- Eyes On
A Wapakoneta native will be putting his knowledge to the test, as he will be a contestant on an episode of Jeopardy that airs Monday.
Alex Wright, who had went through the show’s multi-step tryout process, was selected to fly to Los Angeles to film the show.
Being on Jeopardy had been one of the 2002 Wapakoneta High School graduate’s dreams.
“It may sound a bit cliché to say it was a lifelong goal, but it was,” Wright explained of what gave him interest in trying out for the show. “My family is pretty competitive, and outside of a few examples, we are not that great at sports. So the competi-
tion was in Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy, and things along those lines. I took the on-line test every year, but I did so mostly as a lark. I never actually thought I would get on the show.”
Wright noted while watching the show, he did relatively well compared to the people who were actually competing, so he thought he would at least have a chance if he was ever able to get on.
“I have always been able retain seemingly random and minute pieces of trivia,” Wright said. “I was finally able to put that skill to good use.”
At the beginning of each year, Jeopardy has an open online tryout, which is a 50-question test with each question having the difficulty of the higher value Jeopardy clue. The online tryout gives participants 10 seconds to type in each answer before the test moves to the next question.
Wright said he did not get a grade or any type of confirmation of how well he did, and all he could do is simply sit and hope he did well enough to make it to the next round.
Once Wright passed the online test, he had the opportunity to attend a regional tryout in Lexington, Ky. in July 2011, and the second round consisted of another 50-question test in the same format as the online test and included a personality interview and mock version of the show.
“There were about 30 people or so during my second round and we all took turns playing rounds against each other,” Wright said. “The contestant coordinators are looking for people who can think quickly on their feet, who have a good personality and who can play the game well. Again, they never told us if we passed the second test, or it we were put in the applicant pool. All I knew was that, if I passed, I could get ‘the call’ within 18 months.
“It turns out I got the call from the show in late October, and they asked me to come to L.A. for a taping in early December,” he said. “From what I was told during the taping, about 110,000 people took the online test in early 2011, the test that got me on the show, and about 400 end up getting all the way through to the taping.”
Jeopardy tapes five shows a day on Tuesday and Wednesday of each week, and Wright taped his episode on Dec. 5, which is scheduled to air this Monday.
After finding out he would be a contestant on the show, Wright had studied numerous hours a day, brushing up on trivia from U.S. presidents, state and world capitals to Shakespeare, geology, U.S. history and world geography.
“I spent a good three to four hours each day for two months getting ready, and I felt I was nowhere near as prepared as I should have been,” Wright said. “I was involved in theater and musical in school, so I am comfortable being on a stage, but I don’t recall ever being more nervous that when my named was called for the first taping of the day.”
Wright’s family, his brother, Cameron, who recently moved to Manhattan Beach, his parents, Tracey and Van, and his wife, Kristen, all went with Wright for the taping of the show.
Not only was Wright nervous, but his father, Van, who had the opportunity to sit in the studio audience, was very nervous for his son.
“I have never been more nervous for my son than I was at the moment he walked onto the stage,” Van Wright said. “Never. Not for his wedding. Not for the birth of our grandkids. Not for his lead roles in the musicals. Not for a key speech or event at BGSU. Not for any other moment in his life.”
Van Wright referred to when his son earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University in geography and political science in 2006. In 2009, he graduated from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
He resides in Upper Arlington with his wife, Kristen, and two children, Luca, 3, and Zenzo, 1.
“For me, it was incredibly nerve-wracking,” Van Wright said. “Once he was introduced and he was moving through the game, I was a little calmer. But because it is indeed a competition, and I am competitive, I really was a little on edge the whole way. I also really truly enjoyed it in another way. It was amazing to think how many people will actually watch him on national television.”
One word summed up Alex Wright’s whole experience.
“Surreal,” said Wright, who currently works for Transportation & Parking Services at The Ohio State University, where he is involved in overall departmental administration and strategic direction. “When we arrived, the 12 people or so who were going to be taping that day were put in the contestant green room for two hours as we signed all the paperwork and were given a run-down of the rules. We then were finally led into the studio. It looked much smaller in person than it looks on television.
“I’ve watched this show almost every day for my entire life,” he said. “To actually step foot on the stage, knowing you will be competing in an hour or so, is something I will never forget. They tape the episodes in real times, so to the contestant each game only lasts 30 minutes or so. That’s it. That is your one chance.”
Wright explained that once one appears on the show, they do not get to come back unless they win enough to qualify for the Tournament of Champions.
“I was lucky to get the call after my fourth time trying out,” Wright said. “Jeopardy has been on the air for 28 seasons, and there are people who try-out for decades for a chance to get on the show.
“The fact that it would be broadcast nationally on television, or that I got to meet Alex (Trebek) — all of that was just a bonus,” he said. “Simply getting invited to the taping and standing on the stage accomplished the goal. Now, once I got over the shock of seeing the set, I immediately made it my next goal to win a lot of money.”