WLTI Bonus Point #5 – Thomas’ Emancipation

Written by: Dino “Chico” Alexander

Rewatching Thomas Hurley’s moment of gut-wretching defeat and the social media firestorm that has split the Jeopardy! fanbase into true J! People and Wheel People masquerading as J! People reminded me of a Buddhist axiom that I try and live by. “Suffer what there is to suffer. Enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life.”

If you haven’t heard, Thomas Hurley is the preteen Jeopardy! player who misspelled his way into a wrong response when he added a ‘T’ to “Emancipation Proclamation”. What followed was a burning hot rage that was seconded last week to New Whovians fuming over the choice of Peter Capaldi to take over for Matt Smith next year. But that’s another column for another day.

In so many words, he felt “cheated”. Two things for the record:

– the game was Skyler Hornback’s to lose, so truth be told, he was not cheated out of anything.

– the addition of the ‘T’s changed the essence of the response, so the judges had no choice but to rule him as incorrect. He may very well have known the correct question, but as many a game show fan could tell you, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

When this non-story, this first-world story broke, one of the first things that came to my mind was, “High school is going to eat this kid alive.”

But then, I remember… I was in Thomas’ shoes. Twice.

The first time was NOT earlier this year with my appearance on semi-national TV, when an ironically bad mix of bowling and go-karting cost me $35,500.

First time, it was my freshman year in high school. Westover High School, Fayetteville, NC. I’ll never forget it, no matter how hard I try. It was English class. Mrs. Rogers was my teacher. English was always my strong suit, the cornerstone from which I built a childhood of being a talented-academically gifted student.

That first quarter of the year… I got a C. And it wasn’t even a middle of the road C. A high C. Imagine a 14-year-old life lived sheltered by the shield of academia … and then of all things, a C. I begged her for the extra point to bump my grade to a B, which would at least put me back on honor roll. She laughed and told me to go to my next class.

No, Thomas Hurley had no chance of going home with the cup that fateful day. But he could have gone home with some pride, manned up, took his loss on the chin, and moved on. Yes, a letter ‘T’ turned his bad day even worse. But, as Linus Van Pelt would say, “The world didn’t end.”

I survived that. I survived Let’s Ask America. Thomas Hurley will survive this.