Archive for Herald-Journal

This … is Jeopardy!

Posted in Internet, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2020 by macmystery
Jeopardy_36_Hero

This … is Jeopardy! Well, … actually, it’s a pretty crappy little piece of art.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s what I did tonight. For the fourth year in a row, I tool the Jeopardy! online test in hopes of competing on the popular television quiz show.

All in all, I think I did well this time. That’s not really something I could say after the three previous attempts. But more about that later.

The test has changed since the last time I took it. I get the impression that the game has become even more popular, if that’s possible.

I would attribute that to the 2019 success of James Holzhauer. He went on an impressive 32-game run from April to June. He fell well short of the 75 episodes that Ken Jennings — widely considered the greatest Jeopardy champion of all-time and crowned as such in early 2020 — appeared on back in 2004.

But it wasn’t so much that Holzhauer won. It’s HOW he won. His gambling background, combined with his obvious breadth of knowledge, resulted in a much different strategy that most past champions had employed.

Rather than control the board and slowly accumulate money, methodically running through each category, Holzhauer would skip around the board attempting to find the Daily Double clues. And when he did find them, he would risk a lot of money and he would risk it early. He chose the most valuable clues first.

Often, his victories were runaways. He would risk all of his earnings, often doubling up — he was correct on 72 of the 76 Daily Double clues he hit during his 33 episodes — and leave his opponents desperately scrambling to earn enough money to even be in striking distance when Final Jeopardy! arrived.

Though he fell short of Jennings’ streak, he earned nearly as much money as Jennings in less than half as many episodes ($2,464,216 to $2,522,700) and claimed the record for largest one-game total winnings with $131,127.

He is the only player ever to earn at least $100,000 in an episode — he did it six times — and he was so confident in his Final Jeopardy! wagers, he often bet specific amounts so that his final total would be a significant number, like the birthdays of his daughter and wife.

Anyway, all of that was long-winded and was really just to point out how popular the show has become. After four weeks with Holzhauer as champion, Jeopardy’s ratings were up 30 percent.

So of course, more people are taking the test.

In years past, you would register for the test and be eligible to take it on the night of your choice — there were usually three options — during a week in the spring. Instead, with so many people attempting to take the test, Jeopardy! moved to allowing the test to be taken anytime.

The tests contain 50 questions. Prospective contestants are given 15 seconds to answer each. Unlike the show, you do not have to phrase it in the form of a question, and spelling does not count. The 50 questions come from 50 different categories.

And the questions can be tough. You don’t get a gimme category.

It pays not to get flustered. It snowballs. The first time I took it, that’s exactly what happened. I might have gotten a third of the answers correct, missing many questions I knew the answers to because I panicked. When I finished, I knew it was a disaster.

The next two attempts were better — I got more than half right each time — but that’s not nearly enough. If you pass the online test, you’re invited to an in-person audition where you’re given another test. You must get 35 or more right to advance to a full session, where you’ll play a shortened game of Jeopardy! and undergo a personality test.

I had a friend, Jason, with whom I worked at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. He passed the first test and was invited to the in-person audition. That’s as far as he got though.

So, if 35 right answers are required in the second stage, it’s probably a safe assumption it’s the same threshold for the first online test.

And that leaves me guessing. Unlike my first three attempts, I know I got well over half right. I know I got more than 30. But 35 … it’s gotta be right there.

Unlike the practice test, you don’t see the right answers after the test. So it’s very hard to know with certainty how you did.

And then Jeopardy! reserves a 12-month window during which the producers can invite you to an in-person audition.

Or not.

I guess I’ll know by this time next year.

 

At the finish line at last, R.I.P Silver Fox

Posted in Journalism, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2018 by macmystery

 

David Pearson

David Pearson

Born and raised in Georgia, I reside now in Beaufort, S.C., in the Lowcountry of the Palmetto State. But for roughly 15 years, Spartanburg County in the state’s upcountry was my home. My two children were born there.

Working for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, I immersed myself in the area’s sports history, if not its history in general. And that included learning all about David Pearson.

Pearson died Monday (David Pearson’s New York Times obituary). He was to the Hub City what Hank Aaron is to Atlanta. Or, in an even better analogy, what Rocky Balboa is to Philadelphia.

What he is to stock car racing is the greatest driver to ever slide behind the wheel.

I am no longer a NASCAR fan for myriad reasons, too many to count or run down here. But I respect it. And there was a time the sport mattered more to me.

My parents, particularly my mother’s family, had roots in rural South Carolina, and there was a knowledge of stock car racing passed down. I heard tales of Fireball Roberts. There was disdain, but respect, for Richard Petty and the Petty clan. Cale Yarborough was a good ole South Carolina boy I heard good things about.

But there was nary a mention of Pearson, born in Whitney, a textile mill village in Spartanburg. And in a lot of ways, that is symbolic of Pearson’s career.

I have never fallen for the fool’s gold that is the Cup, be it the Winston, Sprint or Monster Energy. Auto racing championships are misleading. They are disingenuous. They lie to you.

There is one thing and one thing only that matters in racing. Winning. At the end of the day, you either won or your didn’t.

Richard Petty, a winner 200 times over, is nicknamed The King. Rightfully so. He is the all-time NASCAR leader in wins, and his mark will never be broken.

Richard Petty’s statement on the death of David Pearson

And if you care about such things, he won seven championships, tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time record.

If Richard Petty was NASCAR’s Joe DiMaggio, David Pearson was almost certainly its Ted Williams.

And like Williams, Pearson was better.

He won 105 times, 95 times fewer than Petty. Also a number no other driver has sniffed. But Pearson did it in less than half as many races than King Richard.

Contemporaries, Petty and Pearson clashed often, finishing 1-2 in a race 63 times. Pearson won 33 of those.

Essentially a part-time driver, Pearson picked and chose the races he ran, rarely ever coming even close to a full schedule. In fact, the only years Pearson competed in close to a full slate — 1966, 1968 and 1969 — he won NASCAR’s top championship.

From 1972 to 1978, Pearson raced in just 143 races. Roughly 20 races a season over seven years. He won 43 times, averaging six wins a year. That number alone is only one fewer than Bill Elliott, one of the sport’s all-time greats, won in his entire career.

Petty was big. He was brash. He was public.

Pearson was quiet. Friendly. But he was private.

The Silver Fox, as he was nicknamed for his driving acumen, was overshadowed while he was still winning. And he was somewhat, though not in Spartanburg, forgotten when he retired.

Until 1999.

As so many publications did for so many sports when the new millennium approached, Sports Illustrated named its driver of the century.

This time, Richard Petty didn’t win. It was David Pearson.

A panel of 40 of the greatest drivers, owners, executives and crew chiefs in the sports history gave Pearson the narrow victory. (Actually over Earnhardt. Petty was third.)

It happened again in 2011. This time the accolade came from the Sporting News.

Pearson’s peers knew.

Despite my long tenure in Spartanburg, I didn’t get to know Pearson. I was a copy editor and a page designer, rarely getting out to cover, report or write. I met him only a couple of times.

(It was my pleasure, however, on several occasions early in my tenure at the SHJ to pull a fax off the machine in the sports department in the wee early hours of a Saturday morning to find Pearson’s name in that Friday night’s results for one of the handful of dirt tracks in the area. He was in his 60s at the time.)

Two of my friends and co-workers got to know Pearson a little better. I am jealous of them both.

Chris Winston and Todd Shanesy have both spent time as the keeper of the stock car racing flame on the SHJ staff.

Winston, like me, no longer working for a newspaper, put together a book on stock car racing in South Carolina that included an entire chapter dedicated to Pearson.

I expect him, in the near future, to put his thoughts about Pearson together. When he does, I’ll share a link.

Shanesy still works for the Herald-Journal and wrote Pearson’s hometown obit on Monday night.

For Shanesy’s 1999 story on Pearson’s Sports Illustrated honor, he talked to Cotton Owens. Owens, whose given name was Everett, is a NASCAR Hall of Famer for his time as both a driver and a team owner.

Also a Spartanburg native, Owens owned the Dodge team that Pearson drove to the 1966 Grand National Championship and voted him No. 1 in that Sports Illustrated poll.

Owens wrapped Pearson up best.

“He was just the best ever. It didn’t matter what kind of track it was. Short track, speedway, dirt track, whatever. Pearson could win anywhere, any time.”

“There’s never been anybody like him.”