Alex Trebek, longtime Jeopardy! host and game show legend, died Sunday. He was 80. Trebek hosted Jeopardy! for 36 years, and kept filming new episodes after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2019.
The contestants changed every night on Jeopardy!, but Trebek's presence was both constant and comforting. Trebek had all the answers, but it never felt like he was reading them off a card. Blending the cold hard facts with personal charm, dry humor and an effortless building of rapport with contestants, Trebek injected personality into a simple question-and-answer game show. Trebek was the perfect Jeopardy! host, and, unsurprisingly, one of the most admired people on television.
Some of Trebek's best Jeopardy! moments came during sports categories, when the host and contestants had some fun laughing at their athletic knowledge... or lack thereof. One of the most memorable Jeopardy! sports moments happened in February 2018, shortly before the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52.
A: "Talkin' Football" category + three incredibly smart contestants who don't know a thing about football + Alex Trebek
Q: What is a flawless Jeopardy! recipe?
That's 97 seconds of vintage Trebek. Sports might be the only area where three Jeopardy! contestants can combine to have no knowledge. Trebek figured it out right away and turned a category in which nobody rang in into one of the best in the show's history.
Football was back on the show in 2020. There was slightly more success among the contestants this time, and I credit Trebek's impression of a referee.
In a way only he could, Trebek -- a Lakers fan -- added a little bit of himself to every sports reference he made. That was the case even away from Jeopardy!, as Trebek announced the Ottawa Senators' first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Sports often came up in Trebek's nightly conversations with contestants, giving the Canadian a chance to rib players about teams he did or didn't like. That includes Trebek telling a Philly rooter he was "not a big fan of the Phillie Phanatic" in 2019 and reminding a San Francisco Giants fan that the team's World Series reign was over in 2017.
Trebek did the Discount Double Check with Aaron Rodgers on Celebrity Jeopardy in 2015, and the Packers quarterback said Sunday that weeknights won't be the same without him.
Sports categories will continue to stump Jeopardy! contestants for as long as they make the show. Those moments just won't be the same without Alex Trebek.