After 37 years on the air, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek passed away on Nov. 8 from complications due to pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
Since Trebek’s passing, “Jeopardy!” fans from all over the world have put together tributes to honor a man whose on-air presence shaped television for decades and won him six Emmys. Former “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer shared his grief on Twitter.
“It was one of the great privileges of my life to spend time with this courageous man while he fought the battle of his life. You will never be replaced in our hearts, Alex,” Holzhauer said.
Members of the Athens community expressed their sadness and love for the former “Jeopardy!” host.
‘A very poignant end to the week’
The news of Trebek’s death came on the heels of a tumultuous election cycle. The swell of emotions following election results caused the news of Trebek’s death to strike a different chord with fans than previous celebrity deaths.
“You take those very charged emotions and combine them with the fact that we’ve lost a giant in the entertainment community and it’s just a very poignant end to the week,” said Tim Moore, social media manager of The Rook & Pawn.
A local board game cafe, The Rook & Pawn has a special connection to the former game show host. Photos of Trebek were regularly used in advertisements for their trivia nights. Trebek became representative of trivia by himself, with no need for any mention of his famous show.
“I know that we’ve kind of treated Alex as one of our mascots for a long time. In fact, even before I started working here, he was kind of the face of our Tuesday Trivia events,” Moore said.
But to Moore, he was more than just a mascot.
“He was an equalizer of sorts. Honestly, to me, he embodied civility and stability in a way that very few people today embody that,” Moore said.
Trebek was beloved for more than just his steady presence, however. Fifth-year studio art and entertainment and media studies double major Mary Chrzanowski remembers that he was funny, too.
“No one really talks about it, but he was a pretty funny person...There’s this funny video where this girl is talking about her NerdCore hip-hop and he says something like ‘Oh so you’re a loser’ and then just moves on,” Chrzanowski said.
Joking moments like those, where Trebek spend time getting to know the contestants, were paramount to his persona on the show.
What is, thank you, Alex?
Junior marketing major Tyler Gray said he has been a fan of “Jeopardy!” since childhood. Gray always appreciated the consistency and stability Trebek and the show provided, he said.
“I stayed with my grandparents after school growing up and would always watch every single day without fail with my grandpa. So I’ve just been watching ‘Jeopardy!’ for so long and always knew that every single day Alex Trebek was going to be there at that same time, no matter what,” Gray said.
Since Trebek’s initial diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2019, many have discussed the show’s potential future in a post-Trebek world. One of the most common suggestions is that Ken Jennings, “Jeopardy!” The Greatest of All Time champion, may continue Trebek’s legacy.
Gray is not so sure. After Jennings’ first appearance as consulting producer on a recently-aired episode of the show, Gray worries Jennings won’t be able to fill the podium like Trebek.
“I love the guy but he almost seemed like a little kid up there, like a 12-year-old pretending to be Alex Trebek,” Gray said.
Others, like Chrzanowski, think the best way to honor Trebek’s legacy is to let the show go with him. She thinks the two are inextricably linked.
“The show is Alex Trebek, it’s always been Alex Trebek,” Chrzanowski said.
Gray feels immense gratitude for Trebek’s dependability, even amidst a pandemic. After the 36th season of the show was cut short due to COVID-19 concerns, many, like Gray, were thankful when Trebek and the show returned on Sept. 14.
“I just would’ve wanted to thank him… I don’t think it could be said enough… with everything being so unstable and uncertain, even since ‘Jeopardy’s’ comeback on with COVID, it’s been that source of consistency,” Gray said.
Chrzanowski shares Gray’s appreciation for Trebek and for all the fun times he gave her watching the show, from her grandma’s living room to her college apartment.
“Thank you for hosting what is the greatest show in the world,” Chrzanowski said.