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Dumb Dad Ruins 'Jeopardy!' For Everyone
By JAMES GROB
Ottumwa Evening Post
I was always pretty good at spelling when I was a kid, but I seemed to always choke in spelling bees.
In fact, I can still recall the words that knocked me out of grade school spelling bees. In fifth grade, the word was "benefit." In sixth grade, the word was "conscious." Those words shouldn't have been too hard for me at the time, and I don't recall exactly how I misspelled them, but I did. So I lost. Never made it to the finals.
I wasn't happy to lose, but I did not complain about it. The rules were pretty cut and dry -- if you spelled a word wrong, you were out. I spelled those words wrong and quietly took my seat. It was no different than hearing the words "strike three" when you're in the batter's box. You don't get a fourth strike, son. You're done. Those are the rules. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.
I'm reminded of those ancient spelling bees because of what happened on the television game show "Jeopardy!" last week.
I love the show because it's hard. If I can get a few of the answers right, I feel pretty smart. If I can't, though, at least I learn a little something from hearing the right answers.
The host of the show, Alex Trebek, seems a little smug at times, and can get on people's nerves. But I think that's OK. Trebek's professorial attitude, along with the tough questions, make the show seem kind of elitist, and I think the show should seem elitist. I also think "elitist" is the word that knocked me out of the seventh grade spelling bee.
Watching Jeopardy is like watching regular middle class folks who are pretty smart try to get into Yale or Harvard. That's entertaining to me.
So last week, the show was having a special kids' edition. I think the kids were about 12 years old. The questions are a little bit easier than on the normal Jeopardy shows, but I've always been impressed with how the show doesn't "dumb it down" all that much for the kids. The questions are still tough enough that a majority of adults don't know a majority of the answers, so the 12-year-olds on the program have got to be pretty doggone smart.
The final answer of the show was "The Emancipation Proclamation." One of the kids got it right, but he spelled it wrong -- he added an extra "t" to the word emancipation.
The rule is, you have to spell the words right. If you spell any of them wrong, you don't get credit for a correct answer.
So Mr. Trebek told the kid the word was misspelled, and the kid lost. And actually, the kid was going to lose anyway, even if he had spelled the word right, because another kid was so far ahead that no one was going to be able to catch up.
But of course, in this day and age, kids don't quietly take their seats anymore. Parents don't let them. These days, children and their guardians don't accept defeat without whining to the press and complaining on social media.
The kid's dad went on some radio show and started describing Trebek as "callous" and "condescending" for the way he told his kid he was wrong. According to the angry dad, Trebek "basically humiliated" his son.
And even the kid claims he was cheated.
"I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final 'Jeopardy!' question. It was just a spelling error," the kid told his local newspaper.
Now these people have a following on Facebook and Twitter, with social media types feigning outrage and posting negative things about the show and about Trebek. Many of these things can't be published in a family newspaper.
Bottom line: Kid, no one cheated you. You got the answer wrong, because you spelled the word wrong. Those are the rules. Now sit down and shut up.
And Dad, no one humiliated your son. He got the answer wrong, because he spelled the word wrong. Those are the rules, and you knew the rules when you let your son go on the show. If anyone has humiliated your son, it is you, for showing him that it is OK to whine and moan and act as though you are entitled to something you did not earn. You set a horrible example. You turned what should have been a very positive moment in your child's life -- a second-place finish on Jeopardy -- into a very negative experience for all the children who were on the show. Now sit down and shut up.
You don't have to go home. But you can't stay here.