Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek passed away Sunday at the age of 80 following a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. It's a personal loss for many of us who have welcomed Trebek into our homes over the years.
For some people, Jeopardy! is a nightly tradition. Others might watch when a sensational player like Eagles fan Brad Rutter, who won more money on the game show than any other player in history.
For Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz, Jeopardy! was another opportunity for competition. As a linebacker at Georgetown, he watched with his teammates each night as they battled every night to see who would win the trivia contest.
At the time, Schwartz didn't know that he'd be a coach in the NFL. But looking back on those college days, Schwartz realized how Trebek and the show provided lessons that would pay dividends on the gridiron.
"We were just playing for fun and it was an ultra-competitive environment, but you look back and see lessons learned from stuff like that and you see the carryovers to football. It's not just getting the right answer. It's getting the right answer quicker than everybody else," Schwartz said.
"It's like, 'Hey, what's two plus two? Four.' And somebody else says two plus two, and they go (count on their fingers) four. Well, both of them got the right answer, but the other one, the ball was snapped and the running back just ran right past you. There's that, and when you're a defensive coach in particular, you're reacting when you make your play calls.
"I very rarely have a play sheet or a call, I might have some notes written down on one small page but that's about it. The reason is, you have to react to what personnel group you're getting, the down and distance, all those different things. You can't pick a play the way offensive coaches do."
Schwartz added that it was not only the game show, but the host's attention to detail and preparation that was impressive.
"I thought it was always interesting, you never knew if he really knew the answer or it was just he sold it because it was written on his card. You know, 'Oh, no, Henry the VIII, Henry the VI,' that kind of thing, just having command over the game and the players," Schwartz said.
"I think the other thing, he did it for so long, he had such consistency, and it didn't happen by mistake. He was such a professional. He never flubbed a word. He never flubbed a syntax. So you knew that every question he had read probably 20 times, and that's a lot of questions on the board. He prepared himself, and it showed in his performance.
"So I think there's some carryovers – practice is important. Big news flash there. Command is important. Thinking quick is important. Competitiveness is important. Those are the lessons that I learned from just watching a silly game show on TV."