Minister plays on 'Jeopardy'

July 06, 2008|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

The Rev. Dave Simpson is not a pedantic scholar. And he does not devote his time playing in trivia leagues or memorizing factoids.

But the Lutheran minister who likes to read won $90,901 during his five-game stint on the TV game show, Jeopardy.

"You can't really study for Jeopardy," said Simpson, 46, an associate minister at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Joppa. "Brad Rutter, the biggest winner on the show, said you do well by a lifetime of paying attention. I've just been curious about things and read a lot."

The Belcamp resident is blessed with a thorough knowledge of Scripture and juvenile law. The former juvenile probation officer taped his Jeopardy appearance in March in Culver City, Calif., and the episodes ran last month.

For four straight games, the minister was on a winning streak, coming up with the questions from clues about archipelagoes, Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and BWI Marshall Airport.

"Winning on Jeopardy is a matter of timing with the buzzer as it is knowing stuff," he said. "Everyone passed the test to get on, and everyone has a lot of knowledge."

When a clue popped up on the screen, Simpson would read it before the show's host, Alex Trebek, could finish reading the question out loud.

"The important thing is to read the question before he reads it," he said. "I could make a decision whether I knew it or not and concentrate on the timing. You can't buzz in until after Alex Trebek finishes reading the question. That activates the buzzer. If you buzz too early, you're locked out for half a second."

While each of the episodes aired, friends and church members gathered to watch Simpson's performance, occasionally ribbing and joking with him when he didn't know the answers.

Simpson could not tell anyone how he fared on the game show before it aired on television.

In his last appearance on Jeopardy, which aired June 20, Simpson wagered his day's winnings, $14,400, and a competitor, Doris Nash, who led with $25,000, wagered $3,801.

The Final Jeopardy clue was: "In 1824, Anglican priest William Buckland wrote a pioneering paper on Megalosaurus, a creature whose name means this."

They both came up with the correct answer - lizard. But Nash, a costume-shop supervisor from Iowa, wagered just enough to edge him by $1.

"All five of those games were taped on the same day," Simpson said in a telephone interview. "I don't want to make excuses. Doris is an excellent player. ... To win four games is beyond my expectations."

When Simpson went to California to tape Jeopardy that day, he met Ken Jennings, who won 74 Jeopardy games. Jennings signed an autograph for Simpson's daughter, Autumn, 11.

Simpson hopes to qualify for the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions, which brings back winners.

His run on Jeopardy was the return to TV for Simpson, who won $125,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire five years ago.

With a son, Philip, 17, who will start college soon, he said the winnings help.

"First, I'll give a tithe to the church," Simpson said. "I'll give my wife the engagement ring I wish I could've given her 12 years ago, and we'll take a family vacation."

madison.park@baltsun.com

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