A high school science teacher from Garner, North Carolina...

Andy Srinivasan

Hey, Raleigh-Durham, this is Andy Srinivasan from Garner. Watch me try to become the next Triangle champion here on Jeopardy!

2010 Tournament of Champions semifinalist: $10,000.
Season 26 4-time champion: $69,600 + $2,000.

Last name pronounced like "shree-nee-VAH-sahn".

No relation to Season 17 5-time champion Babu Srinivasan.

Jeopardy! Message Board user name: Andycomet

Andy Srinivasan
October 2, 2009

As for me, all I know is that I know nothing - Socrates

I'm on Jeopardy!. Wow! I'm on Jeopardy!.

I've been watching Jeopardy! on and off since it came back on the air in 1984. I was born in India and lived in Africa. I came to the US in April 1984 and Jeopardy! was one of the first shows I started watching. It was Jeopardy!'s premier that fall and it was being heavily advertised, so I tuned in. Now, after a long time, I'm finally on it. Wow!

I've always been a good reader. In high school, I won two all school awards. Junior year, I got the award for the second highest amount of books checked out of the library. Senior year, I got the award for the highest amount. My main competition had already graduated. These accomplishments sealed my geek status in high school.

Reading also got me through school. I was able to read the book and pass most of my classes. This worked everywhere but math, which is why I did poorly in it. Reading kind of lends itself to trivia. When you read a lot and can remember it, your brain starts to sort all sorts of little facts. This inevitably leads to friends, family, strangers commenting that "hey, you should try out for Jeopardy!" So, I did.

APRIL 2009
I teach at Clayton High School in Clayton, NC. My friend, Leatha, had tried out for the show and got through the audition process last year. So in January 2009, I took the online test and a few months later got the email to the audition. I took a day off from school and went down to Charlotte, NC at the end of April. I got there an hour early and was told to go wander around and come back at II:30. At the test I met Glenn and Robert. They are part of the crew that chooses and manages contestants. They told us about themselves and got us to do the same. Robert pumped up the contestants. He's very good at it. One thing you notice quickly about Jeopardy! is that they have very capable people working for them. They are very good at their jobs, to the point that you don't notice what they're actually doing. More on this later.

Robert pumped up the crowd, he asked us to say our name followed by "I want to be on Jeopardy!" When he got to me, I said it, but in a rather restrained voice. He asked me to be louder and more exciting. I did so, but only half-heartedly. I have never been one for manufactured enthusiasm. It annoys me to no end. Robert gave me a funny look. I think "great, five minutes here and I've already blown it as a contestant candidate." We took another 50 question test to make sure we were actually as good as our online test scores and hadn't just googled the answers. After that, everyone in the room of 40 people played a mock game with buzzers and questions and everything. Then we were told that we would be put in the Jeopardy! files for the next 18 months and we would get a call if selected for this year. We should not plan on taking another shot for the next 18 months.

JUNE 2009
I was on the beach. My wife's side of the family was vacationing in the outer banks of North Carolina. I got "the call" from Glenn. Can I come out to Jeopardy! at the end of July for a taping? I said yes. I told my wife and much happy dancing ensued. We booked flights and hotel rooms for ourselves and my parents. From then on, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what the show will be like.

JULY 29 2009
I'm on the fourth show taped today. I start the day off at the hotel. I spend the previous night carefully ironing my shirts. I also polish shoes that will never be seen on television. At 7:00 AM, I'm 30 minutes early to the lobby for the shuttle to the studio. I talk with some of the other contestants. I don't say much. I'm focused on what the rest of the day will be like. We get to the studio. There is a table filled with coffee, snacks, danishes. I start drinking my third and fourth cup of java for the day. Robert is there, so is a new person, Corina. We sign our paperwork again. Robert takes us through the "hometown howdies" for the local markets. I screw up mine two times. I will keep screwing them up on stage for the rest of my time here at Jeopardy! Then a whirlwind, named Maggie, walks in and goes through a long list of info about how the show operates and how the day is going to go. She is very upbeat and excited, in a head cheerleader sort of way. I can barely keep up with the amount of detail. We go and do sit for make-up. I tell the make-up lady, Lisa, about my time in a drag pageant for charity. I then make the first of several trips to the bathroom, too much coffee.

We all go out to the stage. There are thirteen contestants today. Two are standby players from the Los Angeles area and are reminded several times that they will probably be called back at a later date for another taping. I think two others are standbys from a previous call who have been told they will tape today, but I am not sure. We are introduced to the crew and the brand new stage. The director, John, warns us repeatedly to watch out for the floor. It's slick and they have had a couple of people trip by not being careful. People are there to tell us to watch our step coming off the stage every time we go up and come down. I see Glenn and am shocked. The last time I saw him, he was very casual in a Jeopardy! hoodie and jeans. Now he walks across the stage in a sharp jacket, expensive-looking pressed slacks, shiny loafers, carefully brushed hair. He looks every inch the Hollywood guy he has been for most of his adult career. Glenn takes everyone through an audition. We all take turns up on stage to get used to the buzzers and the game.

We finish practice and go back to the dressing room. The names of the first two challengers are called out. They have microphones clipped onto them by Mitch, the sound guy. The two challengers and the returning champ are led to the stage. The rest of us are herded to the contestant seating in the audience. Our family and friends are in the next section. We are advised to not even look at them and they are told not to look at us. I don't even know where my wife and parents are sitting. We hear the music, watch Alex come out, go through the show. I am paying attention to the questions. At the end of the show, we are all taken back to the dressing room and the next two people are picked and prepared for the show. As I leave the stage area, I steal a glance over to my right and see my wife. Her face is looking straight ahead but her eyes are looking at me. I go to the bathroom again, too much coffee.

Finally, the fourth show, my turn. I'm miked up by Mitch. Lisa touches up my make-up. I check my clothes in the mirror and pull on my shirt cuffs. I'm about to head for the door. I stop, turn around, and make one last trip to the bathroom. I wash my hands. As I do so, I say a little prayer. I pray to do my best and, if possible, to score a victory today. I check myself in the mirror and pull on my shirt cuffs. I go out on stage and say one more prayer. The music begins, game time.

Alex comes out and starts the first round. I'm having trouble with the timing on the buzzer. First round goes by and the first break happens. I speak with Glenn about the buzzer. He has the lights for the signal to ring in flashed on and off and he works with me to get the feel for the buzzer. I have seen him do this several times today to anyone who asks or he sees having a tough time with it. I get a little burst of confidence now that I've solved a problem. Second round, I do better. I actually pay some attention to Alex when he is chatting with the audience. I place my wager. It's a big one, but I need to make it. I like the category, "Animals." Final Jeopardy! starts. The question comes up: I know the answer. I quickly write it down. I relax and lean on the podium, then straighten up when I realize I come across as arrogant. The answers are revealed. Then Alex announces the winner, me. I've made it. I'm a Jeopardy! champion. We are guided down to the stage next to Alex. I point out my wife, Wendy, who is crying. Alex assures her that California is a community property state and she gets half of everything I make on the show. My wife laughs, she has been called out by Alex Trebek. She has a great story of her own now about this trip.

The other contestants are taken off of the stage. I don't pay much attention to them. I'm too dazed that I just won an episode of Jeopardy! My wife watches as Maggie and the others do the other part of their jobs. One of the contestants appears shaken by the loss. Maggie offers comfort and quickly, yet gently, guides her off the stage.

Maggie returns and I do an interview with her and the traveling camera guy. He remarks on my resemblance to a crew member on Wheel of Fortune and asks me to do a shout out to him. I am asked about my experience as a champion. I enjoy the moment for all of five minutes and then we go to the dressing room to prepare for the next taping.

It's deja vu all over again - Yogi Berra

The second episode of the day for me. I change shirts and ties. I get miked again and have more make-up put on me. I prepare to leave and stop. I turn and go to the bathroom, again. I wash my hands. I pray to do my best and, if possible to win. I check myself in the mirror and pull on my cuffs. I go out to the stage and say one more prayer. The music begins, game time. We go through the first two rounds. They are a blur. We get to final Jeopardy!, I wager. I see the question, I know the answer, again. I lean on the podium, again. I realize I look arrogant, again. I stop leaning, again. The answer is revealed. I win. I'm interviewed, again. I am told about my winnings and plans are made for my return flight to tape the next show. I gather all my things and we leave the studio. I don't even remember the final Jeopardy! question.

We seek to find peace in the word, the formula, the ritual. The hope is illusion. - Benjamin Cardozo

I fly back out to Los Angeles for this episode. I stay at the same hotel as last time. Once again, I press my clothes and shine shoes that will never be seen on television. When I get to the studio, I say my small prayer again. I use the bathroom a couple of times more than necessary. I check my clothes in the mirror and pull on my shirt cuffs.

This use of ritual will be familiar to anyone who participates in sports. Sports are filled with rituals. There are usually two kinds. One ritual for the fans (think seventh inning stretch) and one for the athletes. Its the ones for the athletes that apply here. Sports are an inherently unpredictable and dangerous business. One minute your working your way to the super bowl; the next minute you bust your knee and are finished for the season. So you see lots of athletes with game rituals. Wade Boggs is reported to have eaten a plate of chicken before every baseball game. Ray Lewis listens to "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins to get psyched up. Hockey players grow beards during the playoffs, lest they lose their mojo, a la Samson or Austin Powers.

Any casual student of anthropology will see rituals for what they are. They are magic talismans to ward of bad luck. Whether it's done by a shaman in an aboriginal tribe or a 300-pound lineman in the NFL, rituals are a way to impose order on an unpredictable activity. It's a way to pretend we have and can exert some kind of control on chaos. It's comforting. So, for the exact same reason Wade ate that chicken, I shine my shoes, I go to the bathroom, I pull my cuffs. Its a way for me to pretend I can control the outcome of the game.

It works for this episode. I have a commanding lead going into final Jeopardy!. I bet a lot of money, but not enough to lose. Is this bet unwise? Is it too big? Probably. But as the football players in my school often say, "go big or go home."

If you're a competitive person, that stays with you. You don't stop. You always look over your shoulder - Earvin "Magic" Johnson

My new challengers. One is a law student who went to college at Yale. The other is a retired army officer who works an office job. They are my opponents. I don't really know much else about them. The other contestants talk to each other a lot in the dressing room. I don't. I'm here to play and, if possible, to win. Getting to know my fellow contestants only gets in the way of that goal. This is the kind of mentality I take into the game itself.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, my ability to read has gotten me through a lot in my life. It got me all the way through a master's degree. My mind often wanders. I don't focus very well. I dislike meetings that drag on and start goofing around to amuse myself. Being able to read well got me through most classes because I could read the book and learn the material. The exception of course was math. I actually had to pay attention there and my grades usually showed it.

It's not all bad though. I can sometimes hyperfocus, especially on things they enjoy, such as a good book or, oh, say, a quiz show. When I get on the stage, I ignore everything else around me except what affects the game: Alex, the stage crew, the questions. I don't obsess over questions I miss and I am constantly scanning the board. I bet the same range in daily doubles, $2000-$5000 dollars. That way I don't do anything crazy. I read the questions and focus on waiting for the lights to buzz in.

If any of you play competitive sports, especially if you're good at it, you recognize what I'm talking about here. This is the same mentality that good athletes bring to their sport. You practice your craft. You focus on the situation at hand. You ignore distractions. You don't obsess over failure. It's surprising that this is the same kind of mentality to win on Jeopardy! I think this is also what attracts a lot of diverse people onto the show and into the audience. Jeopardy! has that feel of an athletic event: sudden changes in momentum, the reward for speed, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat (cue Olympic theme music here). It may be part of the secret of the show's longevity. It's football for brainiacs. The smart kids you made fun of in high school have found their super bowl.

The only other game shows I can think of that have been on longer are Wheel of Fortune and The Price Is Right. I think they have survived by appealing to that other event often found right next to sports, gambling. That's basically what you do on them. Doesn't the big wheel on Wheel of Fortune remind you of a roulette table? Pat Sajak's not just your host, he's your dealer. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets and spin the wheel.

It ain't over, 'til it's over - Yogi Berra

It's over. I lose. Today my opponents are a teaching assistant, also from North Carolina, and a researcher from Atlanta. I go through my ritual backstage, except I don't use the bathroom. I forgot. We go through the game. My opponents are good, they keep up with me. I bet reasonably in the daily double. One of my answers gets overturned near the end of the game. I feel momentum slipping from me. One of my opponents is close to me at the final round. I think she will bet everything, I would. I bet enough to win by a dollar if I get the answer. It's not a good category for me. I don't like geography. I write down an answer. I get it wrong. She gets it right. I lose. I hear the crowd gasp. Just like that my run is over. I stand on the stage next to Alex. Someone else is in the champion's position. Maggie comes over and puts her arm around mine in a very strong grip. I smile as she starts congratulating me. I realize it's my turn to be comforted as I am quickly and efficiently taken from the stage. I should have gone to the bathroom.

My loss bothers me for a day. I actually forgot two of my shirts at the studio because of it. It's not losing that irks me. I can deal with losing. That comes with the game. I don't have any regrets about the way I played or how I bet. That was my game plan and I executed it. What bothers me is that I know some of my co-workers at school are going to give me a hard time that I didn't bet it all on the "Pangaea" question. I teach Earth Science and that is a major topic of the course. Ah well, them's the breaks.

I've enjoyed my time on Jeopardy! I have always wanted to be on this show. Now when someone says, "hey, you should try out for Jeopardy!" I can point to my complementary picture with Alex and say, "four-time champion." It will probably help at school. We have a generation of students obsessed with fame and television. It will get me a lot of "street cred" as a teacher to have won on TV. Also, it will help our new champion in a similar fashion, so I don't mind losing to her. It would probably have bothered me more if it wasn't her. You will notice, I don't mention her by name. She won. She should have the right to enjoy it and talk about herself in her blog.

There is one unusual consolation for me though. Jeopardy! paid for my return flight to tape my second round of shows. They book the flights with a week's turnaround. In this tight economy, cheap seats fill up fast. The first leg of my return trip is in first class. I console myself about my loss with a wide seat for my wide butt and free peanuts. The peanuts are even served warm in a small bowl. Fancy.

Andy appeared in the following 5 archived games:
#5759, aired 2009-10-01 Andy Srinivasan vs. Cheryl Williams vs. Jenifer Thomas Andy Srinivasan game 5.
#5758, aired 2009-09-30 Andy Srinivasan vs. Jose TreviƱo vs. Stan Chiueh Andy Srinivasan game 4.
#5757, aired 2009-09-29 Andy Srinivasan vs. Gregg Bingham vs. Jessica Hawks Andy Srinivasan game 3.
#5756, aired 2009-09-28 Andy Srinivasan vs. Pat Spangler vs. Jeffrey Niblack Andy Srinivasan game 2.
#5755, aired 2009-09-25 Christopher Nold vs. Katie O'Reilly vs. Andy Srinivasan Andy Srinivasan game 1.
Andy would later appear on Jeopardy! as Andy Srinivasan in the following 2 archived games:
#5923, aired 2010-05-19 Justin Bernbach vs. Andy Srinivasan vs. Vijay Balse 2010 Tournament of Champions semifinal game 3.
#5918, aired 2010-05-12 Dave Belote vs. Regina Robbins vs. Andy Srinivasan 2010 Tournament of Champions quarterfinal game 3.

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