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Remembering Alex Trebek, The Man With All The Answers

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For a long time, I’ve tuned into the trivia sport present “Jeopardy!” for the info. On Sunday, the present misplaced its considered chief, Alex Trebek, who died at age 80 after a battle with most cancers.

Trebek had hosted “Jeopardy!” for my total life. He started in 1984 and hosted each episode since — save for April Fool’s Day in 1997 when he and Pat Sajak of “Wheel of Fortune” swapped locations — greater than 8,000 half-hour reveals in all. For many, watching Trebek was ritualistic — the best way a day ends and an evening begins. It was additionally a approach to get actual info, a short respite from the “alternative facts” so prevalent over the previous few years.

Trebek and the present — the 2 troublesome now to divorce — had been a beacon of democratic beliefs, flattening the world for all to devour. High and low, widespread and obscure, new and previous, holy and profane, Trebek put all of them on equal phrases. Look no additional than the episode of “Jeopardy!” that aired this previous Friday, for instance. It featured clues about Rihanna, Madonna and Katy Perry, and clues concerning the metropolis of Vaduz, the Russian navy and the German chancellor. All had been on the identical sport board — although Gene Wilder and the Cook Strait had been price extra money than any of them.

“Jeopardy!” and Trebek have been a haven for info as monuments of reality have crumbled within the public sphere. The holder of the nation’s highest workplace now baselessly disputes legit election outcomes, espousers of baseless and harmful conspiracy theories are elected to Congress, and fact-checking is a booming business.

Trebek’s efficiency hasn’t modified to fight the untruths of the previous couple of years, partially as a result of it already was a sort of totem to the worth of truth. Since 1984, he has stood every weekday in a swimsuit behind a podium with a sheet of notes and delivered greater than 400,000 clues, every a minor each day inoculation towards the creep of lies — or no matter you need to name them.

“Alex was so much more than a host,” tweeted James Holzhauer, who set a sequence of unreal information on “Jeopardy!” final spring. “He was an impartial arbiter of truth and facts in a world that needs exactly that.”

The present’s eclectic and unpredictable material is the results of an unassuming, wide-angle lens solid upon a big and complex world. We name the fabric Trebek delivered “trivia,” however few issues are much less trivial than turning a beneficiant eye towards the world — in all its unusual and various splendor — and calling issues by their proper identify.

The headline on an awesome 2014 profile of Trebek within the New Republic declared him the “Last King of the American Middlebrow.” This is true not in a pejorative sense however in a statistical one, as within the common between excessive and low. Trebek’s important demeanor — and subsequently “Jeopardy!” itself — is stripped of pretension and pretext.

The present’s archive showcases its various pursuits, every of which was introduced on the present’s big board merely and equally within the iconic all-caps white textual content on a blue sq.. Knowledge of the previous British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is price the identical as that of “The Office” actor Steve Carrell, as that of the toy Mr. Potato Head. The playwright Shakespeare is the same as the operating again Walter Payton. The aspect helium is as worthwhile because the airport Heathrow.

Trebek’s efficiency as host emphasised this egalitarianism. His have an effect on was regular and his pronunciation — of French, most famously — was impeccable, and he took pre-show notes with diacritical marks to make sure that he’d get it proper. And on the identical time he was, amongst different issues, an underrated rapper, as Holzhauer joked, enthusiastically partaking with the repertoires of Lil Wayne, Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

“I’m not too good at it, but I was getting into it,” Trebek stated after delivering the verses, and I believed him.

Moreover, Trebek’s efficiency didn’t simply lack pretension, it was anti-pretentious. He as soon as famously calmly chastised three contestants, who had accurately answered clues about Molière and Thor Heyerdahl, for not realizing sufficient about soccer. “I have to talk to them,” Trebek stated disapprovingly earlier than going to industrial. The democratic nature of trivia had been thrown off-kilter, and Trebek needed to right it.

By all accounts, Trebek embodied these trivia beliefs whereas additionally being a real and gracious human.

“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did,” tweeted Ken Jennings, the present’s most well-known contestant, who gained a document 74 consecutive occasions. “He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him.”

It was with this identical ethos of decency and calm that Trebek introduced, in March 2019, that he had been recognized with stage four pancreatic most cancers. He stated he “wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health.” The remainder of the brief assertion was crammed with info, and he vowed to battle the most cancers and proceed working. “Truth told, I have to,” he stated, with a attribute pinch of humor. “Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host ‘Jeopardy!’ for three more years.”

I want he had been in a position to take action. The present might go on, however it’s exhausting to think about anybody personifying its beliefs in addition to Alex Trebek did. Of course, the contestants on “Jeopardy!” simply ask the questions. It was Trebek who had all of the solutions.

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