Sam Lipton has no idea how big a supporting role he played in one of his mother’s greatest adventures.
It was Little Sam’s appearance in her life that gave Lauren Schneider Lipton the time and excuse to sit around and bone up on “Jeopardy!” episodes on Netflix and Hulu. She did so well over those countless hours, it inspired her to try out for the show. Now, two years later, she’s on “Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. May 25-June 5 on KOMO 4 — and it’s all thanks to her 2-year-old.
“I started sort of watching ‘Jeopardy!’ more and more on TV because I was at home during the school year,” said Schneider Lipton, a family health teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School who also teaches an introduction to medical-careers course. “I’d always loved ‘Jeopardy!,’ but I didn’t become a regular watcher until that time.”
Unfortunately, Sam won’t be tuning in to the shows. “I don’t even think he’s going to get to watch it live because he goes to bed at 7 o’clock,” Schneider Lipton said.
You’ll have to watch to find out how Schneider Lipton did, but Sam is already a winner. Each contestant is guaranteed some money, no matter how poorly they perform. So it’s no spoiler to say that Schneider Lipton kept her pretournament promise to buy Sam a superblingy baby carrier.
“I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this, but I’m a really big nerd and there’s this company that makes ‘Lord of the Rings’ baby carriers,” Schneider Lipton said. “But they’re like $300 because they’re handwoven in Scotland.”
Sam might get part of a college education out of the deal, too, if his mother wins the $100,000 grand prize and a berth in the annual “Tournament of Champions.” Schneider Lipton competes against 14 other high school teachers from across the nation in the annual tournament, which was taped in February.
A longtime trivia fan, Schneider Lipton joins an elite tradition of contestants from the Seattle area, including recent “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” champion Ken Jennings.
She learned right away that strengths and weaknesses in category knowledge can quickly separate contestants. She’s well-versed in pop culture, literature, music and life sciences.
“I would say that my weakest categories are definitely sports and geography,” Schneider Lipton said. “I figured there’s no way I was going to learn enough about sports to make a difference. But geography was a category I definitely boned up on before getting there.”
Tournament contestants run a short but intense gauntlet. Day 1 of shooting consists of five games. The five winners and next top four scorers advance to the semifinals. The winners of those three games play a two-round match for the title.
It’s an intense 72 hours of taping. The experience has left her a true convert to the show, now in its 36th year of syndication, and its host, Alex Trebek.
“I think I was surprised by how smoothly things go when you’re there,” she said. “It’s just one thing to the next, and it runs like clockwork, and then all of a sudden you’re standing in front of Alex. It’s wild.”