Season 26 3-time champion: $41,498 + $2,000.
Last name pronounced like "ROD-rigs", a pronunciation anglicized from the Portuguese.
Chris Rodrigues - a Personal Banking Representative
New Bedford, Massachusetts
November 19, 2009
If anyone had ever told me I'd get the chance to do this I'd have said they were crazy, but that's how life works isn't it. So here we are my wild, weird, wonderful experiences on JEOPARDY!!!
This is really an old story...starting when I was a kid...the "smart" kid...the one that the teachers called on when they needed an answer, the one who talked with the adults...and the one the other kids resented.
That wasn't always easy, and after a while you begin to learn that it's best if you keep quiet, and don't always answer, because it's better to get along than shine. The trend continues through high school, with all of its challenges and the only way you get through it is with the encouragement of parents and help of special teachers who push you to be your best. I was fortunate to acquire a great education at a Jesuit high school, Bishop Connolly in Fall River, Ma. The Jesuit tradition of scholarship is no illusion...they not only teach the subject, they teach you how to reason...to puzzle things out ...to deduce logically from limited information...all key components to a Jeopardy contestant...so to them I owe a great debt...
Enough background...my wife Ann has been after me for 15+ years..."You should go, take the test, what do you have to loose?" Fear of failure and also some fear of success held me back, but finally this past February, I took the online test...it was difficult but fun, and after it was over I felt good about it but frankly just chalked it up to experience and forgot about it. In March came out of the blue, an email saying come to an audition!!! I was floored...but hey nothing ventured nothing gained so in April we (Ann and I ) went to Boston for the day. I would do my audition and then we'd spend the day in the city, which we always enjoy.
Now we're in the waiting area, and I fill out some paperwork and Ann leaves to go wait in lobby and then in comes Maggie...how does one describe Maggie...the best way I think is "force of nature"...talk bout an impressive lady...bright , quick witted, and beneath the bluster, full of caring for her contestants...she gave us the written test, along with Corina and Robert (two of the absolute nicest people on the planet) and then she talked and laughed and joked with us, putting us at ease and getting us ready for the mock game. Always trying to make us comfortable, she also got what she wanted from us...our best !
All too soon the audition was over with Maggie saying...your all on the list for 18 months...and so the Jeopardy! experience was over, so I thought. As I think I told Ann later on, "It was a lot of fun, all the people were really nice and so smart, if nothing else happens I had a great time and we get the rest of today in a favorite place of ours so that's a win /win".
Flash up to August (late in the month, almost September). I'm home with a rare afternoon off and doing errands in and out of the car and house. Well I was outside, I think after mowing the lawn, when I heard the house phone ring...didn't rush because I thought, well they'll leave a message...then my cell (in the car) went off. Now except for Ann few people have my cell, so I assumed she needed something and picked it up, not looking at the caller id. I said hello, and clear as a bell, like she was right next to me, I hear..."Hi Sweetie...it's Maggie...how are you?"
First reaction...Maggie?...then I look at phone # 310 area Los Angeles...
"Maggie" I said.." I'm great, how are you??? " I'm good, says she, and then drops the bomb...reviews all my info and says...."we want you for September....I know your coming back from a cruise so we're going to have to refigure the dates, but your on the show." After I picked up my chin from the ground, we agreed that a follow up call would confirm my dates and I'd be off....to Jeopardy!!!
Glenn calls a few days later (why do all the nicest people work for Jeopardy!???) and we firm up. Arrive LA on Sept 28th, tape days 29th and 30th...hotel set up etc...so now I must make my plans. As those who saw my first appearance know, I don't fly (severe acrophobia, childhood trauma) so to Amtrak we go...very nice lady on phone, set me with my schedule leave Boston on Friday the 25th, 22.5 hours to Chicago 6 hour layover then 42.5 from Chicago to LA.
Ann and I are already set to go on vacation from the 11th thru the 23rd...so pack and unpack and pack again...on our cruise our friends and fellow passengers quizzing me all the time, Ken Jennings book and just other things they knew...laughing poolside with total strangers, everyone helping , excited , encouraging...special thanks to Peggy, Tony, Lisa, Ed , Lois , Joe A and his wife Anna, and always my wife Ann...they we're all there for me...and all as happy as could be for me. One important aside...my boss Heather and her boss Caroline...this would have been impossible to do without their willingness to give me the time off I needed to go...and the encouragement to do well! The district wide email sent by Heather the day before I left wishing me well flooded w/well wishing emails from all kinds of bank employees...most of whom I have never met...but all very encouraging!!!
The trip on the train was long, exciting, breathtakingly beautiful in spots, the incredible diversity in our country...farms, ranches, grasslands, huge cities, then the great southwest...miles and miles of scrub and mesa...eye opening to someone who'd never gone further than Pennsylvania before!
Arrived at the hotel at 9 am...tired from lack of sleep but excited nonetheless and greatful for a day to rest up...great staff took extra pains to make sure a stranger felt welcome far away from home...took a nap and shower...explored a little...then arranged for not 1, not 2 but 3 different wake up calls...didn't want to miss shuttle!!! Laid out clothes and somehow managed to sleep!!
Awoke to all 3 wake ups (alarm, wake up call, then call from Ann as well) and prepared for the day. On arrival in lobby saw 1st fellow contestant ...Sara...shared coffee and our mutual nerves...swapped homes and family stuff...saw our group beginning to gather (all looked the same 2/3 outfits on hangers, Jeopardy! pens, looking like terrified school kids before 1st day of school ) We all pile in and we're off...chatting nervously on shuttle but getting to know one another. Then we arrive, and Corrina and Glen are there taking us in hand, and all of a sudden we're in the green room...and there is Robert.."Hi everybody...champ into makeup everyone else let's practice those hometown howdy's " and we're off...the time passes and the most amazing thing begins to occur...while all this personal information is being exchanged back and forth, joking and laughing and sharing things with each other, you are drawn inexorably together, you start to like each other...to admire accomplishments, to laugh at silly stories, to commiserate over losses or setbacks...in a very real way people become a family...and then the mom comes in!! Maggie enters and has a personal word for everyone..."How's Ann, how was the cruise" How's Jeff and the pups, How was the trip from Atlanta, Is your Grandma here" ...and all of us are immediately comforted and made to feel at home. Maggie does all the necessary prep with us, but with such grace and humor that you don't even notice the time going by.
Suddenly she's done...and we're off to the set for the first time...and John. How do I describe John...if Maggie is the mom , John is the favorite uncle, the one who brought the best present, took you to the game, etc. Quiet but no less impressive, he leads our little band into his world, showing us how the pen works, how the button works, the area to stand and how the set moves up and down, leveling off the contestants to equal heights...the cameras, the board, the monitor...oh yes and don't fall it's a new set and here are the steps be careful!!! More and more we're protected and encouraged...then pick 3 folks and let's rehearse...Glenn is Alex and off we go...learning the button, the lights, the pace ...stopping for commercials, fake interviews(no Glenn no hot air ballooning for me!!!) and even more important, finding out that everyone of your fellow contestants is really, really smart and boy you'd better be sharp but wow aren't they great...and cheering for each other, big applause and encouragement..."bet it all" "make it a true Daily Double"...laughing and applauding and growing closer...Melisa running the board in the American Flag...then joking about it...and then coming up w/Mt. Rushmore out of nowhere...all of us applauding her!!
William (how does that big voice come out of that skinny kid?) answering question after question...Christine with that great breadth of knowledge...Sara with her smile and smarts...Ruupa and her concern for public health and her love of food....Jamison from Chicopee a fellow Bay Stater, Justin with that incredible southern charm...Imran , grace and intelligence and humor all rolled into one...Robert with that quirky smile and great mind... Ed smart, quick and agile mind, and flat out funny ... oh I remember you all my dear friends...so well and so fondly!
Well the day progressed, Christine taking charge and winning 4 straight!! After a while you start thinking, maybe tomorrow would be better, she's on a roll and maybe taking the night off will slow her down?? Then suddenly after the 4th game...Chris, Ruupa, makeup your next...Yikes!!!
Ok makeup done sound all set, (thanks pal you're the best!!) in 3rd position, there's Johnny's voice...Oh my god he said my name!!!...here comes Alex...gee he's taller than I thought and we're off!! Details ,hmm honestly don't remember much...Ireland, couldn't think of Steve Wozniak's name (darn it)...then a Daily Double in "Artsy" and I'm scared of it and the question is about (of all things) the Jesuits!!! I read it 3 times and I'm sure Alex thought didn't know but I was just in shock, I mean what are the odds...so I finally said "Who is Ignatius Loyola?" and off in the distance I heard an ooh from the crowd and the look on Alex's face when he said "You're right!" was shocked disbelief...then it's the end of the game and Final Jeopardy! and I have the most $ but not enough for a runaway...so I bet 1$ more than double Ruupa's score and we all get it wrong!!! Millard Fillmore!!! (will get grief over this for years!) but Alex says..."we have a new Jeopardy Champion..." I looked around and realized he was talking about me!!! Then it becomes a blur, standing w/Alex...then hugging Ruupa and Christine, then Maggie !!! and let's do winner's circle ...and Dave with his handheld and take your time and laughing and crying and Maggie that big mushball crying too..and then...see you tomorrow...sign the paperwork...turn the corner...and Sara...waiting to see how I made out...and Melisa and he mom walking and talking and telling Melisa to be ready tomorrow and reminding Sara what she'd gone through to even get on the show and that no one can ever criticize her for not winning...then to the hotel...and on the phone to Ann...and the " oh my god...oh my god moments"...and laughing and crying all over again...then the same with Mom and Dad...then a quiet dinner w/Sara and her friend except that here comes Ruupa and her whole family congratulating me...and Justin and his wife...doing the same...William and his dear mom...and Melisa and her mom walking by and joking..."better be on your game tomorrow" and laughing and then finally bed...
All the wakeups go off and we're at it again...somehow now it's different though...the nerves are there, but not as crazy as the day before, done most of this already and heck, already won once so rest of this is like playing with house money...go downstairs and Sara has gotten up early just to wish me luck...how incredibly sweet!! There's Melisa, knowing she's going to play first or second game of the day, yet encouraging and still congratulating from yesterday...and the new folks...we're off!!!
Walk in the green room ..."Hey Champ!!! Make up!!" and all through the new folks info sharing their stories the sense of calm still stays, surreal but there it is...and Maggie again...and John...and Glenn...then we're ready...game 2...and Melisa is there...and a new fellow who's very smart and a Medievalist professor ...and me!! The second category revealed is Football...and I run the board...and so we progress and Melisa and the other fellow are tough...really tough and the game flies by...except for one thing...Melisa had in practice run an American Flag category the day before and jokingly I told her that the only time you can fly the flag upside down is a ship in distress...don't you know that in the group of questions called Signals, that's an answer...and she beat me too the button!!!. A break followed and we looked at each other and laughed for 2 solid minutes...then we're at the end and I am not leading and I bet it all but a dollar...and the answer, I swear, is Ding dong the witch is dead! And impossibly, I've won again....and the whirlwind starts all over...hugs for both my fellows, winners circle, Maggie , crying again...sign the papers...10 minutes, change and bathroom and makeup...and we're off again...and it's Robert, with that great laugh and we're going at it and the game flies by... and this time I can't be caught. Now before I left on this journey I had withdrawn some cash and when Ann counted it the morning I left I had lost $20. So earlier in the game I had gotten a Daily Double and being funny I wagered 1020.00 , but got the question wrong...and Alex had asked and we shared a laugh over it. Now at Final I went for it again...and Zorba the Greek brought me back the 20.00...then rushing again....makeup, bathroom, change...and the last game I played...too many mistakes and even with the right answer, I don't have enough...and one last hug to Maggie and Robert and Corrina...and back to the hotel...and the phone w/ Ann ...and my folks...and some friends...and then downstairs, seeing my fellow contestants...a drink and talk w/Melisa and others...Cathy and her folks, Jusha and her husband...not wanting it to end, savoring the moments, relishing the company of like minds, and maybe finally realizing that being the "smart kid" is not such a bad thing after all!!!