Like Brooks and Cal, Alex Trebek is a legend - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Like Brooks and Cal, Alex Trebek is a legend

Alex Trebek
Photo credit: Martin Sloan - Icon Sportswire

I’m often asked what I do during baseball’s offseason. One of the things I do is watch “Jeopardy!” I also watch it during the season but tape it to watch it the following morning.

Like all “Jeopardy!” devotees, I was saddened by Sunday’s death of longtime host Alex Trebek, 80, who battled pancreatic cancer with grace and courage.

I watched Friday’s program and didn’t have any idea it would be the last I would see with Trebek still alive. Trebek was able to host as recently as October 29th, and his episodes will run through Christmas Day.

Trebek was the Brooks Robinson or Cal Ripken Jr. of the program. There was a host before him, Art Fleming, and there will be a host after him, probably Ken Jennings, the best contestant in program history who joined the show for this season as a consulting producer.

Just as there will be great Orioles in the future, there won’t be another Brooks or Cal. It’s always daunting for the player who comes after a Robinson or a Ripken, and no matter how good Jennings—or someone else—may be, no one will compare with Trebek.

Trebek, who hosted more than 8,200 programs, began in 1984, and I wasn’t a regular viewer then. Other than sports and news, I’m not much of a television watcher, but “Jeopardy!” is special.

The program always had a devoted following, but Trebek’s public fight against cancer gained him even more renown. Last year’s run by James Holzhauer, a sports gambler from Las Vegas,who won 32 consecutive games, boosted ratings even more. Holzhauer lost to Jennings in the program’s Tournament of Champions earlier this year.

Since I love sports so much, I was drawn to “Jeopardy!” by the intellectual competition. I twice took the online test for the program but never got called.

About a decade ago, I knew someone who was going to be a contestant. I’m a good player, but he was better, and I practiced with him several times before the program. On the show, he flubbed final Jeopardy and was left with nothing. I would love that chance.

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“Jeopardy!” doesn’t have a cult following. It’s more like a secret one. This year, I mentioned to several people that I watched it and was surprised to find out that they did, too.

In baseball, I love to watch “the game within the game,” and as I watched “Jeopardy!” more, I thought I was getting better at it.

If Trebek hesitated when a contestant gave him an incorrect answer, that often meant that it was a slight mispronunciation. If you knew the correct one, you could correctly answer.

Your first answer is more often right than if you have second thoughts, and don’t give up on a category just because it doesn’t interest you or you don’t know anything about it. Sometimes the answers aren’t literal, and you can make a decent and correct guess.

It was fun to watch Trebek in action. He was very human. Like a sportscaster, he delighted in competitive games and you could tell his disappointment when the contestants were unable to answer a few questions in a row.

When he knew one of those answers, he’d give it with great confidence. When it was a difficult question that he didn’t know, he’d simply read it.

Trebek, a proud native Canadian, was a big hockey fan. The Ottawa Senators had him announce the third overall pick in last month’s NHL draft.

On a recent program, he was embarrassed when players had no idea in several questions in a category on Yankee Stadium. Who wouldn’t know that Babe Ruth hit the first home run in old Yankee Stadium? Who couldn’t identify that Yogi Berra was standing 60 feet, 6 inches away from Don Larsen?

On another show, he was taken aback when contestants showed they knew nothing about football.

With no sports to watch during the four-month pause last spring and summer because of the pandemic, I never missed a program. When the new taped programs ran out and reruns of classic episodes were aired, I was disappointed. I feared that Alex would never appear again.

The program helped me get through the pandemic from March through July, and it’s doing the same now. Fortunately, there are still seven more weeks of Trebek to watch, and that will give the producers some time to choose a new host. I promise not to be too hard on Trebek’s successor.

If you’re not a fan of the show, answers must be in the form of a question, and here’s mine for you: “The best description of Alex Trebek.”

What is a legend?

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Orial

    November 9, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Question–Akex Trebek,answer–who is irreplacable? We can possibly find a replacement if they so choose to continue the program but it will be very difficult. Thanks Rich for acknowledging this. A TV legend and true class act.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 9, 2020 at 3:45 pm

      You are welcome, Orial.

  2. sportscoper

    November 9, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Nice tribute Rich. Good job.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 9, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      Many thanks, sportscoper

  3. NormOs

    November 9, 2020 at 11:41 am

    He was a Class Act! This horrible disease took my lovely Arlene two years ago. She also battled with grace and courage. She was also a Class Act and I miss her very much.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 9, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      I am sorry about your dear Arlene, Norm. I bet she was wonderful.

  4. BirdsCaps

    November 9, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    It is 2020 so lets make Watson the next host. Furthermore, What team in the nhl have had more recent disappointing seasons than the Orioles? Who are the Ottawa Senators. Poor Trebek. Furthermore the old SNL celebrity jeopardy episodes were classic with Sean Connery (also another legend lost).

  5. WorldlyView

    November 9, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Alex was truly a class act. He did a fantastic job and won much adulation, but never let fame go to his head. Thanks, Rich, for this tribute to someone who will be missed by millions.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 9, 2020 at 3:47 pm

      Thank you, Steve.

  6. dlgruber1

    November 9, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    I loved watching Jeopardy because I always marveled at the intellect of the contestants from so many various backgrounds. There was also that ONE time when I knew Final Jeopardy and none of the contestants did. It was, to me anyway, a very simple question. The Final Jeopardy question was “What is the latest date Thanksgiving can fall on?” Well, knowing it’s always the 4th Thursday in a November made it very simple to me. It is the 28th, which is correct. I was stunned when none of the contestants answered it correctly. I think Alex was more stunned than I was when they all answered wrong. I don’t know who will take his place as host, but no one will ever replace him.

  7. Rob IsraOsFan

    November 9, 2020 at 7:49 pm

    Rich, I join the others here to thank you for sharing your thoughts on Alex Trebek. Was never a “Jeopardy! devotee”, but I did watch from time to time and was always impressed witnessing just how knowledgeable the contestants were. One such contestant was my childhood pediatrician…one evening in the late 1980’s I turned on the TV and was pleasantly surprised to see my doctor on the show, and he even went on a five-day win streak!

    I will remember Alex Trebek for his unique and classy style, as well as for his great sense of humor (he was hilarious in his voice appearances on both “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”).

    Glad to read that you won’t be too hard on Trebek’s successor. I cannot help but recall when you replaced Dan Connolly in the summer of 2018. I will be honest…I had a hard time adjusting to your writing style during your first month as Captain of BB. However, for the past 2.5 years with you at the helm, you have proved to be a very worthy successor. Keep up the great work Rich!

  8. 33d St

    November 9, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    Aw man. Love Jeopardy and echo the sentiment – Alex Trebek was a class act. Jeopardy is an oasis of sanity in a crazy world. And at least based on how I was raised, it showcased people how they can be; how they are supposed to be: knowledgeable about the world, scholarly, hard working (you have to be to know so many answers), accurate, and quick thinking. If only there were more examples upholding these ideals on display in our culture.

  9. toddbeall

    November 10, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Rich, what a wonderful column! I am old enough to have watched (and enjoyed) Art Fleming as the host. I wouldn’t feel bad at all about not being a contestant–these are some seriously smart people, in a wide variety of categories!

    Of course, I also love Wheel of Fortune. I always feel a lot smarter when I watch that program! And Pat Sajak is also a great Orioles fan!

    But no one can replace Alex Trebek, that’s for sure. Thanks again for a great column!

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 10, 2020 at 7:50 pm

      Thank you, Todd. I remember Art Fleming, but at the time he hosted, I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate the show. Pat Sajak
      is a great guy. He comes to spring training every year, and I enjoy catching up with him as well as his son, Patrick.

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