On Sunday afternoon, I received a text message from my sister: Alex Trebek had passed away.
It was news that I had been dreading for a long time, but knew was inevitable. Nonetheless, it came as a surprise, even during a year of unpleasant surprises. I figured if anyone could survive for years with pancreatic cancer, it was Alex.
I call him by his first name because, let’s face it, to millions of people, including myself, he was family. He entered our living rooms every night and provided us thirty minutes of escape from the worries of the world. That is no small accomplishment in this day and age.
His consistency is what made him stand out. You knew what you were getting every night. Even in the midst of cancer treatments that would have broken the strongest among us, he never missed a day of work, taping right up until the end. And the quality of his hosting never diminished.
On a purely selfish level, I held out hope that I would meet him someday. It is no secret to my friends and family that I really want to be on Jeopardy! Part of the reason was to share a stage with Alex Trebek. I could have finished a Wolf Blitzer-ian $-4600 and it would have still been a thrill to stand behind the podium and take my shot against the best and brightest.
I will never get that chance, but my disappointment is a small trifle compared to the sadness of the moment. This is not just a loss for me, this is a loss for humanity. Alex Trebek was a national treasure, an irreplaceable exemplar of virtue in an age where decency and authenticity are hard to come by. Many times contestants fell flat on their face, and instead of saying “you clearly didn’t belong here,” he would say “it just wasn’t your day.” He was our biggest cheerleader.
However, what makes Alex Trebek stand out, even more than his virtue, was his humor. That was my favorite part about him.
Where do we start?
There’s this clip. And this. There’s the way he said genre. And the way he owned Conan O’Brien. He also was an acclaimed rapper.
Whoever replaces Alex Trebek will have enormous shoes to fill. They will never be Alex, but it is important that they don’t try to be. No one can replace him. But the show must go on. He would want it that way. He wouldn’t want a pity party.
Tonight, I watched the newest episode. There are only 30 or so episodes left. It hasn’t sunk in yet that he’s gone. When the last episode airs, and we enter the great unknown, it will be an emotional end.
But, despite the sadness, there is the satisfaction of a life well lived. I’m sure he is having fun (or pulling out his hair) reuniting with the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy crew right now.
I’ll take a life well lived for $2,000.