Gordon: Well, speaking of idolizing, our guest is idolized by many. He is
none other than Eddie Timanus, who despite being blind, was a 5 time champion on
Jeopardy. This year, he takes home $50,000 with him on his appearance in Who
Wants to be a Millionaire? Eddie spends time with us on 20 Questions. Eddie, Thanks again for joining us. 1) Tell us about your game show
addiction. How did you get hooked into game shows?
Eddie: It goes back a long way. I've just always found them appealing. I
think part of it was that my mom was a regular Jeopardy! watcher -- we're
original Art Fleming Jeopardy! in the early '70's. "The Price is Right"
debuted not long after that. I just grew up watching games. I think it was
the sound affects. They always got my attention. My parents used to complain
that whenever I got a new toy, no matter what it was -- mini car, toy organ,
anything --, I'd figure out a way to make a game show out of it when I
played with it. "You could win this new car!" or something along those
lines. I was a game-show geek before I knew there was such a thing.
Joe: 2) How did you get your sportswriting position at USA Today?
Eddie: Long story. I'll try and give you the condensed version. I was looking
for something in the sports field after I got out of college. I didn't find
anything right away, so about a year after I graduated, I accepted an
internship at the U.S. Supreme Court in the Public Information office. After
that, I began taking graduate courses in sport management, but meanwhile my
former boss at the Court heard via the USA Today reporter who covered the
Court at the time that there was an opening for a part-time news aid at the
paper. I interviewed and was hired, and the rest is history. I first went to
work there in the fall of 1992, and was promoted to full-time reporter in
Ryan: 3) What was everyone's reactions when you got on the shows? Which show
got more of a reaction?
Eddie: Jeopardy! got the most attention. I'm afraid my Millionaire appearance
suffered a bit from being preempted by football during Thanksgiving week.
Also, my original performance on Jeopardy! was a bit more exceptional just
based on what was possible on each given show. I maxed out as a five-timer
there. On Millionaire, $50K wins are fairly commonplace. It also took a lot
less time, so there wasn't a lot of reaction from it.
Chico: 4) We know that you suffer from vision impairment, Can you talk more
about that and how it affected you on each show?
Eddie: Jeopardy! and Millionaire questions are all read out loud, of course,
so in that regard there wasn't much of an impact. I'm sure most fans are aware
that on Jeopardy! you aren't allowed to ring in until Alex finishes reading
the question. That's the rule that made it possible for me to compete. The
only disadvantage was that my sighted opponents could read ahead and
possibly better anticipate the last word of the clue. For the most part,
however, I don't think that was a big factor. Now, against the elite players
I was up against in the 2000 Tournament of Champions and in the 2002 Masters
Tournament, that might have been a different story. But against most
players, I think I could hold my own on the buzzer. That isn't even a
consideration on Millionaire, naturally, since there's no time limit on
questions and no buzzers used. If I'd been on the network version and had to
get through a fastest-finger question, that would have required some
modifications, but nothing like that is needed on the daily show.
Gordon: 5) Did either show give you any sort of aid to help you equalize the
playing field due to your vision impairment? If so, how?
Eddie: Jeopardy! had to provide only a couple accommodations. I had a
sheet with the category list in front of me during each round, and a Braille
copy of the Final Jeopardy clue was also provided. The only other thing I
neededwas some way to write down my FJ response -- I can hand print but not very
efficiently and I can't attest to its legibility. So they hooked in a
computer keyboard so I could type in my wager and response. A few people who
missed the beginning of my first show when they announced that I'd be using
a computer actually didn't realize it and were impressed by my handwriting.
"Um, thanks. I believe it was Times New Roman." Anyway, Millionaire just
made some minor modifications to the phone-a-friend lifeline. You actually
saw it in action as Meredith helped me read the choices to my lifeline, and
she gave him the 10-second warning. Otherwise, the game played pretty much
the same as for everyone else.
Joe: 6) How did you find out about the auditions for Millionaire and
Jeopardy? What was the audition process for Millionaire and Jeopardy? How were
alike and what was the differences?
Eddie: I passed the Jeopardy! audition at a contestant search here in the
Washington, D.C., area. I auditioned for Millionaire in New York this past
summer after getting an appointment via the show's website. The process is
quite similar for the two. Both began with a written test. In each case, one
of the staff members wrote down my answers for me. The Jeopardy! test is 50
questions. Millionaire's was 30. I think they both had pretty high
percentages required to pass. There weren't all that many in my sessions
that passed either time. I'd actually passed the J! test a total of three
times before I was called to be on the show. The first time, they took my
mom. We'd taken the test at the same time, and of course we couldn't both be
on the show in the same season, so I had to wait a few years. She didn't
win, by the way -- ran into a guy who wound up winning four games.
Strangely, we saw him in the audience in New York at the Masters Tournament.
But I digress. To continue, those who pass the J! test then play a mock
version of the game just to make sure you know the rules and know how to
keep the game moving. This is followed by a brief interview similar to what
you see on the show. After the Millionaire test, there is no mock game --
just an interview with a producer. Given the one-on-one nature of the daily
version of the game, they want to make sure they get people who will
interact well with Meredith and keep it lively. Apparently, they decided I
could do that.
Ryan: 7) What was the biggest obstacle on both shows and why? How did you
Eddie: There were a number of technical details that needed to be worked out
by the Jeopardy! folks before they could bring me out and have confidence that
everything would go smoothly and that I wouldn't be at a disadvantage.
Mostly, they involved the computer hookup, I think. I passed the audition in
May of 1998. They first contacted me in December, but I didn't actually tape
until August of 1999. Once all the technical hurdles were cleared, there
weren't anymore obstacles. As far as Millionaire went, there was really
nothing in the way.
Chico: 8) Who did you like better - Alex Trebek or Meredith Vieira - why?
Eddie: Ooh, not fair. Well, I think even Alex would have to admit that
Meredith is cuter. But seriously, both do a great job on their respective shows.
Obviously, Meredith can get a bit more personable with the contestants since
there is only one out there. Alex has to maintain a bit of detachment.
Nevertheless, he's certainly spoken highly of me in subsequent interviews. I
think he was sort of pulling for me when I taped my initial shows.
Gordon: 9) What was the bigger thrill? Winning on Millionaire, or winning on
Eddie: Probably Jeopardy! That was my first national game-show experience.
Millionaire was a lot of fun, but since I didn't get to the top of the
ladder, it wasn't going to be life-changing like my original J! run was.
Joe: 10) Do you think you have the skill to beat Ken Jennings? What would be
your strategy against him?
Eddie: Ken has that button mastered. I'd have to practice a lot with my
ballpoint pen before playing against him. My strategy would be just to get in as
often as I could, and bet big on Daily Doubles if I find them.
Ryan: 11) If you could go back on Jeopardy and play against any two players of
your choice (besides Ken Jennings, who I'm sure would be at the top of your
list), who would they be and why?
Eddie: Jeremy Bate, who defeated me in the ToC 2K semifinal, and Bob Verini,
defeated me in the Masters Tournament first round. Why? Revenge, man, why
else? You said two, but I'd also love to play against Robin Carroll, who won
the ToC that year. I don't think anyone ever enjoyed playing the game as
much as she did.
Chico: 12) You mentioned on your Millionaire appearance that you had a musical
background and that you have perfect pitch. Do you play any instruments?
What sort of musical background do you have?
Eddie: I've always been musically inclined. I minored in music with a
concentration in piano performance in college. My piano background was mostly
classical, but I branched out a bit in school. I played in the jazz ensemble one
year, and I played keyboard in a couple rock bands as well. Nothing that ever
national exposure, just played a few frat gigs around campus. And yes, I've
always had perfect pitch. I think that's just something you're born with.
Ironically, it was a music question that stumped me on Millionaire, and a
music question I missed on a huge Daily Double in the J! Matsers Tourney. Oh
Gordon: 13) You are a sports writer. Did the idea of auditioning for ESPN's
Dream Job enter your mind? Would you consider it if you were offered a shot?
Why or Why not?
Eddie: Nah, I don't think I'm anchor material. I've got the personality and
sense of humor and all, but I think my sports acumen is more geared toward
analysis, and I think it's easier to do that as a writer. "Two-Minute Drill"
might have been a different story, but I don't think they have any plans to
bring it back.
Joe: 14) Do you still divulge in some of those online games like on the
netgames groups? Which ones do you still play and how can people get involved in
Eddie: Oh absolutely. In fact, it's quite an honor to be in the virtual room
here with the creator of "FastTalkers." I still play that one with its new
host, and several others. Just check out the netgames list on yahoogroups if you
want to see what they're all about.
Chico: That would be Joe, by the way =p
Ryan: 15) What are your future game show aspirations?
Eddie: On hold at the moment. There's really nothing else out there that fits
talents. "The Price is Right" is fun to watch, but I don't think I'd do well
there. "Wheel of Fortune" would be extremely hard to make accessible for me.
I'd have loved to have gotten a shot at Ben Stein's money, but his show had
run its course. In the '70's and '80's, there were a lot of nice quizzers
and word games, but alas, those are going the way of the dinosaur. Perhaps
Ken Jennings' success will spark some interest in reviving the genre.
Chico: It's now time to ask the questions that we ask everyone. 16) Besides
Jeopardy and Millionaire, What is your favorite Game Show of All Time?
Eddie: Pyramid. The '80's version with Dick Clark was the best, but Donny
did a decent job with the recent revival. I was deeply sadden that it only
got a chance to run two years. A close second would be Block Busters, the
original Bill Cullen version that pitted a solo player against a family
pair. I'm hoping against hope somebody brings that back someday. My mom and
I would totally kick butt on it!
Gordon: 17) What is your favorite host of all time?
Eddie: Bill Cullen, definitely. He could handle any format -- word games,
shows, quizzers, you name it -- and make it work. Dick Clark and Tom Kennedy
rank high on my list as well, and Barker is just immortal, but nobody did it
better than Cullen.
Joe: 18) Which current show would you want to host? Which past show would you
want to host?
Eddie: Well, I wouldn't want to take Alex's or Meredith's job. They're both
excellent. I'd love to host a show with a Ben Stein-type format where I
could challenge the contestants in some fashion. Otherwise, I'd love to take
my own crack at hosting Pyramid. I think I could make it work.
Ryan: 19) If you had the opportunity to be a contestant on any game show,
past or present (besides the ones you were on), which one would it be and why?
Eddie: Well, I mentioned Block Busters earlier, of course. In addition, I'd
done well on any of those Barry-Enright quizzers of the '80's -- Joker's
Wild, Tic-Tac-Dough, etc. I think Bullseye would have been my chosen one --
great set, great sounds, and a format I think I could have dominated.
Chico: 20) Anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
Eddie: Yeah, VH1 needs to give "Name That Video" another chance. They didn't
give it time to develop. Just my $0.02.
Joe: WHOO EDDIE T!
Chico: Continued success, Eddie. Thanks for sitting in with us.
Gordon: Eddie will continue to chat with us as we do some pushing or
flushing. Ryan, get the plunger.
Ryan: Yes siree!!
Chico: Happy toilet time on WLTI2K4 when we come back!
Joe: Break out the Dran-o! But don't drink any!
(Brought to you by the Mello Yello mug... keeping the staff awake for the
HERE to continue