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November 06, 2009

Things I Learned at The 2009 Jeopardy Teen Tournament


By Kathy Sweeney, who was there

Blog Teen Tourn photo 2009 As many of you know (because I already blogged about it), my daughter Kate and I went to LA in August with Kate's best friend (since Pre-K) Rachel Rothenberg, and Rachel's mother Susan.  We got to see the actual Jeopardy Teen Tournament  - live.  This week and next week, the Tournament is finally on TV.  We still can't tell you what happens next week, but I can tell you some things I learned from this fabulous experience:

1.  Timing is Everything.  If you watched any of this week's quarter final games, you know that most of the kids knew most of the answers- you could see it in their madly bumping thumbs and in the expressions on their faces. These kids are scary smart, and many of them compete regularly in the high school Quiz Bowl competition, which also uses buzzers (just FYI, Rachel has never done Quiz Bowl).  The thing about the buzzers on Jeopardy is that you have to jam your thumb down at exactly the right moment to get a shot at answering the question - or in this case, providing the question for the answer.  You CANNOT ring in until Alex finishes the clue.  If you do, you're locked out for half a second.  That seems pretty fast, but in fact it can be an eternity - just ask any Olympic athlete.  If you hesitate too long, you give your opponents the chance to buzz in first, where most of the time, they will answer correctly.

2.  Men and Women are Different.  Seriously.  We all know this, but we saw it in living color during the tournament.  If you watched this week, you know that the boys outscored the girls by a significant margin.  Is it because they are smarter?  Bite your tongue.  It's because they are more aggressive.  Hear me out on this.  I sat there for hour after hour watching it happen.  The clue came up, and the boys focused on hitting the buzzer, almost regardless of the topic.  You could actually see the girls' eyes as they scanned the clue FIRST, before deciding to ring in.  Maybe it's simply testosterone, or maybe it's sociological, but it is real.  

3.  There is Hope for The Species.  Think about the last time you saw a teenager on the evening news.  Chances are very high that it involved some kind of bad behavior.  An attack with multiple witnesses who filmed instead of assisting the victim.  A fight - maybe with guns maybe knives - between gangs.  Some pop tart caught with his or her pants down (or no pants at all).  Rehab.  Mug Shots.  Funerals.  But these kids - and the many thousands like them who took an online test, then went to a live regional audition and competition - they measure worth by brainpower.  No moronic beauty queens who couldn't put together a simple sentence with a LeapFrog game; no cretin athletes who think classes are secondary to sports practice; no pimps or hos in training.  These teenagers are smart and responsible and polite.  (Special shout out to Mary Helen, Will's Mom.  Will is so respectful he called me ma'am in casual conversation.  Great kid.)

4.  It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over.  Some of these games were decided on one Daily Double.  Some on Final Jeopardy. This tournament is only half over.  There are nine spots in the semi-finals.  Five will be taken by the winners of each game this week and the other four will go to the wild cards - the four (non-winners) with the highest scores.  By the end of tonight's game, we'll know. These kids aren't quitters - they were all in it to win.  Never give up - never surrender.

If I sound mushy and hopelessly optimistic to you, let me be.  We have enough things in this world to make us sad - so watch these kids win with intelligence - not brute strength or plastic surgery.  If that doesn't make you hopeful, I give up.

GO TEEN TOURNAMENT!  All these young men and women are worth cheering for -

but I'm writing the blog, so I get to say it: Go Team Rachel!

For more about the Jeopardy Teen Tournament, or to find out how to audition - check out the official web site: 2009 Jeopardy Teen Tournament

Wait - I almost forgot - Happy Birthday, William!  Many, many more.


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What a completely heartwarming blog! I have loved JEOPARDY since forever.

And Happy Birthday, William. Live long and prosper.

OMG.....I love Jeopardy and am so proud of Rachel for even making it! How terrific for her to have her best friends there too. We will be watching and wishing.

Of course......happy days to William whom I know will treat himself to a few of the new ones at www.mysterylovers.com
He is a great customer and friend to independent booksellers!........and many more years of bookloving!

Interesting observation about the boys vs. the girls. I think it was that way when I did "Lehigh Valley Scholastic Scrimmage" back in the '70's. Certainly, it was that way on our teams, which were dominated by one neurotic boy and filled out by two geeky boys and one girl there for fine arts. After school on Tuesdays, in Miss whatshername's classroom with all the plants on the window sill, I was A Master Of The Universe.

I wonder if it's that boys aren't afraid to be wrong. If I was wrong, well, too bad, bring on the next question.

For some insane reason, JEOPARDY is now on around 11:50pm/midnight/12:15am. out here, but I've been watching all week thanks to DVRs. Rachel was on this morning, and we'll be watching all next week, too.

Thank you Harley, Mary Alice, and Josh for the kind words..:) On the one hand, I've reached a number I'd rather not admit; on the other hand, thinking back, it's kind of cool I'm still around to complain about it....:)

Thank you, Kathy...you are an amazing friend.

Because of vacation schedules, my husband was not able to go with us to California. I honestly believe I would not have survived the Jeopardy! pressure cooker if Kathy and Kate had not been with us. Rachel was fine throughout. I've never witnessed a 17 year old cope with that kind of stress with such poise. I, on the other hand, spent the entire 4 days trying real hard not to throw up.

I did manage to get up every morning and get Rachel going for her early a.m. call to go to the studio. Then I would go back to the hotel room and want to hide under the covers. Kathy made sure I got showered, dressed and ate a good breakfast before we left for the studio. Then she held my hand and kept me going during the game itself. She made me laugh all the time, which is something I needed to do.

Kate also was a great support for Rachel. She kept Rachel laughing and grounded the whole time. Plus, she took some amazing photos for us when the game was over (they let us take pictures on the set at the end of the last day). Kate was also cool and calm throughout; how did such crazy mothers produce such zen children?

Kathy, Team Rachel wouldn't be Team Rachel without you. Thanks for everything.

Wow, what an experience. I would tend to agree about the boys/girls differences, having tried out for GE College Bowl at Brandeis -- I did really well on the written test, but our team ended up being all guys. Also totally agree with #3. Maybe our newspapers in Maine are a little better about this (I don't watch TV news much), but it seems hardly a week goes by without my seeing an article about teens (and even younger kids) coming up with wonderful, innovative ways to help other people, animals, the environment.... They are the hope of the future.

What a great start to my Friday, Kathy. Thanks! And I'll be watching and cheering along with all of you.

Happy B-day, William!

Great post, Kathy. I'm definitely not down on kids. And scary smart--yes, I know. Even in college, many are totally amazing and they lift me. The really great ones even know to write notes of thanks after they've graduated.

I don't even know Rachel, but I watched the show, bawling with pride the whole time. I can't watch spelling bees at all. I'm a puddle of tears the whole time. Why? I don't know exactly, but the brave kids, valiantly doing their best, standing up in front of a crowd to do it---just makes me weep.

Go, Rachel! And Rachel's mom has been among us this whole time?? Great job, Mom!

To Rachel's Mom,
Congratulations on this wonderful excitement. Year's back I traveled from Dayton Ohio to Pittsburgh for my daughter to compete in an Irish Dance competition, actually on Kathy's birthday. Kate gave up her bedroom to her long lost relatives and Kathy was there for my daughter and me at the competition, cheering and laughing and guiding me through each step. I can totally relate to the support Kathy offered you. Selfless.
I will try to tune into Jeopardy.
Go Team Rachel.

We enjoyed watching Rachel on Jeopardy! last night. "States without consonants", Alex?! Gee whiz! Rachel and her competitors were fantastic. My 11 year old commented that Rachel looked like she was having a great time and seemed so calm. (We then had a discussion on poise!) Here's to Team Rachel!

What a lovely antidote to Jay Leno's awful Jay Walking. He makes it seem as though every American is too big of a nincompoop to know the name of our own country. I *know* that's not true, but it's good to have actual evidence thereto.

Rachel seemed very poised last night. I would have been a nervous wreck, especially since she kept pressing that darn button without buzzing in. How frustrating.

That kid in the middle had such a deep voice! He should sing baritone.

My youngest daughter was on the academic team at the high school for three years. It was a great experience for both of us. But I saw exactly the same behavioral differences between the girls and the boys, Kathy. And I think Josh is right, that boys don't mind being wrong. They mostly are, anyway, at that age. [ducking]

Now I'm crying again. I am going to have to talk to Trebek about rescheduling this thing to a different time of the month. Just Saying.

Susan - it was one of the great experiences of my life - a girls' weekend in LA with our daughters before they leave the nest.

Peggy! How cool to see you commenting here - everybody welcome my cousin Peggy of the McCarthy cousins on my Irish side. I have such great memories of that day. Here's a highlight. Jane (our Irish Dancer and Peggy's daughter) WON one of her dances, and Peggy made me go confirm with the judges table because she was in such shock she couldn't believe it. In fact, now that I think of it, Peggy and Susan shared similar behavior. Peggy to Jane after the dance: "You looked great. And at least you didn't puke." We laughed a lot!

Did y'all know that one can sing "GO, TEAM RACHEL!!" to the tune of "Speed Racer"?

Just saying....

Karen, it isn't just at that age. Talk to my wife, who teaches law school. Hah! You thought I was going to say something else.

Hi. It's Me, Margie.

Smart is the shit. Just saying. I mean, good looks don't hurt. But if you don't have a good brain, you can't do anything.

Me and my cousins watched this thing last night (because it was like required for my job but at least I didn't have to read some stupid article on commas or something like they usually make me do). First off, that tall kid in the middle ought to be singing Barry White songs or doing commercials when James Earl Jones retires. Rocco says Rachel's hair looked fabulous and we all agreed that the berry color looks great on her.

Inspired by Josh, I will NOT make the totally obvious joke about boys always being too quick on the trigger. I expect a commendation in my file or something. Or a bonus.

OMG! It's William's birthday again! He's old, you know. I mean, not like meet with the funeral home old, but still. We love you William.

I found your observations about boy vs. girl very interesting. My grandson, Ben Geyer, is a 4-time winner representing DC in the National Geographic Geography Bee, and twice went on to theTop 10 finals, also televised with Alec Trebek. Most of the finalists are boys, although last year's winner was a very bright young lady!

Wow, Marcia. That is so cool. Congratulations to your grandson.

Karen, The one thing with Jay Walking is the people who know how many states there are make bad TV and get deleted (it used to be the cutting room floor, another great saying eaten by technology.)

Boys/Girls One of my education jobs gave me the opportunity to be a substitute gym teacher for a day. Boys floor hockey looks like this: one guy gets the puck and moves down the gym. There are a few pushes and shoves by boys not near the puck. Either the boy with the puck shoots or is knocked down by an opposing player and then the whole scene plays towards the other goal.

Girls floor hockey: pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, oops passed it to the wrong team. And the occasional loud thump when Stacie and Amy settle who should be talking to Tom.

What is the past tense of good luck?

We've all seen this one by now, right. Pretty girl, pretty dress, poly-fill head:

Actually, I haven't watched the whole 3.18 min as it was just too painful.

Holly, that is a famous person, because the winnings were for charity. Someone named "Kelly." I agree, pretty woman, not real well educated. Typical American.

ARGH! I watched the show yesterday & but didn't get to see how it ended cause they cut in with coverage of the Ft. Hood shootings.Can you tell me how she did, now?
Happy birthday William! (and now that you have the Speed Racer earworm, people will attribute your strange behavior to your advanced age! LMAO!)

I watched most of the tournament this week, and I could not get over the poise of all of them. Smart kids, sure--you expect that with Jeopardy, right? But their poise and grace under pressure was remarkable. Congrats to Rachel on a totally smooth performance.

Also, Kathy--watching did not make me feel smart, as you promised. I felt stupid, and I am certain I would have fumbled the "buzz-in" timing. I will have to compete against the Jay Leno victims in order to improve my self esteem. (But I will watch the rest of the tournament, too.)

Congrats to Rachel and Team Rachel--I haven't got TV just now (long story), but will try to find online episodes???
Happy Birthday, William, and many more, sans hurricanes and other disasters.
To the point of boys vs. girls on these contests: a colleague recently said that research shows that the average woman has about 60,000 thoughts per day, while the average man has about 15,000. My colleague, a man, graciously offered that most of those 15,000 are on one subject. But he said it makes a lot more sense to him now that his wife has more to say on a regular basis than he does.
I reckon having fewer thoughts may allow for a bit more focused strategic action??? (If you throw anything at me, please let it be pillows--I can't afford a new laptop just now!) But, it makes more sense to me on the event when we women think circles around the occasional hapless male . . . .

P.S. No such luck--apparently Jeopardy hasn't yet caught on to the trend of trailing episodes online. Sigh. Good luck, Team Rachel, anyway!
(Those wanting to watch highlights of old tournaments online can do so on Crackle.)

Go Team Rachel! I had always figured there was a trick to those buzzers. Nice to know what it is. And the fact that boys hit the buzzer faster just means that they're more focused on being first than on the questions :o) Women do tend to think before speaking or acting. We get things right more often too!
Happy birthday William! Have a great day.

Rita - Rachel did not win her game last night. In fact, she came in third (to two boys) but she still has a shot at the Semi-Finals based on the scores. We won't know/can't tell until after tonight's show.

Check my Facebook for updates!

Bea - get oughta town! You ARE in fact, smart, and I know that for a fact. In fact, you (like me and Tom) would have been the only one to get "What is a Process Server?" correct.

I've gotten some interesting feedback on the male/female thing. When I said testosterone, I was referring to its aggressive tendencies, not sexual ones. Yes, these are all good looking kids, but there was no sexual tension (at least during the games). They were totally focused on the challenge on the board. Perhaps if Megan Fox had been a guest host, it would have made a difference, but Alex? Not so much.

William, happy birthday -- each one is proof of another year of good choices (and some good fortune) -- may you have many more!
It was fun watching smart teens (and it's nice to know the secret of the buzzers). When I was still teaching, people would be so sympathetic (in a "you must be crazy" way) because all their knowledge of teens was through the slanted media. I began answering with an invitation to come to my school and meet my students before judging them. During my mother's final illness, my students gave me so much help and support, one girl reminding me that I had been there for her the year before, "so now it's my turn." These young people do give hope for the future and a reminder that most people are good!

Go Team Rachel!!!


Happy Birthday William!!!

I never miss Jeopardy. Rachel was fabulous and I liked her interview very much.

In case I haven't said it lately, I just love yinz guys.

If you were a bottle of Scotch, William, imagine what you'd be worth . . .

I would be up for Megan Fox, in a manner of speaking.

Josh, I thought you were concentrating on trying to win back your wife??

My thanks to all of you for the kind wishes today...:)

GO, Team Rachel, GO, Team Rachel, GO TEAM RACHEL, GOOOOOooooooooo (sung to the tune of "Speed Racer")

Yeah, Rachel!!

I watched Jeopardy tonight and cheered out loud for your friend. Rachel smoked the competition. Good for her! I love the delighted, slightly stunned, expression on her face when she won!

Thank you very much for this easy to follow guide, it was very usefull.

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