Eric Ahasic, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, has been trying to get on “Jeopardy!” since he was in high school. He finally made it, appearing on the show for the first time on Monday, and he won. He spoke with host Cathy Wurzer on MPR News’ Morning Edition on Tuesday.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.
How was the stress level for you?
It was honestly, I think, one of the most nervous I’ve ever been. The whole morning leading up to it and then getting to the studio and hearing that you’re gonna go up against a 16-game champion, Ryan Long, who’s won almost $300,000, definitely didn’t help the nerves but everyone on staff there is so great at just calming everybody down in what is obviously a very high stress situation for all the contests there.
Honestly, when you’re in the game, it just goes so fast you don’t really have time to be nervous. Although I will say, the final “Jeopardy!” question at the end where you wager your money and write it on the prompter there, my hand was shaking. And I have pretty bad handwriting to begin with so I hope it didn’t look even worse than it normally does with my hand shaking trying to write that final answer down, which I was lucky enough to get right. I credit Wikipedia for that one — it was a random word I read on Wikipedia one time.
I’m thinking the brain works differently during the actual show versus yelling out answers at home.
Absolutely, oh my goodness. It’s so much harder up there in the studio. It’s so much more real cause in “Jeopardy!” if you get a question wrong, you lose that money and then someone else can buzz in and gain it right back. That’s something you don’t really think about when you’re just yelling out the answers at your TV. So for sure there were some questions where I watched the game yesterday and I was thinking, ‘I know that — why didn’t I buzz in?’ It’s cause your brain is going a million miles an hour and you’re trying your best to take it one question at a time. You’re gonna hit some high moments, some low moments, some right questions, some wrong questions, but it’s one at a time, ride the wave, hold on the best you can.
How did you prep for something like this?
I think the best way to prep for “Jeopardy!” is just watch it every day because you kind of pick up on what questions they ask the most, what kind of little clues and tidbits they put that can maybe lead you to the right answer even if you don’t know it exactly. So I watched a lot of “Jeopardy!” this winter. Luckily or unluckily here in Minnesota it’s really cold; there’s not a lot to do outside in the winter so I spent a lot of time inside watching “Jeopardy!”, reading Wikipedia, and just trying to find lists of like, the top 500 books of all time and who wrote them and who are their main characters, what are the top movies of all time, who won the Oscars.
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Greek mythology was actually something I knew a had to study cause I didn’t know much about it and that turned out to be the winning question at the end there so that was good work on my part. There’s actually a website that archives every game of “Jeopardy!”, has all the questions on there, so you can search on that website, you can type in ‘Minnesota’ and see all the questions they ask about Minnesota and what clues and tidbits come up the most and try to remember those.
When did you know you had the show in the bag?
Not until the very end. If you watched the game last night, I saw the final “Jeopardy!” question — I’m just trying to be within striking distance at the end. You don’t have any expectations of being in the lead at the end up against a champion of that caliber. I was able to have a small lead at the end and I know if I get it right, I win, if I get it wrong, I probably lose just with the way people are going to wager.
When the question first popped up, I didn’t know it but I kind of sat and thought about it and remembered that one sentence on the one Wikipedia article I remembered, and I didn’t actually know it but I was like, ‘Well, this is a pretty good guess. I don’t really have anything else I might as well put it down.’ Then when Mayim, the host, said I was right I fist pumped — it was an outburst of emotions. I’ve been trying to do this for 16 years. Just getting on the show is amazing, right? Win or lose, that’s awesome, but to be able to call yourself a “Jeopardy!” champion, that was a lot of emotion coming out there at the end. That was really fun to watch.
Do you keep winning?
It’s on again Tuesday. See if I can defend my title against new contestants.
Would you give us today’s forecast in the form of a question?
I’ll be honest with you, Cathy. I took yesterday off to watch and when I’m not at work — people assume when you’re a meteorologist you always know what the weather’s going to be like. No, it’s work, right? I haven’t looked at the weather in a day or two — I don’t really know what the forecast is today.
“Jeopardy!” airs weekdays at 4:30 p.m. on KARE.