Matt Amodio: I've Had a Lot Of Romantic Proposals Since Jeopardy!

It's kind of a shame that when you win 38 games of Jeopardy! and lose one, the loss comes at the end. Because that's what you remember most recently. If the loss were to come at the beginning and then you were to win 38 games, you'd really realize what an accomplishment it is.

So I'm sad that I lost, but then I take a step back and think of how much I accomplished. I always knew losing was a possibility. I've had close calls before, so I never felt invincible.

The day I lost, I went in feeling a little "off" physically, but I had felt worse before and then won with no problem, so I didn't think anything of it. Then, I gradually saw that I wasn't remembering things that I really should have been able to remember, and I was mis-reading clues in front of me. As that was happening, I began to see where the path ahead of me was leading. I'm quite pleased with how I kept steady throughout. I don't think my emotions or confidence played that much into it, what I did feel was that there was evidence that my mind wasn't working at full capacity.

I didn't lose a game of Jeopardy! There were two people who fought hard to win, and one of them won. It was a poorly timed downturn for me, because I was up against two of the best and they did a great job capitalizing on that.

Of course, I was feeling very sad when I lost. I loved being on the Jeopardy! stage, I loved winning on the Jeopardy! stage, and I didn't want it to end. But my first thought was that I felt bad for Jonathan Fisher. I remembered how amazing the moment felt when I won my first game, and I was worried that his moment of winning was going to become my moment of losing. So, I wanted to congratulate him, tell him he deserved it and push as much of the focus back on to him as I could.

I wasn't being fed the answers when I was winning and I didn't throw the game when I lost. It's just a competition, I was doing well and then I lost. There's nothing more to it. My buzzer was working fine. The only thing that wasn't working was my brain at full capacity. The theories don't upset me, people think all sorts of crazy things. But I do have the power not to acknowledge them.

I will admit that it's been a little weird getting back to my regular life. I had been doing school work and Jeopardy! for several months; it was busy and stressful. But now that I have half of that load off, it feels a little different. I'm still busy but I do miss seeing myself on national TV every night! I'm fortunate enough to be famous for doing well on the smartest television show in the world, there are things I wouldn't want to be famous for. Being famous for this is just fantastic.

I wouldn't put my research job aside for anything, but I'm interested in anything I can do in the trivia and television landscape that doesn't interfere with it. And, I haven't really climbed the top of the hill with Jeopardy! yet because they have the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions and I hope I've earned my invitation to that. I don't have any specific TV shows I'd want to be on because I don't know if it's getting too greedy to imagine a world where I can have both my regular professor job and be on TV playing trivia.

It has also been really strange having fans of any kind, and pretty significant fans as it turns out! When I left the show for the first time after 18 games in the last season, I was wondering if I would be remembered at all. Or, if I would do OK, then not as good as the best and move into the forgotten realm. So I don't really know how to process seeing these people who are just genuinely interested in me. It's a good feeling, but I don't feel like I deserve it. And, for the people who are saying they are having trouble watching Jeopardy! now that I have lost—they should definitely still watch Jeopardy! It's the best show.

I have had romantic proposals since being on Jeopardy! I've had a lot of messages asking me out, but I don't think when they come via Twitter they really count. The first two I would say were funny jokes, and I thought it was silly. But there have been a lot since, and I don't know exactly how to interact with those. I'm single at the moment and I hope that perhaps having been on Jeopardy! will make my life in the dating sphere a little easier! But I'm also decompressing a little bit from my Jeopardy! experience and so dating will be a post-Jeopardy! undertaking.

Matt Amodio has won $1million on Jeopardy!
Matt Amodio is now the second-most successful contestant in Jeopardy! history Youtube/Jeopardy!

I still have no plans to spend a dime of my $1,518,601 winnings. I'm a frugal guy and I love having the opportunity to pack away a chunk of money should I need it in the future or to help out with kids.

The one thing that has changed in me is that before Jeopardy! I had "performance mode" and then "internal mode." I'm introverted, so when I would go to a meeting, or out with friends, I would say to myself, "OK, you're now in performance mode. You have to do better than you would otherwise do." But now, I feel a bit more outgoing. I feel I can just be myself around people instead of having those two different modes.

I've talked with other contestants I met along the way and stayed in touch with them and I'm not keeping count, but I think I'm up to three tweets Ken Jennings has posted about me! If that phone call comes, I am answering right away. I would love to hear from him.

But I've discovered the importance of just trying to spread kindness wherever you can; people really respond to that. I started by having so few Twitter followers that whenever I got a notification I could respond and I kept to that strategy. Then, my follower count just kept going up. At some point, I just didn't think I could respond to every mention anymore. So I try to look for people I haven't heard from before and give a shout out to them, to see if I can make their day a little bit brighter.

I'm happy to be a role model as a regular guy who just happens to be smart. To imagine young kids want to be like me is music to my ears. It makes me feel so good. I try to tear down that barrier between what people think they are capable of and what they think others are capable of. I've experienced a lot of insecurity; thinking I'm good at something or smart, but that other people projected so much more confidence. I confused the confidence they projected with having some skills that I thought I lacked. I hope to show that you don't need to assume other people are capable of things you aren't. My message to others would be: just give it a try.

Matt Amodio is PhD student at Yale University and former Jeopardy! contestant. On October 1, Amodio became the contestant with the second longest winning streak in the show's history after winning his 33rd game. In total, he won 38 games. You can follow him on Twitter @AmodioMatt.

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

As told to Jenny Haward.