A science teacher originally from Stratford, Connecticut...

Matt Jacobs

Hi, Connecticut, I'm Matt Jacobs, a teacher from Stratford. See if I make the grade on Jeopardy!

Season 25 1-time champion: $10,323 + $1,000.

Matt resided in Silver Spring, Maryland at the time of his show's airing.

LiveJournal at matthewljacobs.livejournal.com.

Jeopardy! Message Board user name: JumpingMatt

Matt Jacobs - A High school teacher
January 6, 2009

When I was about seven years old, my grandmother introduced me to the TV show Jeopardy! Ever since then, I had wanted to be a Jeopardy! contestant. I love all sorts of trivia contests. When I was in elementary school, a local radio station had a trivia call-in contest at 7:20 every morning, just as I was getting ready to go to school. I ended up winning it so many times that the station had to change the rules so a person could only win once per month!

I first made a serious effort to become a Jeopardy! contestant when I moved to Los Angeles in 2005. I tried out in-person all three years I lived in California, but failed to make it on the show. That 50-question test they give you is really hit or miss. One year I felt like I didn't know any of the questions they asked! In 2008, I moved to Maryland and took the online test. I then got to go to an in-person audition in New York City. Like I said, that audition test is really hit-and-miss. This time, it seemed like everything they asked me was something I had recently read or heard about! I loved doing the audition game, and getting a chance to handle the "signaling devices." Interesting note: the contestant coordinators asked everyone at my audition what they would do if they won a lot of money on Jeopardy! Every single person except me answered "travel." I said "season tickets to the New York Mets!" So, I guess it pays to be a little unconventional.

After that, it was just a matter of waiting for "the call." I started watching the show more regularly when new episodes came on at the end of the summer. I recognized some of the contestants on TV as people who had been with me in the NYC audition. That was the first time when I really thought I had a chance of getting called. I thought, "I met that guy, he was just a regular guy like me! If he made it on the show, then I totally can make it too!"

My NYC audition was in May. I first got "the call" to be on the show on a Thursday in September. However, I was teaching a class when Robert from the show called me, so I had my phone turned off. Later that evening, I checked my voicemail and heard that I had missed the call to be a Jeopardy! contestant. At first I was really upset, and I assumed that the contestant coordinators had just moved on and called someone else on the list, and that I had missed my chance to be a contestant. I called Robert back the next day and discovered that I hadn't missed my chance after all! I was going to be on Jeopardy!

I immediately called my mom and told her the news (and then I believe she told everyone within hearing range). I called my father and my sisters too, that afternoon. As luck would have it, I was hosting a board game night for a bunch of my friends the very next day. So, over some Scrabble and Scattergories, I casually dropped that I was going to be on Jeopardy

My main method for preparing to be on the show was to go to j-archive.com and read through all the clues and responses from hundreds of old episodes, to get a feel for the clue writers' style, and get some information on wagering strategies. That site really is an amazing resource for all Jeopardy! fans. I still visit it several times a week to catch up on any episodes I missed.

It was strange to return to Los Angeles so soon after moving away, especially when I did not expect to be coming back so quickly. I think it was an advantage to me to have already been familiar with the city, and having previously spent time at the Culver City Radisson (where I stayed the night before taping). I was able to focus just on Jeopardy! and not on being in L.A.

Meeting the other contestants in the morning was great. We sat on benches just inside the Sony Pictures lot on a fairly cool morning and waited for the contestant coordinators to come wrangle us up. There were a lot of hushed whispers about the reigning 4-time champion, a student named Ben who women were calling "a younger, cuter Ken Jennings." I was really hoping not to play Ben in the first game of the day.

As luck would have it, Ben got knocked out on the Monday show. All the contestants, however, were really smart people who knew their Jeopardy! I could tell just from the conversations we had in the green room and from the way they all expertly played in the morning practice game that I had my work cut out for me. I never really expected to win. I was just hoping not to embarrass myself too badly in front of my family. And I knew that my merciless group of teenage students would have plenty to say when I returned to the classroom.

My first real thrill was seeing the set in the morning. Amusingly, the board was playing a cartoon of Wakko Warner singing the 50 U.S. state capitals. The very same video I had used myself to memorize them! That had to be a good sign. Stepping onto the blue-floored set, my eyes just kept darting back and forth, trying to take everything in. I was here. This was real! I was going to be on Jeopardy!

By the time I actually played my game, I was becoming comfortable being in the studio, seeing Alex Trebek in front of me, and thinking about Jeopardy! strategy. It was a real benefit for me to start on the Wednesday show. Although I wound up matched up against the contestant I was most fearful of playing, a veterinarian named Barb. And one of the categories was about animals! Ugh.

I don't remember too much of the actual game, except being aware that there were times when I was totally "in the zone" with the signaling device, and it felt like I was ringing in first every time I tried. Then, just as suddenly, I would be "out of the zone" and missing on five ring-in attempts in a row. So, it was a constant struggle to adjust my timing throughout the show. I did get one Daily Double in the "Numbers" category, which was one of my favorites, since I'm a big math and science kind of guy. I knew the correct response within a second of seeing the clue, but I did the math over and over three times in my head just to make absolutely sure, and I visualized myself saying the correct response before I opened my mouth. After the show, my parents remarked that they were surprised it took me so long to respond to a math question, but I really wanted to make sure that I didn't mess it up!

I was in second place and ended up winning due to wagering a small amount, and the previous champion ended up losing a large amount on a very tricky Final Jeopardy! clue. I remember hearing his response and thinking "He got it wrong! I must have won!" but still not really believing it. I was staring intently at the scoreboard which is displayed above the blue Jeopardy! board with all the monitors -- the scoreboard that the contestants can see while playing. I was thinking "Come on you orange numbers, change already!" When those digital numbers changed, I double-checked to see that I had indeed finished ahead. I jumped up and yelled in delight. I almost broke down in tears. I was just so overwhelmed. For almost all of my life, one of my biggest goals was to become a Jeopardy! champion and now it had happened. It was absolutely the single greatest thrill of my life. For me it wasn't about the money, it was all about fulfilling a childhood dream.

One of the categories that I ended up doing very well in was "ABBA Lyrics," which is something that I absolutely did not study for Jeopardy! However, I did have my iPod with me when I came to the Sony Pictures studio that morning, which does have a lot of ABBA songs on it (thanks Dad). After I won my first show, I went back into the green room, got my iPod and cranked up "Dancing Queen" and danced around a bit in glee. I think ABBA is my new favorite band. Too bad they stopped touring before I was even born!

I won on the Wednesday show, which meant I had a little longer than usual to bask in my Jeopardy! champion-hood because we took an hour break for lunch. I remember talking to the contestants who were still left during lunch -- those who were going to be on for the Thursday and Friday shows. I told them I was rooting for all of them now, and that I hoped everyone could get a chance to feel what it was like to be a Jeopardy! champion.

I ended up losing on my second game, but I was glad that someone else got a chance to feel that joy of winning. All I was really hoping for, from the time I got called back in September, was one victory. That's what I kept praying for. "Just 1 win, that's all I want. I'm not greedy. Just 1 win so for the rest of my life I can say I was a Jeopardy! champion." So, I guess it all worked out for the best.

-Matt Jacobs

Matt appeared in the following 2 archived games:
#5584, aired 2008-12-11 Matt Jacobs vs. Christine Carrino Gorowara vs. Sean Kottke Ask Alex #7: Clothes.
#5583, aired 2008-12-10 Geoff Moore vs. Matt Jacobs vs. Barb Schwartz

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