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Not Just Another Game Show Host: Alex Trebek

Not Just Another Game Show Host: Alex Trebek

We could argue today about any one of dozens of topics. Or we could toss contentiousness aside and agree on one true thing:

We all love Alex Trebek. 

When the long-time host of “Jeopardy!” announced yesterday that he has Stage IV pancreatic cancer it was a blow. I never met him, of course, but Alex Trebek feels like an old friend.

Why shouldn’t he? After all, this is someone many of us invited into our homes almost every day for the past 35 years. He never stayed long - just 30 minutes - but I always felt a little smarter after spending time with Alex. 

Social media lit up after his announcement. “Alex Trebek” immediately began trending on Twitter. And for once, there was no snarkiness in sight. Just a cascade of good wishes for the game show host from Canada. (He became an American citizen decades ago.)

In typical Trebek fashion, he broke the news in a gentle good-humored way designed to reassure us that he was all right. Trebek was careful to point out that he wasn’t special, that 50,000 Americans receive the same dreadful diagnosis every year. He asked for our prayers. He made a joke.

Alex Trebek is not just another game show host any more than “Jeopardy!” is just another game show. It’s 30 minutes of television that celebrates knowledge. The contestants are drawn from all walks of life with one thing in common: sharp minds. And Trebek, with his quick wit and bemused manner, is the perfect host to help these brainiacs relax.

For many viewers, I suspect, “Jeopardy!” is a family affair. We watched with our parents. Now we watch with our kids. In 2001, I wrote that my mom insisted on watching the show on her death bed. Literally.

 My mother was an Alex Trebek fan and a serious``Jeopardy!' addict. I knew not to call her each evening during that 30-minute interlude.

With no more than a high school education, my mom took special delight in beating ``Jeopardy's' eggheaded contestants to the buzzer.

On the night before she succumbed to lung cancer, my mother insisted on silence in her hospital room at 6:30 sharp. We turned the television on for her, and through a morphine fog and an oxygen mask she muttered the answers. Even in that pitiful condition, Mom beat a couple of Ph.D's on literature questions.

I believe she died happy.

Trebek is a national treasure with a terrible disease.

Praying for him. 

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