Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
MAASTRICHT. Just twenty years old and already famous – on the American quiz show Jeopardy! College Championship, Sam Deutsch took home the prize of $100,000. A junior at the University of Southern California, Deutsch is now spending a semester in Maastricht.
“I watched the final episode with some friends in an Airbnb in Vienna, because we had a week off.” The quiz show was actually taped in Los Angeles over two days in early January. A week and a half later Sam Deutsch flew to Maastricht, sworn to secrecy about the details and who had won until the last episode was broadcast. The final was aired on 14 February. “When my friends saw me winning, they were sitting there with their mouths open. Yes, we had a party afterwards. And yes, I paid – I didn’t mind”, Deutsch laughs.
Besides the honour and cash prize, Deutsch received a letter and a tweet from Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States. “I was in disbelief when I read it.”
I recently learned of your victory in Jeopardy’s College Championship tournament – congratulations! What an impressive feat. You should be incredibly proud of your performance, especially during Final Jeopardy!
I’m glad to hear that you are studying Political Economy at USC. It sounds like you are making great decisions for yourself, Sam. The best advice I can give you is to continue learning – about our country, the world, and about what you believe in.
Again, congratulations, I wish you the best of luck in you studies and beyond.
Sincerely, Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
For those who missed the show – and the reason for Biden’s enthusiasm – Deutsch was in second place going into the final question on the ‘man who cast 12,810 votes during his Senate service, which lasted from 1973 to 2009’. Deutsch initially wrote the name of another senator, but scribbled it out and replaced it with Joe Biden. As the only contestant to get the right answer, he came out on top.
The annual two-week long event Jeopardy! College Championship, broadcast annually on US television, gives college students a chance to compete for $100,000. “It’s a pretty big thing in the United States. It’s on every night for two weeks, with five to ten million people tuning in per episode.”
So what prompted Deutsch to apply to be on the show? “A friend, a smart guy, won the Jeopardy Teen tournament a few years ago. He encouraged me to do the online test.” Along with seven thousand other college students, that is. “The questions are a mix of popular culture, history, art, music and so on. After that I was invited for a face-to-face audition in New York.” Three hundred applicants are called back, with only fifteen selected for the show. Three reach the final episode.
Now Deutsch is following a programme at the Center for European Studies in Maastricht. “The University of Southern California has quite a unique type of education. Instead of 200 people in a lecture hall they have discussion-based classes with around twenty students, which is similar to Problem-Based Learning in Maastricht. I was used to that and I’m into that type of learning. I could have chosen Barcelona or Paris, the more popular cities, but I wanted a unique experience. The location is perfect for travelling. Maastricht is nice, not a huge city but rather a cosy town.”
The $100,000 is already sitting in his bank account. “I have to pay a lot of tax, around 30 percent, but still it’s a lot of money. I’m going to save some, as I’m considering becoming a lawyer and law school in the US is very expensive. And I’m in Europe, so I’m going to use some of it to travel around here. I’ve already planned a trip to Iceland and Copenhagen.” Deutsch will also donate some of his prize money to the Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University. “My mother had breast cancer more than ten years ago. She survived and every year she raises money for the institute. I think it’s nice to donate money to that cause, because it’s very important.”