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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Sitarski’s trivia fascination proves to be not so trivial

Connor Billington
Mr. Sitarski teaches Freshman Algebra I at WA.

Teachers at WA often go their entire careers without students knowing the spectacular stories of their past. For example, math teacher Frank Sitarski is a life-long trivia enthusiast who has been a fan of the trivia show Jeopardy ever since his childhood. After pursuing his dream of being a guest on the show, he finally made it on one fateful Tuesday in 1996.

Ever since he was a child, Sitarski would watch the trivia game show ‘Jeopardy’ at every chance he got, tuning in even when he was sick and home from school. It was shows like this that sparked his interest with the world around him, propelling his education and his curiosity.

“I was a big reader as a kid, fascinated by lots of stuff,” Sitarski said. “So I always had a fascination with the world around me. And as I got older, the possibility of being a contestant on Jeopardy was something I wanted to reach for.”

But before he could make his way onto the show, there were a few hurdles he had to cross first. In order to be selected for Jeopardy, an aspiring contestant had to apply for a contestant screening where they, and many others, would compete for a spot in the real competition.

“One June morning, I showed up along with about four hundred other people in a large hotel ballroom, and we weren’t told much about the process ahead of time, however, I found out it was a test right up front,” Sitarski said. “They played Alex Trebek on a VHS onto large televisions in the ballroom and he read 25 questions, that the audience had to write the answers to down onto a paper.”

Once the testing ended, according to Sitarski, staff came around and collected all of the papers, hand-grading them which took almost an hour and a half. During the waiting time, the contestants would watch a few recently aired Jeopardy episodes in anticipation of the results until the staff finally finished and the names were called. As Sitarski recalls, only about fifteen out of four hundred made the cut, including himself.

“Contestants that had qualified got put through a little mock interview and game with some rudimentary devices to play,” Sitarski said. “I think they were just testing to see if everyone was personable and had some sort of confidence to be in front of a panel of strangers. Then we were told, ‘we tape from August until March and we’ll be in touch,’ and that’s how they left it in that hotel ballroom.”

Then, after only about a month, Sitarski was invited onto the show. He traveled to Los Angeles where the show was being hosted, staying with his brother who lived there.

“I stayed with [my brother] and his wife and waited, waited for the actual day of the taping, which was on a Tuesday. The day right after Labor Day. There were 17 or 18 people who showed up for that,” Sitarski said. “That day of taping, they taped five shows in one day. And the very next day on Wednesday, they tape another five shows. So in two days time Alex Trebek was able to do two weeks worth of work. It was quite amazing.”

That day, unfortunately, Sitarski scored -1600 points and got third place on his episode after missing a question that would have put him back into the positives. A slight hesitancy during this question caused him to add the wrong first name to the already correct answer, nullifying it. This was a particularly devastating mistake because of some advice Sitarski read prior to the airing of the episode that would have saved him.

“I read one book which led to my demise because I ignored the advice of the book,” Sitarski said. “It was a very short book, maybe 80 pages. And one piece of advice said when you offer an answer, just give them the last name. And that came back to haunt me in the game that I participated in.”

A portion of his episode can be viewed here. This episode, however, did not stop him from pursuing his hobby as he would attend many other trivia challenges after his appearance on Jeopardy.

Mr. Sitarksi competed on the show Jeopardy, scoring -1600 points before placing 3rd in the episode’s competition.

Other events he has participated in include a local contest held at celebrity writer Jeff Kinney’s library, of which Sitarski and his friends are regular attendees to. According to Sitarski, the group once even won one of the competitions.

“Those trivia contests are something I’m still interested in,” Sitarski said. “The world fascinates me, and I know a little about a lot of things.”

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About the Contributor
Connor Billington
Connor Billington, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Connor Billington, and I am a freshman staff writer for the Ghostwriter. I enjoy writing, English is one my favorite subjects in school and I look forward to bringing the same enthusiasm to this newspaper. When I’m not in school, and I’m not doing homework, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, playing games, video and board alike, and listening to music. I also enjoy cross country skiing in the winter time. I can’t wait to make new friends during my first year on the Ghostwriter and further enhance my writing capabilities.

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