(Originally published March 24, 2012)

So, my “Jeopardy!” winning streak has come to an end in rather ignominious fashion (more on that later).

In the game that aired Friday, my challengers were Dennis, a welder from Kansas who brought his whole family to watch him and see Los Angeles, and Eileen, a Broncos fan and student from Colorado.
The categories were much better this time. I liked “It Didn’t Sell at McDonald’s,” so I started with that. (I hope my mom the former dietitian was amused.)

Fun fact: Consumer Reports used to have a children’s magazine called Zillions, and back when I was in fifth grade, I was on the Zillions “Z-Team,” a bunch of kids who got to review products for the magazine. One of my assignments was to try new lower-fat hamburgers, including — you guessed it – the McLean Deluxe! Ever the tree-hugger, I was pleased that it was wrapped in paper rather than packaged in foam, but I didn’t really like the way it tasted. Anyway, the moral of the story is that you just never know what detail from your life might help you on “Jeopardy!”

That also proved to be true in the “Authors With Mass. Appeal” category. I almost ran that one, getting Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau – all of whom I studied during that “New England Saints” class I wrote about the other day! We went to Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables in Salem and the site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. For a few seconds at least, it paid to be an English major. (And maybe seeing Gary Schmidt’s book at the airport bookstore pushed those authors up in my memory.)

Finally, toward the end of that category, I landed on a Daily Double. I bet $4,000 to put me closer to Dennis and braced myself for another early-ish American writer.

“Blah blah blah ‘rags-to-riches’ blah blah blah blah.”

OK … this was not going to be Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Louisa May Alcott, or John Greenleaf Whittier, or anyone else with three names.

I had heard of the “Horatio Alger myth,” but I thought that referred to a character in the books, not the author. Still, I had nothing else, so I guessed it – and got it right! (Unfortunately, when I Googled Mr. Alger when I got home, I found out he was likely a pedophile. Thanks, “Jeopardy!”)

I had never heard of the writer in the last “Mass. Appeal” clue, but Dennis got it. He seemed to be having a great time, lightening the mood by saying, “Somebody’s gotta say it” before starting the “Let’s Talk About ‘Sex'” category.

But, he guessed incorrectly toward the end of Double Jeopardy, giving him exactly twice as much money as I had.

This is where everything fell apart.

I should have bet everything to tie Dennis, but I didn’t. My brain was fried at that point, and I think I may have forgotten that if we tied, we’d both get to keep the money. I basically just got stupid and panicked and didn’t bet enough.

The Final Jeopardy category was “Toys and Games.” I guessed Monopoly, mainly because I’m notorious in my family for ducking out early when we played it on Christmas Eve after church because I hated how long it takes. But the correct answer was Scrabble, and Dennis and Eileen both got it.

Dennis did the right thing and bet $0. “I gave you a chance!” he told me at the end of the game.

Yes, he did – and I blew it.

But, I’m far from the first person to make an awful FJ wager – and I know I won’t be the last.

“At least I can buy the Weird Al song now,” I said to the crew member who took off my microphone. He laughed.

It was the last game of the day. I signed the paperwork to claim my winnings and headed back to record my “Winner’s Circle” interview with Kelly from the Clue Crew. Then I got a cab back to the Doubletree. (Note to future contestants: You have to pay for that yourself, so bring plenty of cash.)

I told the cab driver I had been on “Jeopardy!”

“Did they tell you I get 30 percent of your winnings?” he asked. I laughed.

That night at the hotel, I was so hopped up on adrenaline that it took me awhile to relax.

I called my parents to give them the news. My mom was proud; my dad told me not to tell too many people because “they’re trying to run a business.”

I also called TBF and told him I was done, but didn’t say I had won.

“At least Alex didn’t call you a saucy wench!” he said. I laughed. Always look on the bright side!

(Video from YouTube)