Trivial Obsession

Here in the office of The Collegian, we love “Jeopardy!”

At least, I love the show. I’m not sure my colleagues have much more than a passing admiration for the game, but many of them play along anyway.

Mostly because I make them.

The most wonderful thing about spending 18 minutes (adjusted for commercials) with Alex Trebek is at the start of each new half, when the game board fills up will new questions — 30 of them each half, all of them potentially mine. Or yours.

I love the music that accompanies this moment. While the most recognized aspect of the game show is the music that plays over the last round of the game, Final Jeopardy. Don’t start whistling it. In fact, forget it. Because the music I’m talking about is approximately 1,200 times better.

Trust me, I’m a music major.

I hate being disappointed by “Jeopardy!,” though. The moment when those new categories are actually revealed is really the determining factor.

Consider this recent game. The first round of play included the following topics:

“Americana” (Ho-hum.)

“Chick Flicks” (Shouldn’t be too tough.)

“5 Bottles of Beer on the Board” (The Collegian’s policy on alcohol probably forbids me from telling you what I think about this category. I will tell you, though, that I got all of the answers right.)

“The Losing Ticket” (History — could be hard.)

“I’m Being Sent to Kyrgystan” (Geography involving the ‘Stans? Count me out.)

“O.L.” (Abbreviations. Always fun.)

Double Jeopardy was about the same. My score at the end of the two rounds: $21,500.

And since no real money was at stake, I bet it all on in Final Jeopardy, with the category “Biblical Place Names.”

The question — displayed onscreen beneath that awful music — read: “In ‘Return of the Jedi,’ a planet shares its name with this home of a woman who summons a spirit for Saul.”

Easy — Endor.

Only one person gets it right. I’ve doubled my money to $43,000, making me nearly twice as rich as the winner for the game.

Of course, I didn’t actually have to play against anybody, and I didn’t subtract any money for missing questions, since I offered up answers for all of them. And, of course, I didn’t answer in question form, because that would just make me sound like a fool.

And so this isn’t good enough. It isn’t authentic. And, unfortunately, because I have quite a few evening classes during the week, there are stretches when I won’t see “Jeopardy!” for weeks.

So every Sunday at 7 p.m., for the first few months of the year, I abandon my Collegian duties and go off to practice for College Bowl, which is pretty much the nerdiest club on campus. We sit around with buzzers, enacting our shared dreams of competing on “Jeopardy!”

But in some ways, it takes trivia to the next level. If one of us gets an answer to a question correct, we get a team bonus we can collaborate on.

Sweet.

And the questions are often a bit more difficult and somewhat more esoteric than the standard “Jeopardy!” question. Here’s one from a 2006 Championship Game packet:

“Four European languages on the verge of extinction are Ume Sami, Piti Sami, Akkala Sami and Ter Sami, each spoken by a separate tribe of people who call themselves the Sami. What’s the usual English name for these reindeer herders of northern Scandanavia?”

The answer, of course, is Lapps or Laplanders.

Not many people on campus come to College Bowl — there are only about eight to 10 students who show up to practice regularly.

But now it’s over. We had our regional tournament last weekend, and, by an error in judging, we were declared not the winners.

And so now, I’m looking for my trivia fix. I need it. I’m going through withdrawals.

I woke up last Thursday in a cold sweat, afraid I was losing my knowledge of Southeast Asian capital cities. I began chanting to myself, over and over:

Rangoon. Phnom Penh. Vientiane. Hanoi. Bangkok. Kuala Lumpur. Singapore City. Jakarta.

But still, I feel it slipping away from me. I need the real thing.

Nobody wants to play Trivial Pursuit with me. I don’t even want to play Trivial Pursuit. The game board gets in the way of the trivia itself — and that’s what I crave. That’s what I need. The reason for the itch I’m dying to scratch.

Help me.

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