All In The Family
Jeopardy! addict gets her chance to shine on the game show Oct. 1.
Question: Who is Sara Goodman?
Goodman, 25, of Huntington Woods, flew to Los Angeles two months ago for the July 29 taping of the program, which will air on Oct. 1. In accordance with the Jeopardy! rules, she can’t say how she did in the game, only that she is satisfied with her performance.
Other parent-child Jeopardy! contestants have probably been on the show, but the Goodmans, members of Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park, may be the first from Michigan.
Allen Goodman describes himself as “the most famous loser in Jeopardy! history” (keep reading to learn why), and avenging his loss was one of Sara’s goals.
Both Goodmans are Jeopardy! junkies, as is Sara’s mother, Janet Hankin. Allen, 66, started watching in 1964, when Art Fleming was the host, and tried out to be a contestant in the late 1960s.
Sara is even more addicted. Growing up, she watched the game almost every night with her parents. In the Detroit area, the show airs at 7:30 p.m. weekdays on Channel 4 (WDIV).
She recites stats about Jeopardy! the way others rattle off details about sports stars. She knows all kinds of arcane details about the production.
“We were very competitive. I was always better at the pop culture categories, and my dad was better at economics, math and history,” said Sara, now in Baltimore earning a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University.
A graduate of Detroit Country Day School and the University of Illinois, Sara spent two years in Burkina Faso in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer.
She tried out for the game numerous times before she actually made it onto the set. The first audition round is online, then some hopefuls are invited in for an interview and live audition.
“I tried out for the teen tournament in 2006 and was called for an interview in New York. I tried out for the college tournament in 2009 and was called to Chicago,” she said. Neither live audition resulted in a contestant spot.
Sara took the online adult Jeopardy! test three times, most recently last January. She was asked to an interview and live audition in Detroit on May 1. A few weeks later, the producers called and invited her to be on the show.
Her father appeared on Jeopardy! in February 2009.
He was in the lead in the first segment of the game. He even “ran the category” on questions about Little League, answering all the questions correctly. Then he buzzed in on the highest-value question in the category “Countries Beginning with N”: the country formerly known as German South-West Africa.
Goodman, a professor of economics at Wayne State University, answered “What is Namibia?” and host Alex Trebek awarded him the $1,000.
But after the commercial break, Trebek announced that the judges had reviewed the tape and determined that Goodman had said “Nabibia.” They deducted $2,000 from his score — the $1,000 question value and a $1,000 penalty — and Goodman never recovered his momentum. He was tied for second place before “Final Jeopardy,” answered incorrectly and finished third.
When Sara and the other contestants arrived at the Jeopardy! studios in Los Angeles for the taping — five shows are taped each day — the contestant producer, Maggie Speak, stressed the importance of clear, correct pronunciation.
She told them about a past game where the judges reviewed the tape 14 times before determining that the contestant had said “Nabibia” instead of “Namibia” and penalized him.
“That was my father!” Sara said.
Sara said Speak made a point of greeting Allen, who was in the studio audience.
Beth Shalom, at 14601 W. Lincoln in Oak Park, is holding a Jeopardy! viewing party on Oct. 1 from 6:30-8 p.m. Beverages and snacks will be served. All are welcome.
By Barbara Lewis, Contributing Writer