Matt Amodio: My Biggest 'Jeopardy!' Regret is Losing Before Meeting Ken Jennings

It's still strange watching Jeopardy! and not seeing myself; that takes some getting used to. But I'm not quite fully removed, because I see contestants like Jonathan Fisher and Amy Schneider and know I'm going to play them in the Tournament of Champions. I still have some skin in the game! And, whenever someone gets a clue wrong and I know the answer, I think: "Why couldn't that have been in the game that I lost!" My visceral reaction watching the game is still tied to: "What if I was there?"

Everything after Jeopardy! is still a lot livelier than I anticipated. I had very much expected my Jeopardy! run to end and for life to go back to normal 24 hours later. That's not been the case. I didn't think anyone would still care what I have to say, but I've been getting various speaking and appearance requests and that has been fun because it reminds me that I'm still wanted out there.

I also assumed that all those people who followed me on Twitter during my Jeopardy! run would unfollow me, either gradually or all of a sudden. But my follower numbers have kept increasing. I'm just flabbergasted. I have no idea how or why, but I love it. I'm having a great time and I don't want it to end.

I am aware that there is a group of lively female members of the "Amodio Rodeo" on Twitter. But again, I am flattered. I'm also extremely entertained. Some of my fans are just hilarious; they're very smart people making it a fun time for everybody. The Twitter marriage proposals are continuing at about the same frequency as they were before, but I haven't received any in person. And, I would need to know a bit more about Twitter fans before diving into anything romantic. A profile picture of a cartoon from the 2000s doesn't really tell you much about a person!

I've been a loud supporter of Amy Schneider on Twitter because she's awesome; she's just dominating. She's so smart and fun to watch. I'm in awe. And, our Ohio connection is a good one to have. I definitely feel an understanding of a person if they share my Ohio roots. I really want her to do well, all the way up until the point we're in a Tournament of Champions game together!

There are some nerves about the Tournament of Champions because I won't have played Jeopardy! in a while and there will be some people who are less rusty. Also, I will be up against very smart people. I've watched them play! So, I'll go in just trying to be as calm and prepared as possible.

Jeopardy! champion Matt Amodio
Jeopardy! champion Matt Amodio during a family card game. Amodio says he is nervous about Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions but eager to play Jonathan Fisher again. Matt Amodio

I'm also eager to have the opportunity to play Jonathan again. Firstly, because it will be great television, but also because I want to beat him. I have visualized beating Jonathan in multiple ways, that includes some replay of the game I lost and some future play in Tournament of Champions. I'm sorry, Jonathan!

I loved being on Jeopardy! but one of the biggest regrets I have is missing out on meeting Ken Jennings. If I had kept winning a little bit, I would have made some more money and had some more fame, but really, I would have gotten to meet Ken as host. That's always going to be hard. I'm holding out hope that whether it's on the Jeopardy! stage or somewhere else, at some point our paths will cross. And the harder that path is, the more winds and turns it has, the sweeter the endpoint will be. Although I have, at times, been concerned that my excessive fandom is sending the wrong message!

My own fame is starting to sink in a bit. If I go to a bar or restaurant it's guaranteed I'll be recognized at least once, so I'm gradually coming to the realization that I have a little bit of fame, and I do like it. I've also had some neat things happen, like being inducted into the hall of fame in my local public school system and being approached by charities that want me to spend the day with them.

The host of Game Theory, Matthew Patrick (MatPat), also reached out to me recently and asked me to take part in the Game Theory $1,000,000 Challenge for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on November 30. MatPat actually went to the same local high school as me in Medina, Ohio, and I'm going to be hosting, MCing, and reading questions for a trivia round of the challenge. It's a surreal experience because I see there are people at the event who are really famous and have millions of followers on social media, and then there's me, Matt. But it feels good to imagine that my name belongs on that list.

I'm starting to acclimate myself to a post-Jeopardy! future in "normal" life, too. I'm enjoying work and being in my research environment and I've also been doing some dating. It is weird to have celebrity status there. I'm not used to the fact that, during the ice breaker stage, the other person has access to hours of television footage of me and a Wikipedia page to look at. I've expressed opinions on Twitter that I would normally make three minutes of conversation about on a date, but now dates are like, "I've already heard that, what else have you got?"

But it has been nice to get back into it. I do feel like I'm more confident and more able to be myself because of all this fame and success. It has bolstered my internal view of myself and, I imagine that might make me funnier and easier to be around, too. No one wants to be around a ball of nerves on a date!

Jeopardy! champion Matt Amodio
Matt Amodio with his dog, Dobby. Matt Amodio

I also think I have grander plans for life than I did before, just because I have a little more self-confidence now. I've heard people say that someone of my celebrity has never been so interactive on Twitter. But it's so easy for me to take three seconds and type a response to somebody who says something nice.

Lots of people from lots of different backgrounds want to watch Jeopardy! and enjoy it. I don't want them to feel slighted or unimportant, but on the other hand, there are some things that I think are important enough that I have to get up and support them. One thing I feel an uncontrollable urge to support is the great people I met at Jeopardy! If I feel that at any moment the contestants or staff are not being respected in a way I think they should be, that's something I'm going to jump at vociferously. So that's why I commented on Aaron Rodger's vaccination status. I spent a lot of time with those people at Jeopardy! and I really care about them.

Since being on Jeopardy!, I feel like I'm a truer, more natural version of myself. So when other people say that me revealing who I am is nice, lovely, or wonderful, it's very rewarding. It's hard to stay humble when you hear that because it's a testament to a deeper connection to who I am; not just "he's smart" but, "he seems like a good person." That makes me feel very proud.

At my heart, I'm a very "type A" achievement-focused guy. I'm used to working really hard and knowing that, potentially, a long way down the line there will be a little bit of reward for that. These past six months have just been good thing after good thing happening. It has been rewarding for me on so many levels. Not only in the moment, but also as a validation of my whole personality type. It feels like my entire life has been leading up to this.

Matt Amodio is a former Jeopardy! contestant and PhD student at Yale University. He is participating in the Game Theory $1,000,000 Challenge for St. Jude on November 30. For more information, visit stjude.org/gametheory. Follow Matt on Twitter @AmodioMatt.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.