was until seeing it this week. Not as bad as I feared 🙂


  3. Erin Henderson
    July 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Great job Saad!! That was awesome!

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

      Thanks, Erin!

  4. July 12, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I can’t wait to read your next entry. You studied in advance for the show, then?

    • saad a. hasan
      July 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm

      OMG, the Andy Murray comparison is too much!!!

      Yes, I studied a bit, whenever I could fit it in, ie, I’m not gonna look at my research right now.

  5. July 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    As I said in the email I sent you-well struck in the final! I’m proud to be a small part of the prep for all this.

  6. MThomas
    July 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    You were as cool as a cucumber. The Oregon Trail piece brings back a few memories. Congrats.

  7. Ram
    July 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Congrats Saad. Be rest assured it was worth a read for folks like me and can’t wait until tomorrow to find out how you did in R-2.

  8. Ram
    July 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Saad-great job! Be rest assured it was worth a read for folks like me and can’t wait until tomorrow to find out how you did in R-2.

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

      Thanks, Ram!

  9. Sarah
    July 12, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Way to go….that was great!

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

      Thanks, Sarah!

  10. July 12, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Awesome job! Go gators!

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

      Thanks, and go Gators! Indeed!

  11. Lauren
    July 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    As (probably) the only person you know for Oregon, I am totally taking credit for anything attributed to the Oregon Trail game 😉

    That being said, SO MUCH FUN WATCHING YOU ON TV! I was whopping and hollering to my entire family. They thought I was nuts. My mom thinks you’re adorable.

    • Lauren
      July 12, 2010 at 11:48 pm

      p.s. My birthday is next month. Just saying 😉


      However, you should totally buy something ridiculous 🙂

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

      Thanks, Lauren! I will come visit you in Oregon one day; if I road-trip, I may just have to follow the Trail route!

  12. David Steffey
    July 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm


    I work with your mother at Osceola Middle School. I was very happy to hear you made it to Jeopardy. Congratulations! Your parents are VERY proud of you.

    David Steffey

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

      Thanks, David! They were super excited by getting a surprise trip to L.A.


  13. July 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Dude, you totally let that chick hose you on the death category. I mean c’mon, apoptosis and you let the Olympic swimmer beat you?

    And I’m severely disappointed in medulla oblongata answer, where’d you learn that, Water Boy? Just busting your balls. Funny thing is, you were right.

    This area contains nuclei responsible for respiratory drive and cardiac function among others including major cranial nerves for facial sensation, tongue/swallow movements, hearing and balance, taste, eye movement out to the sides. I mean we’re talking Helen Keller shit here. All of the descending nerves pass through there (total paralysis and loss of sensation below the neck) and any sort of tiny lesion causes huge problems, let alone a complete transection which would indeed cause death, the topic of the category. In short, you got screwed.

    As I mentioned before, kickass on Morgan Freeman! I immediately thought of Shawshank and said to myself, that’s gotta be it. Can’t believe your luck in the others NOT getting it. Well done!!

    • July 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      btw, hilarious “nano brain” comment from Trebek, how did you keep it together??

    • July 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      PPS – the medulla is part of the brainstem

    • saad a. hasan
      July 14, 2010 at 8:11 pm

      🙂 🙂
      Nicely done pulling out The Waterboy reference.

  14. JZ
    July 15, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Hi Saad — Jason here, a friend of Angie K’s in ABQ. This summer we’ve each known two people to make the show and got together to watch you take part on Monday.

    Great job on winning! I hear people’s brains just go dead when the lights come on (a good friend of mine — trivia teammate no less — said so after winning a tough one a few years back) and you stayed composed and nailed the FJ to bring it on home.

    I’m usually pretty ok at these trivia games and yet flopped on FJ, going with Washington/Poitier and never even considering Freeman (not that I think he’s a lousy actor…he just never came to mind). Upon further review — do you think Poitier would be considered an Afro-Caribbean? He still doesn’t have five nominations, but it might not’ve mattered even if he did.

    Great job again! Nice writeup(s) too. I didn’t get to see the second game and will get around to reading about it later today.

    N/B: I hope the link works up there. 🙂

    • saad a. hasan
      July 15, 2010 at 8:01 am

      Thanks, Jason! Poitier, Afro-Caribbean? I hadn’t considered that possibility at all, but looking at his wiki page: born in Miami, FL to Bahamian parents. So perhaps Carib-American? I’ve never fully understood the hyphenated classifications.

      And yes, the link works; hell of a comeback by Nathan in DJ round.

  1. July 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm
  2. July 19, 2010 at 8:23 am

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