Adam Stone, associate department chair for social sciences at the Alpharetta Campus, fulfilled a long-standing dream of competing on the famous quiz show.
By Rebecca Rakoczy
“We got shelled.”
That was how Georgia State University Perimeter College associate professor Adam Stone described the outcome of going up against “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer in a game aired Monday.
Still, the game fulfilled Stone’s long-standing dream of meeting Alex Trebek, competing on the famous quiz show — even if it dashed his hopes for winning.
“We got shelled — and I came in last. And it was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Stone said.
Although Stone’s “shelling” aired May 20 on the NBC affiliate, WXIA-Ch. 11, — the game was taped March 5. “Jeopardy!” pre-records the games, and contestants sign nondisclosure agreements, agreeing not to reveal the results before the show is aired.
Holzhauer, a 35-year-old Las Vegas sports gambler, entered Monday’s face-off with a 22-game winning streak, making history as the second-highest-scoring contestant on the game show.
“He was a really nice guy when I met him in the green room prior to the taping,” said Stone, who wasn’t aware of his opponent’s winning reputation because of the show’s airing delays. Holzhauer’s winnings already had topped $1.6 million.
“The first round, no one missed anything,” Stone remembered. “But he clobbered us in the Double Jeopardy round. I was floored. The whole thing was amazing. I had not seen him perform or known anything about him.”
Stone arrived for his 7:30 a.m. orientation and 10 a.m. game armed with more than eight years of prep work (plus five bow ties). It wasn’t enough.
The taping went by in a blur.
“I can’t even remember the questions,” he said. “But looking back, I should have worked more on my buzzing skills.”
Stone, an associate professor and associate chair of social sciences on Georgia State’s Alpharetta Campus, has been teaching American Government at Perimeter College since 1991. His relationship with “Jeopardy!” goes back even earlier.
“I have watched the show for 30 years, even watching when Art Fleming was the host when I was a kid in the ’60s,” the 56-year-old Stone said.
He took the contestant test annually from 2011 until he qualified for an audition in May 2018.
Ten months later, he was flown to the Culver City, Calif., studios to compete.
For Stone, it was an exciting experience to meet Trebek, the show’s longtime host.
“Alex Trebek is really nice, very bright, very humble and has a funny, cutting sense of humor,” Stone said.
Stone said he was devastated to learn the next day about Trebek’s announcement that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Trebek had released a video with the news, and Stone heard while eating lunch with his family in downtown Los Angeles.
“It hit me really hard,” Stone said. “Just 24 hours before, I had been talking with him, and he is someone I have admired for 30 years. Alex is one of my heroes.”
Stone says his final “Jeopardy!” category was 19th Century French Authors. He drew a blank, and lost all but $1. The correct response was: “Who is Émile Zola?”
“French literature authors are my least favorite,” he said, laughing.
Stone’s winnings? He received $1,000 for coming in third, with most of it going back to the state of California for taxes, he said.
Stone isn’t the only contestant from Perimeter College to have appeared on “Jeopardy!” In May 2004, Patti Gregg, a Georgia State employee then in Perimeter College’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning, played and lost. While there, she met Ken Jennings, who still is listed as the show’s “winningest” contestant of all time.
Prior to the May 20 game, “Jeopardy!” reported that Jennings remained ahead of Holzhauer in two categories: Highest Winnings (regular-season play) and Consecutive Games Won. Jennings earned $2.5 million in what remains the longest streak: 74 games.
“He was quiet and nerdy, and I doubt anyone envisioned him as the juggernaut he became,” Gregg said. “He beat the guy who beat me, so I’ve always had a soft spot for him.”
Watch Stone talk about his “Jeopardy!” experience on WXIA Channel 11 here.
Stone offers tips for “Jeopardy!” fans interested in competing on the show:
5. Watch “Jeopardy!” regularly. (“It’s one of my daily commitments.”)
4. Study areas you know are weaknesses. (“I had to work on popular culture and mythology.”)
3. Work on your buzzer skills. (“Play lots of video games.”)
2. Have a broad liberal arts education. (“Be interested in the world around you, and love learning.”)
And the No. 1 tip?
1. Play the game from side-to-side, not top-to-bottom as intended. (“Holzhauer does this, and that’s one of the reasons he is so successful.”)