Legendary Jeopardy host Alex Trebek will be missed

Ellis McGinleyCopy Editor

Something I have missed most while at the university is a small family tradition practiced with my parents: nightly games of “Jeopardy!”.

For a family of competitive nerds like us, there was little other bonding activity as intuitive as a game show dedicated to competitive trivia, which we stumbled upon a few years ago.

We would tally points on our fingers, jeer at categories we knew were right up someone else’s alley-try beating an English major at ‘Literature,’ or worse yet, a PhD in biology at ‘Science.’ (Although neither is quite so hard at keeping up with a teenager when the ‘pop culture’ category rolls around.)

In short, “Jeopardy!” was an installation in our home. It was a rite of passage when I first convinced my partner to play with us; even more so when they once beat my mother. Some families have dinner at the table. We duke it out over trivia.

So it was a somber day for us, like many, when after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, the 80-year-old host of “Jeopardy!” passed away on Nov. 8.

A constant, reassuring presence on the trivia program, Alex Trebek was a fixture of game show television.

He was born in Canada, July 22, 1940, although he was a United States citizen for twenty-two years at the time of his death.

His career began with the Canadian Broadcasting Program as a news anchor, and after multiple gigs hosting game shows in both Canada and the U.S, he would come to be the face of “Jeopardy!” in 1984.

Trebek has had seven Emmy Awards and stars on both the Canadian and Hollywood Walks of Fame. He was also a member of the Order of Canada, a high honor.

I got the text from my dad while preparing for class. I rushed to fact-check against the nearest headlines. We had all been hopeful when he fought his cancer, from his reassurances on television and his unfettered presence on our living room screen every night.

But it was true. It’s strange to mourn a celebrity: it isn’t as if I knew him personally, of course, but he had a presence in my life and in the lives of so many. He leaves a wife and children, his own family, as well as mine and a range of fans who will mourn his calm, steady hosting.

I think part of the appeal of Trebek and “Jeopardy!” is how truly steady it was. It isn’t particularly intense, as far as game shows go. The stakes aren’t anything as wild as a million dollars or a shiny new car (although it is certainly possible).

It’s very easy to play along, too: my own family count points on our fingers and rush to shout answers before the other. It’s even played in classrooms. The show itself is never mean-spirited; the harshest Trebek might have ever been is a baffled question after one of the contestants shares their strange life anecdote as part of their introductions each episode.

Whatever his charm, whatever the show’s formula, “Jeopardy!” was a surprising beacon in a time of both personal and global chaos. I’m grateful to Trebek for the odd role he played in my family bonding, and I know I join a good company when I say he will be missed.

The final episode of “Jeopardy!” involving Trebek is set to air Christmas 2020.

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