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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Give me whiner for $2,000, Alex

I swear, the media can gin up a phony controversy over the stupidest things:

NEWTOWN -- Newtown eighth-grader Thomas Hurley III was thrilled to be chosen as a contestant on the Kids Week episode of the television game show "Jeopardy!" that was filmed in February and aired this week.

He was up against a tough competitor right to the Final Jeopardy stage, with $9,600 in winnings against his closest rival, who had won $36,600 going into the last round.

As the final buzzer sounded, the 12-year-old penned his answer for the "Famous Documents'' question about the 1863 document Abraham Lincoln said was a "fit and necessary war measure.''

The correct answer: Emancipation Proclamation.

The studio and viewing audience saw that, despite the scrawl of an extra "t'' in Emancipation, the 12-year-old had the correct answer.

Even game show host Alex Trebek read it correctly at first, but then swiftly disqualified the boy's answer, saying he so "badly misspelled" the word it would cost him the $3,000 bet he placed on the answer.

Hurley lowered his head in defeat upon Trebek's pronouncement. Trebek then praised winner Skyler Hornback for his answer, which he noted was spelled correctly.

Trebek's response to the Hurley answer struck his family and fans as so unfair that the Jeopardy! Facebook page has been flooded with more than 400 comments protesting Trebek's decision.

I'm a "Jeopardy!" junkie who watches every episode, even the Kids Week matches, so I happened to see this last week. Sometimes spelling is important in the answer, and sometimes it isn't. It depends on things like severity and context. The ruling on this misspelling could have gone either way (and it was the decision of the judges, not Trebek; he just relayed their decision). Even more important, it would not have made a difference if his answer had been ruled correct. He still would have finished in second place, far behind the kid who won. And second place gets you $2,000, regardless of the total amount you have at the end.

And while they were creating this phony scandal, the media of course ignored the real story -- that of the remarkable kid who won, Skylar Hornback. Notice that the linked story (as well as a lot of the other ones) don't even say how much the kid won, which was $66,600! That's the most ever won in a Kids Week match and somewhere in the top five for most money won in a single episode.

So what was accomplished here? One kid is getting encouraged to be a whiner and a sore loser instead someone who loses with grace and dignity, and the other one is being taught that no matter how well he does, there will always be somebody around trying to spoil the victory for him. Good job!