Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy! For thirty-six years. He was a part of so many lives for thirty-six years. The news on the 8th of November that he had passed away hurt more than I could have ever imagined. It was like losing a family member, and in a way, it was like we did lose a family member. Trebek was such a huge constant in so many of our lives, and what he did mattered more than we may have realized.
I started to realize the significance of Trebek and Jeopardy! in my life during the run of James Holzhauer in the spring and early summer of 2019. I had watched Jeopardy! For years, ever since I was a little kid, but I had never watched it this intimately with friends. Every night it included these viewing parties of some of my closest friends. It was becoming must-see television, and it created some of the best memories from Jeopardy!. It was also during this run when Trebek announced his diagnosis of cancer.
When his cancer diagnosis became public knowledge, it hit hard, just like the news of his passing this morning. It started to get me to reflect and think about how much Trebek mattered to me and so many others alike. It made me cherish every episode a little more. Knowing what he was going through, it made me wonder when the last show would be. It made me cherish each run by a champion. It made me appreciate every tournament a little more. Most importantly, it made me recognize how much of an impact Jeopardy! and Trebek has had in my life.
When I was younger, Jeopardy! was just this game show that my parents watched. My parents separated when I was younger and amid that chaos within my childhood, Jeopardy! was always a constant. When I was at my mom’s, we would watch Jeopardy! every night. When I was at my dad’s we would watch Jeopardy! every night. It created something I desperately needed early on, some sort of consistency.
This type of consistency continued through Trebek later in life. I continued to watch Jeopardy! almost every night with my dad through high school and continued this tradition on my own throughout my college years. It got to the point where my dad and I would talk about different Jeopardy! winners, games, questions, and anything else within the Jeopardy! universe. Trebek gave us, and so many more like us, traditions and consistency that we desperately needed.
Trebek was never this big personality like we see so many people try to be today. He was always calm, never wavering too high or too low. He came off as this grounded individual. When people’s lives were spiraling or filled with chaos, it was Trebek who offered that sense of stability. He was someone that you knew was going to be there at 6:00 five nights a week. Whatever might have been going on in your personal life, you could always count on Trebek and Jeopardy! to be there to help take your mind off of the world around you for about twenty-three minutes. His calming and sage-like nature in which he spoke is so inherently Trebek. It’s one of the things that I’ll miss most about him.
The show that he was at the helm for over three decades, Jeopardy!, is one that is arguably one of the most important ongoing shows in television history. Trebek wasn’t just a host, though. He was the entirety of the show. You couldn’t think of Jeopardy! without thinking of Trebek and vice versa. Trebek acted as this vessel of information and facts. Especially in the climate, we live in now, having someone who serves as the middle man between facts and everyday people is as important as ever. When you tuned in to see Trebek on weeknights, you were going to learn something, and if you didn’t – that simple act of Trebek and his show sharing information and knowledge to all of us in the comfort of our homes is and will always be something special.
The importance of Trebek and Jeopardy! can be seen in the most recent episode. At the end of the episode, Trebek talked to the winning contestant, Burt Thakur, during the post-show interviews. In this interview, it is revealed that Thakur used to watch Jeopardy! with his grandfather every day, and he actually learned English because of Trebek. If that snippet of an interview from Trebek’s last aired of his life doesn’t display the impact he had, I’m not sure what will. It was the perfect goodbye.
What I admire mist about Trebek would have to be what he did over the last two years of his life. He was in the midst of the battle of his life, pancreatic cancer. He could have easily stepped down and lived those last years out of the spotlight. Nobody would have thought any less of him, and I’m sure that many of us would have done the same. Instead, he continued to work relentlessly to continue to do what he had done for decades – host Jeopardy!. While fighting, he continued to be that constant. With humility, grace, and that always welcoming spirit, Trebek was there night in and night out.
My one wish for Trebek is that he understood how much he was loved and cherished by millions and millions of people. In the end, I think he knew. You had contestants going out of their way to tell him, and it was in those moments where you saw that stoic emotional center waver in the slightest way. You saw him soak in the love from the fans and the contestants. Having the opportunity to see him receive the celebration he deserves. He was a part of all our lives, and in a way, he was a family member to us, and he’ll be missed like one.
I usually try not to get too emotional when a celebrity passes on. Sure, it can be sad, but I didn’t know them and those emotional connections and reactions always seem unjustified from my point of view because I didn’t know them myself. For Trebek, though, it was different. He was a part of our lives for thirty-plus years; some of us don’t have friendships that long! He was a part of all our lives to a certain extent. He was family and goodness will I and so many others miss him like one of our own. When someone asks the question, “Who will be sorely missed by millions?”
The answer will always be, “Who is Alex Trebek.”