Sometime before winter break, unbeknownst to her son, Arlene Cassis started buying books about Jeopardy. When her son Brady Cassis ’08 returned home, he found “Secrets of the Jeopardy! Champions” planted in the bathroom, inviting a read.
For Cassis, a Davenporter and sports editor for the News, it was easy to tell who in the family was most excited about his upcoming appearance on College Jeopardy.
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On Thursday, Cassis will travel to Los Angeles to compete in Jeopardy’s 2007 college tournament. After completing an initial online test of 50 questions in September, Cassis was selected to attend a regional tournament in New York City for potential contestants. From the pool of 300 contestants at the regional level, he was named one of 15 finalists from around the country who will compete over the course of a weekend for a grand prize of $100,000.
Cassis said his mother pushed him to try out for the show, which she has watched for 40 years.
“She’s been telling me to take [the test] since I was six years old,” he said.
According to Cassis, Jeopardy is a family tradition.
“It started back when I was three or four,” he said, “[My grandmother and my mom] would just plant me in front of the TV. I had no idea what was going on, I just liked the man with the moustache.”
Since then, Cassis has lived a life filled with trivia. Friends and family alike report that the history and international studies major spends hours surfing the Web, reading online information sources like Wikipedia.
His father, Gene Cassis, says Brady’s selective memory allows him to excel at trivia games, albeit with some mild consequences in his daily life.
“He could describe to you the entire Tokyo subway system,” he said. “But he’ll be looking for his wallet and keys and he’ll forget [where they are].”
Brady admits that his study regimen for the show is not particularly well-defined.
“The best studying I do is usually when I’m stalling,” he said. “Then I have this random two-hour stream-of-consciousness Wikipedia run where I start out looking at a page on the Ottoman Empire and end up at the page for [the 80s rock band] Journey.”
But according to friends at Yale, that strategy has led Brady to huge success during informal dorm-room Jeopardy sessions. David Williams ’08, one of Brady’s suitemates, described his playing style as “vicious,” and said that Cassis would only run into trouble when confronted with the speed element of the game.
“If he knew the answers and he was buzzing in every single time, but not getting to answer, I could see him getting frustrated,” Williams said.
Cassis was more modest about his abilities, citing opera, Harry Potter and word games as his weak areas, while acknowledging his strength in geography, history and ’80s music.
Arlene Cassis, who will fly to Los Angeles with Brady to view the taping, said she has confidence in her son and thinks he can handle the pressure of nationally syndicated television.
“He’s very good under pressure,” she said. “I’m the more nervous type. Brady is calm and cool as a cucumber.”
Williams said that while Cassis is unlikely to let the competition get to him, his nerves might actually help the Yalie win.
“When he gets nervous he has this tic where he kind of shakes his hand,” Williams said, “so that might help him buzz in faster.”
In the end, even if Cassis doesn’t win the $100,000 grand prize, he said he would be happy with some of the show’s less glamorous prize packages.
“I would love to get luggage at this point,” he said. “You get so much use out of luggage.”
The College Jeopardy episodes featuring Cassis will start April 30 and air for two weeks.