The great teachers always stay with us.
And while television might be a means of entertainment and escapism more than anything else, Jeopardy always strived to be more than that. To be precise. To be excellent.
Alex Trebek was a professional’s professional, and there was no arena better suited for his acute austerity and accuracy, than a televised trivia show that tests an individual’s mental acuity and breadth of knowledge in rapid fire succession. Like a real-life Google or Ask Jeeves, Trebek seemed to carry an endless world of facts, dates, knowledge, and history, behind the cards.
But he wasn’t just a purveyor of information, Trebek cared about accuracy and form. To properly answer the question in the form of a question. And while Trebek’s serious nature could at times be perceived as surly or highbrow, there was always a playfulness. A brevity of wit that he so easily possessed, that put both audience and contestants at ease, and allowed Jeopardy to be fast, fun, and furious. Not facetious. He made it cool to not only be smarter, but to try.
There was not a single moment in my life where I would skip past Jeopardy if it was airing. It felt a bit like cinema for me, like church. Where your ultimate involvement is to be at the mercy of something greater than yourself. Where you may fail often, but in doing so, you’ll find ways of finding your own success.
Trebek’s greatest wisdom was that he knew Jeopardy was greater than the sum of it’s parts, more than just a television show. That drive is what brought him to his final day of filming on-set, a mere 10 days before he passed. He was a teacher for millions of Americans, every night at 7PM, and he knew that. And we are all better for it.