2008 College Championship wildcard semifinalist: $10,000.
21 and from Manhattan Beach, CA at the time of the College Championship.
James' First Blog Entry
Posted May 2, 2008
My College Jeopardy! experience began as improbably as anyone's could.
Since freshman year at Georgetown, I had been an avid subscriber to the Jeopardy! newsletter. Each year, I'd be the first to sign up for the online College test. It had been a dream of mine since I was eight to be on Jeopardy! I even skipped a day of high school to try out for the adult version. After the casting director referred to me as "sweetie," I decided I'd better try something befitting my appearance.
The freshman and sophomore year trials were both busts. No email responses, no invitations to the studio, no word at all. Then, in August of 2007, I received the third invitation to try my hand at the initial online test. ‘Why not?' I thought. ‘Third time's a charm.'
Only a few weeks later did a realize an answer to ‘why not?': I would be studying abroad in Florence, Italy at Georgetown's beautiful Villa le Balze when the live test was scheduled. Though I had computer access and a fast-enough modem for the 50 fifteen-second trivia questions, the problem was time difference.
Whereas Pacific Coasters would be munching on a quick dinner with their keyboards ready at 6 pm, I would sit down to my test at 3 am on Friday morning. Probably after a night at the disco.
But I went for it anyway—taking a late afternoon nap and pleading with some friends to keep me up late. I felt really good about the test afterwards, but to be honest, I didn't want to get my hopes up again. Also, the fact that I was falling asleep sitting down distracted my mind from thinking much of the results. After a few weeks of Renaissance art and Chianti, I received an unexpected response from the Contestant Search team. It was late on another Thursday as I was preparing to leave for the Rugby World Cup in Paris with my girlfriend Katherine:
Dear Mr. Grant…Congratulations!...Come try out for the show!
My fellow Hoyas at the Villa shared my enthusiasm at the good news. They immediately began recommending websites, books, etc. to study for the next step. In all the hubbub, it took me a few days to realize my second major obstacle toward achieving a lifelong goal: the in-person test would be on November 11th…in Los Angeles.
A dream, deflated.
The sinking dollar and the price of Fiesole's salciccio pizza had rendered my bank account worthless. A plane flight was out of my economic reach, and what's more, the half-day trip each way might have left me paralyzed from jet lag. So my thoughts turned to next year…one more chance at College Jeopardy!
That is, until I received another unexpected email from my mom. Attuned to my obsession with Jeopardy!, she offered to fund the trip back home to Los Angeles. At first I felt terribly guilty and refused—this woman was already sending me through four years at one of the country's most expensive schools. I knew she had already sacrificed so much for me, and I couldn't justify asking for more on something I considered to be a long shot. I wanted to turn down her offer until she framed the issue in a way that made me feel at least a little bit relieved and interested:
"I see it as an investment, James. I really think you can make it."
A typical mom, she told me that Jeopardy! would be silly not to take me. I appreciated the sentiment, but I wasn't quite sold on her confidence. In any case, I thought it would be worth a shot and started preparing for the longest weekend of my life.
Before leaving the Villa, my housemates helped me prepare a massive study guide in a bright yellow folder. Vice presidents, world capitals, famous battles—the folder weighed about six pounds and contained half of the Encyclopedia's knowledge. And I had plenty of time to go over it.
As it tended to do while I was in Italy, time flew by, and soon enough,, I was leaving Pisa's airport for Los Angeles. The usual homecoming festivities ensued when I arrived: I demolished a double-double at In'N'Out, visited my brother's band's studio, and played a little volleyball at the beach. Sunday quickly arrived, and early that morning, I threw on a Georgetown sweatshirt to, as my mom put it, "look the part."
I arrived at the Westchester hotel where the interview would take place at around noon, met the exceedingly nice contestant coordinators who would interview me, and began the process right away. Cheryl of the Clue Crew stopped by with a prize for the "person who had traveled the farthest for the interview." So basically, at the least, my mom had paid $1200 for the Jeopardy! Home DVD Game.
In this final round, I sat in the back of a conference room of about fifty other students. We took a written test, played a trial version of the game in pairs of three, and sat through a short interview. Overall, I felt great about the day—probably the most optimistic I would be until I found out I had been accepted. Unfortunately, that news would not arrive until mid-March, they told me. I had to send it to the back of my mind for a few months and just wait.
- Read James' updated blog on May 5th!
Posted May 5, 2008
St. Patrick's Day was the day. I was at a friend's house that evening, dressed as ridiculously and as green as possible—and ironically, talking about Jeopardy! with a few buddies. After missing a call from home, my girlfriend's roommate called me somberly to say that my mom had been contacting other people on campus to get in touch with me. And that it was "very urgent."
'Great,' I thought, 'this is definitely bad news.'
I walked outside for some silence, sure that a tragedy had occurred in my family or hometown of Manhattan Beach. Instead, my mom picked up in celebration, and I could hear my sister hooting in the background. Sony Pictures had been calling for me all day, they shrieked. This was it…it had happened.
I screamed and ran for home. On Prospect Street, I assaulted the first two people I saw with the news—my friends Brent and Griff. As I ran away from them, I heard Brent tell a girl whom I didn't know that I would be a contestant on College Jeopardy!
In a skeptical tone, she responded, "That guy in the jean shorts?"
I couldn't believe it either. For the rest of the night, I was on the phone telling friends and family that I would be leaving for Wisconsin in four weeks.
- James plays on May 6. Check for his next blog entry May 7th [Never posted]