Lucky for Leland Graham, no one knew it was Carl Linnaeus who said his gravestone should be inscribed Princeps Botanicorum, “Prince of Botanists.”
Graham incorrectly guessed it was Mendel in the Final Jeopardy round of Thursday’s “Jeopardy!,” but it didn’t matter since his fellow contestants also wrote down Mendel’s name. The Rock Hill trivia buff won, and on Friday he’ll make a third appearance on the television game show. The program airs at 7 p.m. on WCNC, Comporium channel 6.
Graham, a 25-year-old research specialist for the Olde English Consortium, began Thursday’s show $600 in the hole. He gained momentum in the “NFL Team Nicknames” category, and by Final Jeopardy he had a sizeable lead with $25,400.
On Wednesday’s episode, Graham earned his first win in the Final Jeopardy round by correctly identifying the Philadelphia Phillies as the only Major League Baseball team whose first four letters match the first four letters of its city.
His two-day winnings: $48,400.
The Herald contacted Graham today and asked him the following questions. Answers have been edited for brevity:
Q: What are you planning to spend your winnings on?
A: I always said I would try to be as frivolous as possible with the money — building ice sculptures in Death Valley, or donating to Kucinich for President — but, now that it’s a reality, I think I’ll try to use it wisely. I am going to pay down some student loans, buy a TV and a new computer, take a trip somewhere — hopefully Key West— and then just keep whatever is left in my savings.
Q: How did you come up with the amount to wager in Final Jeopardy?
A: Final Jeopardy was really interesting. Something people might not realize is that, during a shooting, there can be any number of “production breaks” during the rounds, due to technical errors, issues with the contestants, etc. The Double Jeopardy round that day was filled with them, so it was not clear how much time was left before the end of the round. Alex didn’t do his usual “under a minute to go.” So, when I landed on the Daily Double, I wagered enough to build a big lead, but not enough to double the second place contestant, figuring there was plenty of time left. When the round ended, I was totally surprised (and frustrated). So, when I got to Final Jeopardy, the math was pretty simple. I had to wager enough to win if we both got it right and she wagered the maximum, but not so much that I would lose if we both got it wrong and she wagered the minimum. I felt pretty comfortable with the category, and $25,000 seemed like a nice round number, so $5,200 it was.
Q: Are you a sports fan or how did you know the Philly answer in your first show?
A: I am a sports fan, though I follow baseball less than any other sport. Still, I totally blanked when the “answer” came up. I started trying to go through teams in my head and at some point, the Phillies came to me, but I don’t remember how. Funny story, in case the screen pen doesn’t work, all contestants have a pad of paper and a permanent marker to write down their answer in a pinch. I was so flustered, when I finally got the answer, I dropped the screen pen, picked up the marker, and started to write in permanent ink on the Jeopardy screen. I quickly realized what was going on, and switched to the right pen, and managed to get the answer down in time.
Q: What is Alex Trebek like? Did you get to talk with him much?
A: I really don’t remember very much about Alex. During the actual gameplay, I was so caught up in the moment, I was able to get “in the zone.” During the breaks, the pressure and excitement caught up to me, and everything seems like a complete haze. I got to talk to Alex after the games, but I honestly can’t remember anything about it. ... He told a few “adult jokes” that were sort of surprising.
Q: Do you play trivia often? If so, where?
A: I used to play trivia pretty regularly. We’ve played a variety of places like Manchester Tavern, Beef O’Brady’s, Hoopers, and McHales. We still go to McHales occasionally, but I think I might have to hang up my trivia jersey now. I don’t think I’d like the heckling I’d get if I lost.
The show, hosted by Alex Trebek, airs locally at 7 p.m. on WCNC-TV, Comporium cable Channel 6.