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Diatribe: Thomas Hurley III Wasn’t “Cheated”, He Was Wrong.


jeopardy!, game show, televisionLike most people my age, I spent a great deal of time during my elementary school years studying the “Three Rs” … reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic.  School children back then spent hours and hours writing and re-writing with Number Two pencils on special paper to perfect their cursive handwriting skills.  We were actually graded on our penmanship!  Because both of my parents have what I’ve always considered to be perfect handwriting I worked extra hard to on my skills.  But to no avail.  To this day, my penmanship leaves much to be desired.

I do, however, take a great deal of pride in my spelling proficiency.  As a student, I spent countless hours memorizing spelling words for weekly spelling tests, pop quizzes, and “bees” during recess time on rainy days.  I’m a good speller now because I’ve worked at it, tirelessly, for the duration of my education and still to this day.

Unfortunately, it appears that at least one of today’s school children may think that spelling skills are not important at all.

THOMAS-HURLEY-large570Thomas Hurley III, a Connecticut eighth-grader, is in the news claiming that he was cheated out of winnings from a kids edition of the television game show Jeopardy! because of a spelling error.  While the boy correctly answered the Final Jeopardy question about the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, he wrote “emanciptation” and his answer was ruled incorrect by host Alex Trebek.

Guess what, Thomas … your answer WAS incorrect.

He had bet $3,000 of his $9,600 but, right or wrong, he would not have beat Skyler Hornback who set the all-time record for kids, and third largest one-day total in the game’s history, with $66,600 in winnings.  Hurley’s second place finish earned him a prize of $2,000.00.

“I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final Jeopardy! question.  It was just a spelling error.” – Thomas Hurley III

Not only does this boy think that his answer shouldn’t have been deemed incorrect, he appears to sincerely believe that spelling errors are acceptable, that he was “cheated” and should have been rewarded!

“Just a spelling error” indeed.

“If Jeopardy! were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players.  We love presenting young people as contestants on our show and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment.” – Jeopardy! Producers via email.

emancipation-fail_blocks_desktop_teaseHe’s, clearly, a bright young man or he likely would not have been invited to participate on the program.  He knew the correct answer, after all, but he spelled it wrong proving that, even today, details matter.  Certainly young Hurley agrees that bank presidents don’t get to use “just an accounting error” as an excuse for their inadequacies.  Surgeons don’t say “it was just a biology error” when they remove the wrong organ from a patient.  When it comes to spelling there is only right and wrong.  Spelling is not open to interpretation … there is no “gray area”.  I’m sad for the boy but, unfortunately, he spelled his answer incorrectly.

Thomas Hurley III was not “cheated” … his written answer was incorrect.

Eight graders would be wise not to question Alex Trebek’s decisions.

What do you think?  Was Thomas “cheated”?


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From → Diatribes

  1. Jeopardy rules:
    Phrase your answer in the form of a question.
    In the Jeopardy round, if you don’t do it, you get a pass.
    In the Double Jeopardy round, if you don’t do it, you are wrong.
    In Final Jeopardy the answer must be spelled right so this whiny brat and his over-indulgent parents are wrong wrong wrong.


  2. Good, thought provoking post. I see both sides of this argument. In my business, we peer review our proposals, reports, etc. to ferret out all typos and incorrect words and improve the product. On the flip side, I have witnessed extremely anal-retentive people deny good concepts because all of the T’s were not crossed and I’s not dotted. Example – 100% data integrity is a goal to aid decisionmaking, Yet, given the vast number of data sources, changes, etc., it is nigh impossible to achieve. I have seen decisions to save tens millions of dollars not being made based on the data being only 95% accurate, even when the recommendation was directionally appropriate. So, I probably would have cut him some slack. I have seen Trebek come back and give credit for an earlier answer that was not exactly what they were looking for. I do see both sides of the argument, though. BTG


    • I’m getting lots of flack at home over this one.

      “He had the right answer!” they tell me.

      My argument remains that, after almost 30 years of hosting Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek knows the rules and his ruling is sound.


  3. I can understand how this young man feels – something similar happened to me in 5th Grade. The teacher offered a prize for the best speller of the year. Even though my average was 99.8% I did not win the prize because another child (with a 99.5% average) had correctly spelled all the words in the weekly tests & one of my answers had been marked wrong because of penmanship. The teacher stood by her decision because she said the weekly spelling tests counted for more percentage than the exams & I had made a mistake even though in my mind the word was spelled correctly. I learned a valuable lesson & I lost a lot of respect for a (to that point) favored teacher.


  4. I think he was wrong and that’s that! It’s the rules of the TV show.

    Now, life in general doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, you try your best.

    But the notion that parents have today that they can’t let their kids feel any rejection and that the kids should get a trophy for playing a sport, not just winning a game is, in my opinion very wrong!

    Life is not fair kids… get used to it!


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