‘Who is Quemars Ahmed?’

Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Television
La Cañada Flintridge native Quemars Ahmed, shown here with Alex Trebek, recently enjoyed an appearance on the legendary game show “Jeopardy!”

Quemars Ahmed had to explain to his grandparents this past week that he did not actually lose $15,000 on “Jeopardy!” last Friday.
The La Cañada Flintridge native and onetime editor-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review gave a riveting round of the pop culture gem, rising from a negative start in the first round to being able to wager his $15,000 in the Final Jeopardy bid. Alas, it was not Belize that is the only member of the United Nations with a Spanish article in its name. (The answer was El Salvador.)
Ahmed seemed OK with just making it onto the beloved program, having engaged with and adding some of his own jabs at the showing on Twitter after the episode — which was filmed in February — aired on May 1. He tweeted “My only regret (other than $) is that losing means I can’t play this fun game again!” from his account, @WhatsMyCue, and also admitted that the final question had confused him by its phrasing. Importantly, he wasn’t prepared to assure his grandmother that he hadn’t lost a cent of his own money.
“It’s a long time of having to keep the secret,” Ahmed said in a phone interview. “You’re allowed guests to come watch in the audience, but they don’t want you spoiling it to everyone at large.”
And at least he got to meet Alex Trebek, the beloved host of “Jeopardy!” since 1984 who garnered a nationwide outpouring of support and endearment after announcing his pancreatic cancer diagnosis last year.
“He was as advertised,” Ahmed said. “Everyone loves him. A lot of celebrity fandom is a projection of what you want that person to be, but Alex is everything you’ve heard about him and more. He came up to me after the game and had a nice chat about how the game went and how excited he was about how it happened.”
Ahmed roared out the gate for his match, jumping in to answer “bull” for the San Antonio Spurs mascot who was booted from a 2005 game. (It was coyote). He wasn’t deterred from taking the first crack at the second question, which concerned the first San Diego Padres mascot on a baseball card. (It was the famous San Diego Chicken, not a friar as Ahmed guessed.)
Soon after, Ahmed redeemed himself, correctly answering that it was the Anaheim Ducks whose mascot descends from the rafters at the start of matches and also that the Cleveland Browns’ mascot, Chomps, hangs out in the “Dawg Pound” section of the stadium.
Finishing third place in round one, Ahmed got first pick in Double Jeopardy, which immediately landed him a Daily Double query on which conference on the Crimean Sea had famously poor accommodations. Ahmed’s correct answer of Yalta propelled him to $5,400, and his knowledge of historical figures like Georg Ohm and the Best Picture-winning “Parasite” eventually brought him within striking distance of the prior episode’s winner, Jesse Layman.
Following a break, Trebek asked Ahmed about how at a 2009 Dodgers game he caught the record-setting home run from Manny Ramirez that moved him ahead of Mickey Mantle in the all-time list.
“We were sitting in the last row,” Ahmed explained to Trebek. “Didn’t think any ball would come to us. It came off a huge bounce and my buddy was fighting for it and I was watching him and the ball just landed in my lap.”
“Fun moment, isn’t it?” Trebek replied paternally before moving on.
Ahmed explained that he’d taken the online test to be considered for the program — “It came at a time when I had the free time to do it, or when I’d have been able to procrastinate on something and take it,” he admitted — but when first contacted by producers, he was busy. Ahmed was in Iowa, working for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign there up through the famed Iowa Caucus, which was fraught with technical issues.
“I play the ‘what-if’ game with ‘Jeopardy!’ and I’m sure half of these candidates play the ‘what-if’ game with Iowa,” he said. “It was just very frustrating for everyone.”
As luck would have it, producers called Ahmed back after he was done in Iowa and competed later that month. It was special for him to appear on the game show, prompting memories of watching the longtime quiz show alongside his family.
“It’s just one of those cultural institutions,” Ahmed explained. “My mother, I learned later, she said she would watch ‘Jeopardy!’ to learn the English language. It’s just one of those mainstays. My parents would watch the evening news and then ‘Jeopardy!’ after that. It’s like the Dodgers — you may not watch every game, but you end up catching the whole season.”
Ahmed, who graduated from law school in 2018, returned home to LCF after filming, shortly after which came the county’s “Safer at Home” order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he’s been busy making sure his grandparents have the supplies they need and filling in for his mother while she still works in the Pasadena Unified School District.
In a moment of levity, Ahmed conceded that the pandemic had thrown a curve ball for Ramadan, during which Muslims fast in the daytime.
“You would think quarantine would make it easier,” he explained, chuckling, “but sleep schedules are off and the rhythms of life are really thrown out the window.”
With the pandemic in mind and an eye on his next steps, Ahmed said he hoped to advocate for a safe general election in November.
“Not for a candidate, but maybe working for an organization and cause group,” he said. “Voter protection is a big thing for me and we’ve been seeing a lot of issues for that in primary season already. It’d be nice to be able to use the law degree and my experience to help see that we don’t see issues in November that we’ve been seeing. Who knows what’s going to happen with the pandemic, too, whether you’re going to be able to have a safe and healthy election by vote by mail.”

Leave a Reply