A senior from the University of Kansas...

Mark Petterson

What will you do with your winnings?
Winnings? [Laughs] You--you win money on this show? With my winnings, I will probably pay off my college tuition and fund my rent for the next couple of years, 'cause I'm not going to make any money.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?
After I graduate, I'm going on to more school. I'm going to try to put off the real world for as long as possible. I'm gonna get a master's degree, and then after that, live in someone's basement.

How did you react when you found out you made it on Jeopardy!?
When my mom found out I was going to be on Jeopardy!, she flipped out. It took me a couple of hours to calm her down.

Show your school spirit and tune in!

2009 College Championship wildcard semifinalist: $10,000.

21 and from Prairie Village, Kansas at the time of the College Championship.

Mark Petterson Blog Entry 3
May 14, 2009

My score in the first game was good enough for a wild-card spot in the semis, in which I was paired against Notre Dame and Princeton. I hadn’t thought I would even get that far, so anything else was gravy. If I even kept up with the blue-blooded private schools, I’d be happy. The odds were against me - I didn’t prepare, I didn’t think I deserved to be there; it was all just one massive life bonus round.

In case you care, here’s how the second game went: This time I figured out the buzzer timing in the practice round, and that made all the difference. I kept up with both the other players the entire time, which surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t know what to do when I got Daily Doubles or had to choose categories. Ironically, when I was actually competitive I had completely lost interest in the game and started just being obnoxious. I almost lost my composure when I got “Katy Perry” right, since Princeton was obviously enjoying the song more. Hey, I like songs about girls kissing girls just as much as the next guy. Don’t look so surprised. Later I quipped, “Don’t tempt me, Trebek” when he tried to get me to risk everything on the Daily Double. The guy is a professional, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let him bully me into losing all my money.

Trying to figure out the math for final Jeopardy! was hopeless. I had something like $2000 less than Notre Dame but $2000 more than Princeton so I gave up after a while and put down a number that looked like I knew what I was doing. (The $98 at the end made me seem brilliant, didn’t it?) It didn’t matter in the end. I couldn’t have beaten Notre Dame and I didn’t know Adams from Monroe anyway. But I was just a little bit gratified to know I was only beaten by someone who was older than me. 22 years old is a whole lot different than 21. And if you think of any more good excuses, let me know.

Final Thoughts

After the final taping everyone was quite nice and they gave us cookies. I think they were more than happy that it was their last day of taping for that season, and ready for some time off. I wasn’t disappointed at all with my result, as a simple kid from Prairie Village never sees himself on a television show like Jeopardy! in the first place. America’s Most Wanted, perhaps. Or stupid human tricks on Letterman. But in the end I couldn’t ask for a nicer week off of school.

The money I won isn’t going to change my life all that much, after taxes it won’t go very far paying off college and I’ll still have to work like hell all summer to pay for rent, graduate school, and beer. I’ll take a chunk of it and go to South Africa next year for the World Cup, something I’ve always wanted to do but could never afford.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bottle of Guinness with my name on it. It’s been real, kids. Rock Chalk, go me.

Mark Petterson Blog Entry 2
May 6, 2009

The plane flight to Los Angeles was suffered behind a screaming infant but the very nice hotel more than made up for it. LA is a varied and disparate place, and although I feel a little guilty staying in such a silly resort haven as Universal City, I wasn't going to complain, plainly because I wasn't paying for it. So I went straight to the lobby bar. This was to become a habit during the whole week, and I think the other contestants saw me as the token lush. They were always walking past the lounge and giving me a confused look. Perhaps I should have been studying.

After a pleasant day on Monday taking the Metro to random and seedy parts of the city (like most of Hollywood Blvd.), I woke at the ungodly hour of 6am to catch the bus to Sony for the taping. Maggie Speak was gregarious and extremely kind, of course, as were the other producers and contestant wranglers. We were given a rundown of the rules – not difficult, answer in the form of a question and all that – and then we were herded into the studio for promos and the rehearsal. It's not nearly as big as it looks on television, but just as complex. Beyond that I was not all that surprised or nervous – just tired.

The rehearsals were necessary. It's true what they say about how difficult the buzzer system is. It took me an inordinately large amount of time to figure out how to time the reaction, but when I did, I felt a bit more confident, especially with the third-grade questions they use for the practice round.

The promos were completely unnecessary and entirely humiliating. I mentioned to someone that this was the part of the show where they break our spirits. Jumping up and down, yelling silly catchphrases at the camera; it's all well and good until you realize that it's going to be on national television. Just another tape I'll have to find and destroy before my grandchildren can see them. Then they shuffled us all off to the green room to wait.

The Game

I didn't have to wait very long as I was in the first group. Afterwards I knew that this wasn't such a bad deal; everyone else was sequestered and had to watch "Mean Girls.” (Sure, it's my favorite movie, but after seeing it 1,000 times I was just not in the mood.)

They paired me up with girls from Missouri and Ohio State, the state school showdown I suppose. Laura from Missouri was great, and really a good player, but no self-respecting Kansas undergrad can take losing anything to someone from Mizzou.

The game was frustrating. I hadn't figured out that damn buzzer. I knew most of the questions (it was the quarter-finals after all) but Laura from Missouri had much better timing on the buzzer. My mum said you could hear me audibly sigh every time I tried to buzz in but was beat by one of the girls. By sheer luck I earned a bit of cash, but she controlled the game and went into final jeopardy! with a huge lead. At this point I knew I couldn't catch the leader but also knew that I could still get a wild-card spot. If I wagered low, and ended with around $10K, I didn't think that would be enough, so I wagered all but $1,000 of it. I had to get the final question right or I didn't have a chance. Forget the KU-MU rivalry, I just wanted to move on to the next week.

"Arkansas" was simply a guess. Not even an educated one. I'm just a hick from the Midwest, and Arkansas was the only state I could recall that had a strange pronunciation. It's lucky I'm such a slow person; had I thought of Illinois I probably would have guessed that. Then I sat in the audience and shamelessly rooted against everyone else so I could get one of the wild-card spots.

Mark Petterson Blog Entry 1
May 4, 2009

Hi. My name is Mark Petterson and I am from the aptly-named little town of Prairie Village just outside of Kansas City. Right now I live in Lawrence, Kansas, which has the best music scene west of the Mississippi and the worst basketball hangover I've ever seen. (That's what happens when addicts go cold-turkey.) I'll be graduating from the University of Kansas in May with a Bachelor's in English and Creative Writing. And, since the job prospects of such a CV are close to zero, I'm going to be headed back to KU's English department next fall as a Graduate student, pursuing a Master's of Fine Art's in short fiction.

I've spent most of my college career avoiding actual work, whether it be homework or a job. This means lots of volunteering with student groups, like Oxfam America (a wonderful organization), and producing a student literature magazine called the KIOSK. I've even gone so far as to study abroad in England to escape the siren song of real effort in daily life. Needless to say, I am usually hard up for money, and can't seem to ever keep my bank account in the black. Every once in a while I have to face reality and work for a month or so.

It was during one of those miserable manual labor gigs that I got the phone call for Jeopardy! I was in the emergency room at the local hospital having my lip super-glued back together after a ladder fell on my face, splitting my chin wide open. You could see my teeth with my mouth closed – pretty cool, eh? And then Glenn from Jeopardy! called. (I've since decided I am going to name my firstborn Glenn.)

As I tried to stem the flow of blood with a towel, my phone rang, showing an area code I didn't recognize. Naturally, I didn't pick up. I had bigger things to worry about. A few minutes later I was curious and aware enough to check the voicemail, which had a nice little message saying something about Jeopardy! and "call me back." So I did, thinking I'd maybe won a new credit card or something. It was quite a surprise to find out that they actually wanted me on the show.

I'd forgotten all about auditioning for Jeopardy! by then. In October I drove to Chicago with my little brother to audition for the college tournament, and promptly dismissed my chances due to the sheer volume of qualified people there. Everyone was quite friendly, and smart, and I told myself that it was a good story to tell at parties, but nothing more. I was wrong, apparently. I'm wrong about a lot of things, so I should have known, I suppose.

After regaining my ability to talk, I phoned my mother, who promptly flipped out. I don't remember much of that conversation because she wasn't making much sense and I was about to pass out due to loss of blood. It was my mother who home-schooled me through elementary, giving me the time and incentive to read all varieties of books and watch those obnoxious educational videos which are horribly produced but somehow stick with you forever. It was my mom who watched Jeopardy! with me every day after school, too. I thought she should know first.

I haven't done much to prepare; some folks have sent trivia books my way and I've flipped through them. I've tried to recruit people to quiz me and some have been accommodating. I try to watch the show more often than usual. But from what I've heard, it's not so much what you know, but whether you can figure out how to play the game. My crazy friend Jack tells me that I'll do fine on the buzzer because I have a twitchy thumb. I hope he's right. I'm a bit nervous, but I've got nothing to lose, and in the end, the chance to be on the most respected quiz show in history is quite an honor. It should be fun.

Mark appeared in the following 2 archived games:
#5693, aired 2009-05-13 Patrick Tucker vs. Erica Greil vs. Mark Petterson 2009 College Championship semifinal game 3.
#5686, aired 2009-05-04 Jennifer Duann vs. Laura Myers vs. Mark Petterson 2009 College Championship quarterfinal game 1.

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