STU grad a Jeopardy! runner-up

After Sean Thompson found out he was going to be on Jeopardy!, he prepared by playing a game called Track and Field on a Game Boy emulator.

It wasn’t to help him with trivia, but to practice his reflexes.

“You could have all the excitement of running the hundred metres or throwing the hammer by mashing the Game Boy’s buttons as hard and as fast as you can, but not too soon. Otherwise, you’ll false start and get disqualified,” Thompson said.

“I practiced with that, trying to get the reflexes down of pressing the buttons at the right time because there is a lockout on the buttons [on Jeopardy!].”

Thompson, a St. Thomas University graduate, placed second on Jeopardy! on Jan. 30. He graduated from STU in 2012 and, after years of practicing, he auditioned for Jeopardy! for a second time in February 2018. He first auditioned in 2010 while still at STU.

The Quispamsis native works at the Saint John Free Public Library as a library assistant. He was with his department head after getting off work in late October when he got a phone call from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Thompson said he hugged his department head Daniel Teed and screamed for the entire city market to hear, “I’m going to be on Jeopardy!.”

“I was giddy,” Thompson said.

“I ran madly off in all directions out of the market, phoned my parents to let them know and then I suddenly had to kill about 45 minutes because I had missed my bus. It took me a good two hours to stop shaking.”

When he was a teenager, Thompson participated in Reach for the Top, a Canadian academic quiz competition. He was on several successful teams at Kennebecasis Valley High School that won two provincial championships and finished top five in the country.

“I like the competitive aspect of [trivia]. I like how most shows, the stakes seem to be a chance to win something at the end of the day, with the only risk possibly being public embarrassment, if you allow yourself to be embarrassed,” Thompson said.

“I like trivia because you learn something from it. And not just random factoids either. You can learn some interesting stories too.”

Thompson said he thinks Jeopardy! is the “pinnacle of quiz shows in North America.”

“I’ve always loved games and game shows … I wanted to test my mettle on the biggest stage there was. And what bigger stage than a show that airs across the continent and gets 10-million viewers a night?”

Thompson’s episode was filmed in Culver City, California on Dec. 4, 2018.

During the first nine questions, Thompson said he was nervous because he kept buzzing in too soon.

“Thank God there were podiums because for the entire first round my knees were shaking like a pair of maracas, just rattling away, bouncing away,” he said.

“Once I got into a rhythm though, I felt easier about it and knew I just had to keep my focus and answer as best as I could.”

Thompson went into Final Jeopardy with $21,200, leading by $10,000. The subject was Women Writers and the statement was: “One of her circle described her as ‘a lacy sleeve with a bottle of vitriol concealed in its folds.’”

Thompson wagered $6,001 but wasn’t familiar with the quote. He fixated on “lace,” which brought him to write Jane Austen.

“I really wasn’t confident,” he said. “I figured Jane Austen had a reputation for not just being sweetness … but also quite sarcastic when she wanted it to be.”

Joan Dietrich, one of the other contestants, answered correctly with the name Dorothy Parker. She wagered $10,100, giving her the victory over Thompson.

Despite the second place finish, Thompson has gotten a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and people on social media.

“I played the game I think as well as I could. I got a bad break in Final Jeopardy.”

After filming his episode, Thompson got to watch the other episodes that were being taped that week.

“I knew every other Final Jeopardy except for that one,” he said.

“That’s the game, that’s the way it works. At least I have $2,000 to console myself in.”

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