What are sports?
While that is how a “Jeopardy!” contestant might answer a clue on the iconic game show, there are times where participants simply have no idea.
Sports categories have a history of being the last ones left on the “Jeopardy!” board. There’s an even funnier archive of blunders from contestants when they attempt to answer those clues that might be out of their league. The show doesn’t shy away from sports, though, bringing in players and even announcers as contestants and guest hosts.
Here are some iconic sports-related “Jeopardy!” moments.
Alex Trebek: hockey player
Hockey has always been in the blood of Trebek, who was born in Sudbury, Ontario. In October of 2004, the host took the ice with Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi for a category dedicated to the national winter sport of Canada.
The category was part of a game during record-holder Ken Jennings’ historic, 74-win run. Jennings got the $200 and $400 clues correct, while competitor Graham House got the $600 one correct. Jennings provided an incorrect answer for the $800 clue and nobody buzzed in for the $1000 clue, which featured some nifty stickhandling from Trebek.
Magic Johnson: not a hockey player
Joe Morse, meet the Great One.
“Sports Superstars” was one of the Double Jeopardy! categories in a March 2014 episode. Seeking the NHL player with 11 seasons of 100-plus assists, Morse chimed in with an NBA Hall of Famer:
“Who is Magic Johnson?”
It was the easiest question in the category that also featured Annika Sorenstam, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry Rice and Novak Djokovic. Morse turned his game around from there, earning $24,400 to become the new champion.
Football ... football … what’s a football?
Like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” three contestants on the Feb. 1, 2018, episode of “Jeopardy!” forgot what football was in the heat of the moment.
The episode ran three days before the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl 52 victory over the New England Patriots, but contestants Justin Earnshaw, Sara Helmers and Ryan Fenster were clearly not in the pigskin spirit. Not only did they not get a single clue right -- none of them even bothered to buzz in.
While the contestants fumbled the category, Trebek recovered with some fantastic one-liners:
“I can tell you guys are big football fans.”
“Uh, you think we should go to commercial?”
“Let’s look at the $1000 clue, just for the fun of it…”
“We’re gonna take a break. I’m gonna talk to them…”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t even know himself
“I Went To UCLA” should have been the perfect category for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. However, during the 2009-10 Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational, the three-time national college player of the year mistook himself for another Bruins big man.
When asked to name a 1970s UCLA and Portland Trail Blazers center, Abdul-Jabbar named himself. The problem with that is he never played for the Blazers in his 20-year professional career.
The correct answer was Bill Walton. Abdul-Jabbar joked off the incorrect response and ended the game in second place behind eventual invitational winner Michael McKean.
Joel Embiid does a 180
Paul Trifiletti had a tough time processing the $1000 “Current Sports Nicknames” clue in March of 2020.
The clue read “Joel Embiid in 2019 won the trademark for this nickname of his that also describes the 76ers' strategy of improving the team.” The correct answer was “The Process,” but Trifiletti, an attorney from Georgia, buzzed in and put his own spin on things:
“What is ‘Do a 180’?”
Embiid quickly caught the blunder and changed his Twitter name to reflect Trifiletti’s response.
This isn’t the only Philly connection from “Jeopardy!” In 2019, Trebek shared some thoughts on one of the city’s charismatic mascots: “I’m not a fan of the Phillie Phanatic.”
Alex Trebek announces NHL draft pick for Ottawa Senators
Tim Stützle’s introduction to the NHL came from a Canadian legend.
With the Senators on the clock for the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, commissioner Gary Bettman tossed it over to Trebek, who graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy in 1961. Trebek then introduced the pick in “Jeopardy!” fashion.
While he has skated with a Maple Leaf and announced the selection of a Senator, neither Canadian team is actually Trebek’s favorite. Instead, he made a controversial switch once his favorite player retired.
“I was a Detroit Red Wings fan when I was growing up, because my hero was Gordie Howe,” he told Time Magazine in 2009. “When he retired, I shifted my allegiance to the Montreal Canadiens, and I have stuck with them even though they have fallen on pretty hard times.”
Aaron Rodgers, Joe Buck fill in as guest hosts
Two sports figures stepped behind the “Jeopardy!” lectern following Trebek’s death in November of 2020.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hosted two weeks of episodes from April 5-16. Rodgers had “Jeopardy!” experience prior to his hosting gig, as he won the 2015 “Celebrity Jeopardy!” Tournament. During his winning run, he even got Trebek to do a “discount double-check.”
It took little time for a viral moment to occur during his hosting stint. Contestant Scott Shewfelt didn’t know the answer to the Final Jeopardy! Clue in Rodgers’ first episode. Instead of leaving his answer blank, he decided to ask Rodgers a stinging question about the Packers’ NFC Championship Game loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
“Who wanted to kick that field goal?”
“That is a good question,” Rodgers playfully responded.
In August, FOX Sports announcer Joe Buck got a chance to host, as well. He was the final guest slated to host before Mike Richards announced he was stepping down as the program’s full-time host.