Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sour Grapes

Last week, Jeopardy was having Kids' Week, where all the contestants are grammar school kids.  In most of the other special weeks, the winners go on to play with other winners for the ultimate grand prize, but in Kids' Week, they just play once.  The winner is guaranteed $10,000 (or more, if s/he earns it) and the other kids get $2,000 and $1,000 for 2nd and 3rd place.

There was a landmark game this time around where the winner came close to earning the highest amount of money for a one-day win ever by any age group, something like $66,000.  His performance was amazing.  It would be fun to see him pitted against Ken Jennings.

But controversy has swirled around the kid who came in second place.

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The answer to the question was "the Emancipation Proclamation" and this kid stuck in an extra "t" and was ruled wrong because of spelling.  He lost $3,000, bringing his day's winnings to $6,000, which still put him in second place, which gave him $2,000 to take home.  Had he gotten the spelling right, he would have won $12,000, still a far cry from the winning amount, and still netting him $2,000 take-home winnings.

When the show was over and all the contestants and their parents stand around Alec Trebec, this kid stood off to the side, glowering.

Oh how I recognized that face!  

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That was Paul as we saw him over and over again.  I remember specifically how angry he got when he missed a crucial note as Charlie Brown in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, not in one performance but in two performances.  He was so angry the second night that he locked himself in the theater bathroom. 
The look on the Jeopardy kid's face was Paul, over and over again, embarrassed about something he'd done, or angry at something and withdrawing from everything around him.

Now apparently the Jeopardy kid, in an interview with his local newspaper, is accusing the show of cheating him and it seems to be all over the news and the internet this morning.  He obviously knew what the right answer and the misspelling didn't seem egregious. But Jeopardy sticks by its ruling and says "the show makes 'every effort to be fair and consistent' in their treatment of contestants, regardless of their age."  The decision was made by a panel of judges, who sit at the edge of the stage and check all answers. 

But it makes me wonder why the family is letting their kid make such a public spectacle of the incident when even if they had given him the correct answer, despite the misspelling, he would still have come in second.  What does the kid learn from this?  Does he learn "even if you give the wrong answer, they should cut you some slack because it was almost right?" or do his parents give him the opportunity to learn that when you play a game and lose, you do so graciously?  

The whole thing doesn't really take away anything from Jeopardy.   The kid still received the same amount he would have won, coming in second place, and it just makes him (and his parents) look bad for their sour grapes attitude.

1 comment:

Harriet said...

I saw something similar last night: the answer was "Waiting for Godot," and the contestant left off the g in Waiting.

For all the years I've been watching Alex Trebek, he has said spelling didn't count. I do not remember ever hearing that they changed the rules. A change of that magnitude should have be announced loudly and repeated several times.

Most definitely, no child or adult should be on the show that doesn't know the rules. Or maybe it's the judges who have to be reminded.