Sikorski chases "Jeopardy!’ goal
SUMMIT COUNTY – Someday, you’ll see Steve Sikorski’s name in lights – on the “Jeopardy!” game show set. So Sikorski believes.
“I know it will happen,” he said. “I just don’t know when.”
The 45-year-old Dillon man has tried out for “Jeopardy!” 15 times to date. He goes for his 16th test and interview in February.
“I’ll never give up,” said Sikorski, a fast-talking man who constantly uses his hands to add further emphasis to his words. “I told them I’ll be the oldest “Jeopardy!’ contestant ever. I might have to do it another 20 years. Am I prepared to do that? As long as I have my coach, I’m there.”
His coach is his wife of 18 years, Sandy, who Sikorski said is as dedicated to his “Jeopardy!” goal as he is.
The couple spends about two hours a day working toward his goal, charting the categories to determine his strengths and weaknesses, buying and borrowing books on subjects Sikorski knows least to feed his store of knowledge. Sandy then quizzes her husband on those most difficult areas. They also have Jeopardy Challengers, devices that allow at-home watchers to play the game and see how they stack up against the contestants.
In addition, Steve has built a lectern similar to the ones “Jeopardy!” contestants use. He has installed in it a button, like those the contestants press to indicate they have an answer to a question. The button is attached to a speed-monitoring device, and Sikorski uses that to check the quickness with which he hits the button.
“You have to be really fast (to beat the other contestants),” he said. “I’m one-fifth of a second after Alex (Trebek) speaks. I can’t imagine anybody faster.”
Sikorski’s life, however, is not absorbed by “Jeopardy!”. He owns Peak One Power Sports, a Frisco business that sells snowmobile parts and accessories, and operates a Web site called
halfpricehelmets.com, on which he sells helmets for motorcyclists and snowmobilers.
He boasts a life story that is as full of humor as it is adventure.
A Wisconsin native, Sikorski moved to Los Angeles in 1981. He was, he admits, naive, a fact that later landed him in a world of trouble.
“I left Wisconsin after having lived on a farm and having not had much more exposure to anything but a cold (Stevens) Point beer,” he said.
In California, he got a job with a man whose new company was selling something no one else was offering then – security systems for computers. Sikorski was one of five salesman assigned to peddle the systems in the then-fledgling Silicon Valley.
Sikorski went from poor to rich in the blink of an eye. He wasn’t ready for it, he said.
“I was living so high on the hog,” he said. “Some weeks I made $15,000.
“I went from a cold Point beer to freebasing cocaine. I blew it all. It took me 18 months to destroy my life.”
He left California, dried out and eventually landed in Summit County. Sikorski is almost speechless in describing his passion for the area.
“It’s magical,” he said. “Summit County has something you can’t put your finger on.”
Good as his life is here, however, Sikorski said he won’t be satisfied until he reaches that ultimate goal of “Jeopardy!”.
Sikorski has an IQ of about 147, but he said intelligence is only one factor of many that make a person good “Jeopardy!” material.
“You have to learn how to play the game – body, mind and spirit,” he said. “You have to learn the betting strategies. There’s so much.”
He came within a hairsbreadth of accomplishing his goal in 1999, when he was selected to compete. Sikorski flew to California. Taping was set for the next day.
“The night before, I went out to eat. I was eating an oyster, got the shell caught and took a tooth off,” he said.
Sikorski was horrified, knowing they would not let him on the show with such a slipshod appearance.
“I was about to Super Glue it,” he said.
Instead, he found an all-night dentist who not only told him not to use Super Glue, but said he needed to go home to his own dentist and get a crown.
“So, I had to turn around and go home,” Sikorski said.
In February, he said he’ll take the same careful steps with his appearance as he has for every “Jeopardy!” test.
“I get myself a $25 haircut, shave, put on a good suit,” he said. “I’m looking good. I look like Don Johnson, three of him put together. I’m bad to the bone.”
The producers and other “Jeopardy!” staff members all know him by name, he said, and they encourage him to keep trying.
Sikorski isn’t the only person who’s dedicated a life to making it onto “Jeopardy!”. He said he’s met many other people who quit their jobs, sold their homes and moved to California to concentrate exclusively on the task. While Sikorski doesn’t appear egotistical, he said most of them have “thrown their lives away and don’t have a prayer.”
Sikorski has thought of every possible reason he hasn’t made the show. He suspects it just might be because he refuses to give them a hometown. Instead, he identifies his home as Summit County. “Jeopardy!” staff members have repeatedly told him they would prefer he list a single town.
“If you can’t put down Summit County, I can’t be on “Jeopardy!”,” he said. “If I put Dillon, Silverthorne will be hurt. I’ve told them, “We’re one big, happy family here.’ It’s something I owe to this community. Maybe that’s what’s been hurting me.”
His ultimate goal, he said, is to win five games in a row, play in the Tournament of Champions and drive home a Jaguar – awarded to the top contestants.
“I know it’s something I can do,” he said. “I have to do it, for Sandy and for Summit County.”
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