Once In A Lifetime: Sports Jeopardy

I wrote the below the night I got back from the taping… It is completely unedited. I wasn’t really supposed to say how I did upon my return from the studio to any of my family, so I knew I wanted to get all of the day’s details out…

It’s been 2 months since the taping, and I guess you can say I’m a little bit melancholy about the results. There’s part of me that’s thrilled, excited, proud, happy – I got to be on an episode of Sports Jeopardy! And I didn’t embarrass myself! And then there’s the part of me that’s bummed that I didn’t win…

God/Life/the universe (whatever floats your boat) has a funny way of putting things in perspective. After leaving my hotel, right near LAX, my car started acting up. My steering wheel was jerking to the left, independently of whatever I was trying to do. It did it twice, on the 405, in the middle of El Segundo, and my heart sinks. What the heck is going on?!?! So I pull into the slow lane, and nurse the car home. Like drive it as slow as possible without causing an accident. I pull off the freeway in San Juan Capistrano to see how the car is doing, and I notice some wires HANGING down into the wheel well. Serious what the heck moment. I make it home by the grace of God, take it into the shop the next day, and the mechanic tells me that my brakes were worn to the point of the calipers independently grabbing the rotor or wheel or something (sorry I don’t remember exactly, my brain sort of turned off after he mentioned failing brakes), and I was leaking brake fluid. I could’ve lost my brakes along one of the busiest traffic arteries in all of Los Angeles. And on top of that, the radiator was busted! So my 2nd-place-pity-party didn’t last long… I was being reminded to be happy, be thankful, things could be way worse!

Overall, this was another once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it will be wonderful to be able to share it when the boys someday when they’re a little older and understand what it means that Mama is on the tv. Thanks everyone for the well wishes, good thoughts, support, and taking time out of your day to watch me. Means so much!

Ringing in to answer - hopefully correctly. (pic courtesy of Sony Pictures Studios)

Ringing in to answer – hopefully correctly. (pic courtesy of Sony Pictures Studios)

Watching myself on TV. Hat tip to Jenny for noticing I wore the same outfit as on the show ;) Thanks John for the pic.

Watching myself on TV. Hat tip to Jenny for noticing I wore the same outfit as on the show 😉 Thanks John for the pic.

I’m a Jeopardy nerd from way back – I’ve always enjoyed watching the program, trying to guess the correct answers, talking to my parents about “did you know the Final Jeopardy answer?!” One of the few television shows I let Caleb watch is Jeopardy – he loves the “pew pew pew” sound of the Daily Doubles. So suffice to say, I’m a big fan.

Earlier this year, there was an online audition for a new spinoff of Jeopardy called Sports Jeopardy. It was a brand new program, exactly like Jeopardy, but hosted by legendary sportscaster/broadcaster Dan Patrick, and completely centered around sports trivia. I tried out online, not thinking much of it, there were probably tens of thousands of people taking the exact same test, and I thought “I think I knew most of the answers, but doubt I’ll ever hear back.”

Fast forward to July 2014, and I got the news that the producers wanted me to come to LA to attend the live audition for Sports Jeopardy! I was beyond excited! Upon arrival, I realized I was the only woman in attendance at the audition, and most definitely the only contestant there who had to bring their breastfeeding baby 😉 I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the audition process, but knew I wanted to do my best and not bomb. Walking out of the hotel’s conference room, I was cautiously optimistic, and figured they’d call me if it was meant to be.

Around rolled October, and I hadn’t heard back yet. I was starting to come to terms with the fact that maybe the producers went in a different direction, until October 4th when I received a call from Culver City – the producers wanted me on the show!! I was to come up to the Jeopardy studio on the Sony Pictures Studio lot, and I was slated to compete on either November 4 or 5th. I was almost in tears while on the phone, this was an incredible opportunity!! I was going to be in the Jeopardy studio, on the stage with Dan Patrick, competing on a show I love.

Sports Jeopardy airs on Crackle – which is Sony’s online streaming content service, similar to Neftlix and Hulu. A new episode airs every Wednesday, and I had watched every episode from season 1 and season 2, trying to research and figure out as much about the game as I could. In the most recent episodes (Season 2 episodes 5-7) a contestant named Vinny had begun a little streak, winning each episode, racking up $15,000 in the process. The way TV works, by the time my taping date rolled around, he had gone on to win 8 EPISODES IN A ROW! Those other 5 episodes had yet to air, but the producers told us he had won eight times so far. Walking in the room and seeing him, I will honestly admit that I was a little bit worried. At this point in the game, all of us contestants know an insane (and ridiculous) amount of sports trivia. Out of the thousands of people that tried out, we were the cream of the crop. Ask any former Jeopardy contestant, and he/she will tell you that the success of a contestant isn’t in what you know – the success is tied to the buzzer. Ken Jennings has won more Jeopardy games than any other person EVER, but he can’t beat Brad Rutter (the highest grossing contestant ever, and recent winner of the Decades event) because Brad consistently beats Ken in the timing department. He just buzzes in faster.

Knowing all this, and seeing that we had a massive returning champion in our midst with Vinny, I started thinking about the buzzer. I knew that in our rehearsals, I was going to have to get the timing right or there was no way I would beat a knowledgable contestant such as Vinny. We signed all our releases in the green room, rehearsed, ate some food, got our make-up done so we’d be TV-ready, and it was time to head out. None of the contestants know the taping order until the last minute, and I didn’t tape until the third and final block. By this point, Vinny had handily defeated 4 more contestants in the 2 prior games, and was now at 10 WINS IN A ROW. I knew my work was cut out for me. I was thinking back to Ken Jennings’ incredible 74-game win streak, and thought about all of the contestants he beat. You spend your life wanting to make it onto Jeopardy, and when you finally get the call, you are paired up against a machine, a buzz-saw, a man on a roll… I was now facing that on the Sports Jeopardy stage. Success is all in the timing, and I was going up against a guy in the middle of an incredible hot streak. 10 wins, most of them by quite a big margin, for $50,000.

A little backstory – before leaving for LA, I told Ryan that of course I’d like to win – who really likes losing, and isn’t $5000 better than $2000? But my main fear was that I was going to bomb, be in the negative, look like an idiot, and anyone with access to Crackle would see me going down in a massive blaze of failure…

So my main goal for the show was to not make a fool of myself, and if I happened to win in the process, that’d be the icing on the cake.

In the end, my fellow newbie contestant and I did a good job, but just couldn’t beat Vinny in the buzzer-speed department. I felt like we knew many of the answers, just couldn’t get in fast enough. A few of the answers will haunt me for a while (“Katarina Witt” and “prone”), both of which I knew, just rung in a split second too late. But I got the Final Jeopardy answer correct (yay) and wagered correctly to ensure I would finish in 2nd place.

2nd place is not something for me to be ashamed of. I’m fiercely competitive, so yes of course 1st would have been nice, but I lost to a guy on an incredible tear, one that Sports Jeopardy hasn’t ever seen before. I lost to an incredible champion, I can’t hang my head about that. With his win over me and Ariel, he had know racked up 11 in a row. I don’t know how he’s ever going to lose because he holds such an incredible advantage in the buzzer department. He is incredibly knowledgable and has the timing down. That’s a hard combination to beat.

On the drive home after my taping, I was a little bummed, but then it dawned on me. I just got to stand on the Jeopardy stage, a show I love, and play a game about sports trivia. A stay at home mom, with two little boys at home (one of whom was still breastfeeding and not letting me sleep much ;)), and I competed with some of the best. How many people get to actually get to be on and play Sports Jeopardy/Jeopardy? This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Throw in the $2000 and I can’t complain. If someone walked up to you on the street and said “here’s $2000” wouldn’t you be super stoked?? I won a nice chunk of change and got to be on a show I love. And someday, when the boys are older, they can watch their Mommy on TV :)

DIY Camper Refurbish

After a gnarly night camping in Joshua Tree when Caleb was 2, I had been thinking about getting a pop-up camper. Months after researching, I had an idea of what I was looking for. Late spring, I had been browsing Craigslist and saw a listing for a Jayco that looked promising: it was in pretty good shape, the price was right, and the seller was in nearby Escondido. We checked it out, negotiated the price, and before we knew it, had it hooked up on the back of the Explorer and were bringing our “new for us” camper home. Ryan had mentioned that he had wanted to start another big project – well he had it now!

The camper was 20 years old. It was very solid, had “good bones” as they’d say on HGTV, but the canvas was in serious disrepair, and there was old water damage that had ruined the metal in spots and warped the cabinetry. We had A LOT of work on our hands. It was June. I had wanted to go to Jalama late Summer/early Fall. Ryan had a couple of months to make magic happen. Good thing he’s been restoring and fixing things since he was a kid.

The first step was to research who made the best replacement canvas. We found Bear Creek Canvas in Wisconsin, and they were going to have our replacement canvas sent in 8 weeks. In that time, Ryan researched as much as he could about pop-up campers since we basically were going to do a full replacement (minus the floor, roof panel, and cabinet faces).

Jalama was scheduled for late August, and the only reason we were able to take the camper was because of Ryan. Nights and weekends, he was out in the garage, or sitting in the driveway, water-sanding by hand the old rusted bed frames, cable holds, other miscellaneous pieces of the camper. I took pictures of the entire process, and it is pretty crazy to see what he was able to accomplish in a few short months. We still want to make some changes – new floor, new cabinets, etc – but for now, the camper works and has added a new dimension to our family trips.

the before... needing new canvas BADLY

the before… needing new canvas BADLY

Here's some of the water damage/rust from the leaky roof. Also note those awesome decorative valances

Here’s some of the water damage/rust from the leaky roof. Also note those awesome decorative valances

More evidence of water damage - rusted out cable floor trays

More evidence of water damage – rusted out cable floor trays

1994's finest decorative valances, complete with a little rust for the heck of it

1994’s finest decorative valances, complete with a little rust for the heck of it

Caleb helping Dada with cabinet removal

Caleb helping Dada with cabinet removal

Luke didn't want to be left out of the disassembling

Luke didn’t want to be left out of the disassembling

Up-close 'before' look at the cable trays - Ryan ended up replacing the rusty metal tray with a new one, and I cleaned up the rust damage on the floor...

Up-close ‘before’ look at the cable trays – Ryan ended up replacing the rusty metal tray with a new one, and I cleaned up the rust damage on the floor…

How Ry spent many nights - water-hand sanding many of the pieces of metal on the camper

How Ry spent many nights – water-hand sanding many of the pieces of metal on the camper

How the inside looked with all the cabinet faces removed and the bed-frames detached temporarily

How the inside looked with all the cabinet faces removed and the bed-frames detached temporarily

Ry hard at work

Ry hard at work

The camper's kitchen pieced out along our house :)

The camper’s kitchen pieced out along our house :)

Before and after collage of the water/rust damage on the floor - Soft Scrub with bleach and little elbow grease was all I needed to clean it up

Before and after collage of the water/rust damage on the floor – Soft Scrub with bleach and little elbow grease was all I needed to clean it up

When we bought the camper, the cable lift system only worked on 3 of the 4 sides. Ryan fixed the 4th side by hand - he installed and ran the new piece of cable and integrated it into this wench piece

When we bought the camper, the cable lift system only worked on 3 of the 4 sides. Ryan fixed the 4th side by hand – he installed and ran the new piece of cable and integrated it into this wench piece

I make him take goofy pics :)

I make him take goofy pics :)

Testing his cabling fix - it worked!

Testing his cabling fix – it worked!

With the cables repaired, it was time to remove the old canvas

With the cables repaired, it was time to remove the old canvas

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Little Luke checking out Dad's work

Little Luke checking out Dad’s work

Our camper, pretty much taken apart down to the studs...

Our camper, pretty much taken apart down to the studs…

Ryan removed the top half of the camper to be able to access the roof seams that needed repair, and to also better access the interior

Ryan removed the top half of the camper to be able to access the roof seams that needed repair, and to also better access the interior

Time to get working on the roof

Time to get working on the roof

Remember those pics of the rusted canvas with the charming valance? That water damage completely ruined the wood panels, so Ryan had to remove that old wood before replacing it

Remember those pics of the rusted canvas with the charming valance? That water damage completely ruined the wood panels, so Ryan had to remove that old wood before replacing it

Another long night

Another long night

Here's the stripped piece of wood, cleaned and ready for the new replacement wood

Here’s the stripped piece of wood, cleaned and ready for the new replacement wood

Ryan measuring and cutting the replacement boards

Ryan measuring and cutting the replacement boards

Caleb loves helping Dada

Caleb loves helping Dada

Measuring the corner pieces

Measuring the corner pieces

Perfect fit!

Perfect fit!

Time to fix the main, long panel. Had to make sure he had all lengths and angles correctly measured or the roof wouldn't fit back inside the camper when cabled into the closed position

Time to fix the main, long panel. Had to make sure he had all lengths and angles correctly measured or the roof wouldn’t fit back inside the camper when cabled into the closed position

Glued and waiting to set

Glued and waiting to set

Time to replace the roof vinyl seams to eliminate the leaks

Time to replace the roof vinyl seams to eliminate the leaks

How many of Ryan's evenings looked...

How many of Ryan’s evenings looked…

Roof repaired and back with the camper

Roof repaired and back with the camper

Getting the awning dialed in

Getting the awning dialed in

Ryan also sanded/repaired the metal on the bed frames and gave the wood a nice coat of protective primer paint to help protect against the elements

Ryan also sanded/repaired the metal on the bed frames and gave the wood a nice coat of protective primer paint to help protect against the elements

The result of all his hard work - our 1994 Jayco is a beauty now and so fun to take out on the road!

The result of all his hard work – our 1994 Jayco is a beauty now and so fun to take out on the road!