Local man nearly pulls out big ‘Jeopardy!’ win
by Staff Writer
A lot of people gauge their IQ by their ability to answer “Jeopardy!” questions from the comfort of their own sofas. But that’s the closest they’ll ever get to fielding a question for Alex Trebek.
For one local resident, however, this couch quiz was just the beginning.
“I’ve been watching ‘Jeopardy’ since I was a kid,” said Daniel Hodge, a recent contestant on the long-running television quiz show. “I also have a natural knack for remembering the general knowledge questions that they ask all the time on the show.”
Hodge, a Campbell University graduate, spent most of his childhood in Cary, and now lives in the north Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, 3-year-old son, Jack, and 11-month-old daughter, Annie.
Balancing his job at the Lowe’s corporate office in Mooresville and family trips to Discovery Place in uptown Charlotte, Hodge prepped for the show in his down time.
“I mainly studied basic stuff like U.S. Presidents, world capitals, Shakespeare – some of the most frequent subjects on ‘Jeopardy,’” Hodge said.
Hodge’s road to television pseudo-stardom wasn’t a quick and easy one, however. The application process to be considered as a contestant is multi-faceted.
“First, you must take the yearly online test, which is 50 questions, one at a time, with 15 seconds to answer each one,” Hodge said. “If you get the required amount of questions right – rumored to be 35 – you get invited to a regional audition where you meet employees of Jeopardy, take another written test and play a mock version of ‘Jeopardy’ with contestants.”
Hodge’s regional audition was in Washington, D.C.
“After that, if they like you, they call you,” he said.
Needless to say, they called him.
“It all goes very quickly,” said Hodge. “You get there about three hours before taping with 10 other contestants who will be on the show in that day of taping. You go over the rules with the contestant coordinators, get prepared for being on TV – which includes make-up – and you get some warm-up time with the buzzers and the big board before they put you on.”
Although he filmed the episode in early November, the actual show aired Jan. 17. That night, he gathered in celebration at the Birkdale Village Fox and Hound to watch the show with fellow members of his church, Huntersville ARP. The final moments stumped Hodge.
“I had an $8,000 lead going into Final Jeopardy, but lost after we got a tricky question about U.S. Census state growth percentages from 2000-2010,” says Hodge. “Basically, they were looking for two states with the highest percentage growth over the last 10 years, and they gave the hint that they bordered each other. I only got one of the two states, and the second-place player overtook me after she got it right.”
The answer was Arizona and Nevada. Both Hodge and his fellow contestant Betsy Schroeder gave the same incorrect response – Arizona and New Mexico. Schroeder bet nothing and remained in third place with $8,000. Hodge bet close to $6,400, dropping from $22,400 to $15,999. The third contestant, Amy Stephenson, leapfrogged Hodge with a $4,000 bet and a correct answer.
Yet there really are no winners or losers at this level. Aside from hometown bragging rights just for appearing on the show, Jeopardy runner-ups typically take home a cash consolation prize. There are no regrets for Hodge, either.
“It’s a great experience,” he said.