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ESPN.com Fantasy Sports editor, former Jeopardy! winner, continues quest for game show mastery

James Quintong (r) is an ESPN.com editor. In 2005, he won an episode of Jeopardy! hosted by Alex Trebek (l). (Photo courtesy James Quintong)
James Quintong (r) is an ESPN.com editor. In 2005, he won an episode of Jeopardy! hosted by Alex Trebek (l). (Photo courtesy James Quintong)

At ESPN, we are sports fans. To excel in our jobs, it helps to balance that sports knowledge with information about a wide variety of things. For one ESPN.com employee, being a trivia expert has helped him excel against other quick thinkers on television game shows.

James Quintong, a Fantasy Sports editor since 2008 and Northwestern grad, has made the cut for two different big stages. Last week, Quintong appeared on The Million Second Quiz, a game made up of continuous winner-gets-next, head-to-head matches. The game was on NBC or online 24 hours a day for 12 straight days, offering a chance to win $10 million, the largest prize in game show history. We asked Quintong, who in 2005 won on Jeopardy!, what it’s like to have his brain tested in such competitions.

Let’s not bury the lead: How much money did you win on Million Second Quiz?
While I got up to about $91,000 by sitting in the Money Chair for three hours and winning matches, I actually did not win any money, just a couple of consolation prizes. Based on the rules of the show, only the top four players after the one million seconds were up actually kept the money earned. I was not one of them.

What was your experience like?
I waited many hours at the studios before getting my chance to play, but once I did, getting up on stage and actually playing the game was thrilling and exhilarating. And of course, winning the matches was fun. Plus, I was fortunate enough that many of my friends, family and colleagues were able to see me online at a reasonable hour. I knew a few other people who got to play, but most of them were on in the middle of the night.

I actually came back a couple of days after my appearance on the show, hoping to get another shot (a number of other contestants got to play a couple of times after losing). While they did not pick me to play again, my girlfriend Abby Roush, got to play. Although she lost by one point in her only match, she also enjoyed herself.

How does your job as an ESPN.com Fantasy Sports editor help you as a game show contestant?
I know a number of journalists who are very good at trivia and game shows. It might be because we’re supposed to get all the facts right, and having a quick recall of such facts comes in handy as part of the job. Sadly, there weren’t a lot of very tough sports questions during my run, but it was fun to get tested on a bunch of different subjects.

Which was better, Jeopardy! or Million Second Quiz? And more importantly, who’s the nicer host, Alex Trebek or Ryan Seacrest?
I’ve been on Jeopardy! and that’s still the gold standard of quiz shows. And that’s still my opinion of Jeopardy! since doing Million Second Quiz. I’m glad I got a shot at MSQ, though. And I never did meet Ryan Seacrest, so it’s Alex Trebek.

ESPN.com editor James Quintong answered trivia questions on "The Million Second Quiz" last week. (NBC)
ESPN.com editor James Quintong answered trivia questions on “The Million Second Quiz” last week. (NBC)
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