Wagering on a lifelong inspiration

Published 10:29 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

Not being much of a fan of movies, television, music or most other elements of pop culture, there are few celebrities that I’m truly invested in. When there’s news of a celebrity death, I generally don’t get too worked up about it beyond a general concern for their family and perhaps learning more about their life and career by reading a news article or two.

However, I have long said that the death of “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will be one of the few that will break me. It started early last week with his touching, humble and still humorous video announcing that he has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer — easily among the grimmest health news anyone can receive.

(As an interesting aside, Alex once co-hosted “Wheel of Fortune” on April Fool’s Day 1997, when Vanna White and Pat Sajak played the game for charity. Vanna’s chosen charity was the American Cancer Society.)

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The announcement, which caused me to shed a few tears, also brought back a flood of memories.

It brought back memories of playing the game at home with my parents when I was younger. We watched the game show at 7:30 p.m. every night and tried to beat the contestants on the show to the answers.

I sat on the floor and kept score on the coffee table with whatever piece of scrap paper happened to be handy. We didn’t work with dollar amounts or Daily Double wagers, just with number of correct answers (questions). My dad and I would usually be neck and neck, while my mom would mutter about how she didn’t know why we had so much useless information in our heads.

Well, Mom, it wouldn’t have been useless if we had actually been ON the show. But I digress.

It brought back memories of my dad’s own grim health news, in 2014, of lung cancer that was late Stage III when it was discovered. I know some of what Trebek’s children are feeling right now.

Alex Trebek has always been one of the smartest and most admired men on television. Yes, he has the answers in front of him, but his one-off comments and interviews have always shown how truly intelligent he is.

Like many, I am praying for Alex to beat this horrible disease. I’m betting he will do just that.