By Caroline Weinberg
“This is—” announcer Johnny Gilbert bellows proudly, “Jeopardy! Please welcome today’s contestants… And our returning champion. A high school student in Great Neck, New York, Evangeline Giannopoulos, whose one-day cash winnings totaled $77,001!” Against a vibrant blue background and the iconic, pulsating theme song, “Think!” Evangeline beams at fans across the nation.
Or so went a recent dream of hers. Evangeline, a sophomore, has yet to meet Alex Trebek, but he is a frequent visitor to her television screen; she watches Jeopardy almost every night. “Sometimes I set an alarm on my phone so I don’t forget to watch,” she said.
Her family schedules their dinners around Jeopardy. She likes to eat while she watches so she can multitask. Her mom said, “When she had play practice, she would call to ask for her dinner to be ready when she got home. She wanted to make sure she could watch while she ate.”
Promptly before seven, Evangeline walked over to her “Jeopardy Chair” in the kitchen and saw her older sister Maria sitting there. “Excuse me, smurf. Move!” she said.
“Whenever I’m late to Jeopardy, Evangeline yells, ‘You’re late, it started!’” Maria said.
Her other sister, Georgia, added, “She doesn’t acknowledge me at seven o’clock.”
As the announcer introduced the day’s contestants and the host, Evangeline signed her name at the top of an entry in her score book. “It’s like how the contestants have their signatures on their podiums,” she commented.
The dated entries in her score book help her keep track of her points. Another tool she utilizes is her buzzer—a retractable pen. Preparing for the first question, she held it out, her thumb at the ready, like a gunman ready to pull the trigger.
She frantically jumped out of her seat and clicked her pen as a question about the period of music from 1600 to 1750 was being read. However, she was careful to make sure everyone finished reading the question before she exclaimed, “Baroque! Baroque! We need to tell Ms. Macrigiane!”
One of her requirements is that everyone watching withholds from answering until Trebek finishes reading the question. Maria said, “She yells at me when I forget. She’ll say, ‘No! You broke the rule!’ Also, when people talk during a question and she gets it wrong, she’ll claim it doesn’t count.”
She gets excited when questions involve subjects she learned about in school. Her mom attested that she frequently yells, “I read that in class!”
“She’s really passionate about the show. It’s good. It shows she really wants to learn,” Maria said.
Meanwhile, Maria answered a question incorrectly. “Errr. You got it wrong. Remember to take points off,” Evangeline reminded her. According to Georgia, Evangeline doesn’t like when others keep track of their scores in their heads. She prefers that they write their scores down to prevent errors or cheating.
When it was time for Final Jeopardy, Evangeline said, shrugging, “I have a thousand dollars. I guess I’ll just risk it all.”
Upon hearing that she got it wrong, she closed her eyes and said, “Breathe, breathe. Give me a minute. I’m upset. I need to recuperate.”
Getting the Final Jeopardy question right elicits a very different response. “When Evangeline gets the last question right and her sisters don’t, her smile goes from here to here,” her mom said, pointing at her ears.
Evangeline becomes invested in each episode. “I become close friends with the contestants throughout the game,” she said.
Maria added, “When an underdog starts getting points, Evangeline cheers. When Alex Trebek picks on people, she gets angry.”
While Trebek walked over to shake the contestants’ hands, Evangeline said, “Look at Alex. He’s looking trendy today. I’m going to like his fan page later.”
Evangeline claims she knows everything there is to know about Jeopardy. “Once there was this guy on Jeopardy who looked like Dr. Truglio. His name was Mike Newman or something,” she said.
She shared that she wishes to bake a Jeopardy cake, (she has looked up pictures for inspiration,) and plans on adding a Jeopardy game for the Wii to her Christmas wish list. “Also, my wedding should be Jeopardy themed,” she said.
Evangeline speculates that her infatuation with Jeopardy began in the summer of 2009. She said, “One rainy day while we were upstate, Jeopardy came on, and it was kid’s week. I got really excited when I got a lot of questions right, and I’ve been watching every night I could since.”
However, her sisters and parents recall watching long before that. “We used to watch it, but not to the same extreme. We were able to speak during the game, we could walk in front of the T.V. with no problem,” her mom said.
Evangeline does remember perhaps her earliest encounter with Jeopardy. She said, “When I was around five, there was a question about Winnie-the-Pooh, and I got it right. The answer was Piglet.”
Trying to enter the Teen Tournament, a special series of Jeopardy episodes just for adolescents, is on Evangeline’s agenda. She also hopes to be a Jeopardy champion as successful as Ken Jennings. She said, “I’m going to be in the Jeopardy hall of fame. That’s my dream.”