By Adam Levin as told to Greg Johnson
When they brought the 13 contestants on the stage where “Jeopardy!” is taped, it was a mind-blowing moment for me.
I’ve watched the show since I was a little kid.
While we were going through orientation, the producer introduced us to the returning champion, James Holzhauer. She asked him how many games he had won, and he said 12. Everybody raised their eyebrows because we knew that was a long streak. Then she asked him how much money he had won, and he said around $850,000. That’s when everyone’s jaws dropped a little.
They started picking names at random out of the contestant pool. If you are not picked, then you sit with the audience and watch. I went through the whole day without getting my name picked.
That was disappointing because I had a lot of adrenaline built up and was ready to go on the stage. But I also knew I would be on the stage the next day.
I remember all the little details about the experience. One of the categories was Alliterative Phrases, and my response was: “What is judge and jury?” Brandeis’ team nickname is the Judges, and our fans in the student section at our games are called the jury. At a watch party, I saw the smile on my face, and the sound of my voice when I gave the answer revealed how happy I was to ring in and get that question right.
I was leading James at the first commercial break, but by the time we got to the second round, I was behind a big chunk. I had a Daily Double in Alliterative Phrases and decided to risk $12,000 of $13,000 I had. I guess I had to take the long 3-pointer. My response was correct — “What is false flag?” — and pulled me closer to the lead.
I was behind $6,517 going into Final Jeopardy, and the category was Organizations. I had $27,000. They give you time to come up with your wager. They give you scratch paper so you don’t have to figure it out in your head. I decided to bet everything but $1.
The Final Jeopardy clue was, “The oldest one of these organizations is from Marseille, France, and uses the word de instead of the word of.” My first instinct was chamber of commerce because I took French in high school and college. But I wanted to make sure nothing else came to mind before writing it down. I was putting the dot on the question mark when the music ended.
James got it right also, so he finished with $54,017 to my $53,999. It was James’ 18th consecutive victory on the show.
I’ve seen some great teams play at Brandeis over the last 17 years. I’ve seen teams get to the national semifinals or Elite Eight in the Division III basketball tournament. Those teams may not have won it all, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t a great team. That’s how I feel about my appearance on “Jeopardy!” I didn’t win, but it was still a great experience. Other than getting married and having my son, it was one of the best days of my life.
Adam Levin is the sports information director at Brandeis. He also is a graduate of the school, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and theater arts. Despite his valiant effort, he went home with the standard $2,000 prize for finishing as runner-up on “Jeopardy!” James Holzhauer would go on to win “Jeopardy!” 32 consecutive times.