Tom Lynn

Tom Lynn, a Radnor-Winston resident and retired teacher at Boys' Latin, stands in front of a group of friends who gathered to watch him during an appearance on Jeopardy! on March 25. (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana / March 25, 2013)

It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game — in this case, the game show "Jeopardy!"

Tom Lynn, of Radnor-Winston, played so well that a crowd of 50 family members, friends and former colleagues and classmates gave him a standing ovation Monday evening at the Zen West cantina on York Road, where they gathered at his invitation to watch the taped show on a big-screen TV.

Lynn, who taped his appearance in November, was prohibited contractually from telling his guests how he did until the show aired.

"If it's a clue, I will not be treating them to any food or beverages," he said last week. "I might spring for a few nacho platters."

But he said if nothing else, "They'll get to see me. They'll have fun. Any excuse to party."

On Monday, four months after the taping at Universal Studios in Culver City, Calif., the retired Boys' Latin School teacher, former T. Rowe Price letter-writer and Gilman School graduate held forth in a side room at Zen West, wearing a "Jeopardy!" cap that he got for being on the show.

Lynn was as curious as anyone to see how he did.

"I recall very little of what happened," he said. "It's almost like you're in a fog. It'll be interesting to see."

Despite Lynn low-balling expectations, the crowd had high hopes.

"I think he'll do all right. He's pretty smart," said retired Boys' Latin history teacher and coach Dorsey Boyle.

Friend Robin Smith gave him a "Jeopardy!" board game that she bought at a flea market in the 1970s.

"We have that 'Jeopardy!' thing in common," she said.

'Surreal' taping

Lynn went to a "Jeopardy!" audition in Washington last spring. Also there was Marion Penning, a Roland Park Country School teacher, who went on to reach the semifinals of a teachers' tournament edition of the show. As a retired teacher, Lynn wasn't eligible for that tournament, but was chosen as a future contestant.

"I was surprised I got picked at all," he said.

He had to pay his own way to the taping, but hinted that he won at least enough money to eventually pay himself back.

"I didn't lose any money," he said.

The taping was "surreal," as show officials, intent on ensuring secrecy of the outcome and avoiding cheating, escorted contestants to the bathroom and told the audience to avoid contact with them as they entered the studio, he said.

As the answer-and-question game began, Lynn, 59, started fast, buzzing in on the first answer despite an arthritic thumb and getting the question right. But he didn't get a shot at any Daily Double questions and was out of his element on categories such as one relating to 1990s rock bands. At one point, he guessed incorrectly that the name of singer Eddie Vedder's band was Van Halen. (It's Pearl Jam, but Van Halen was the only band Lynn could think of with a singer named Eddie).

Nonetheless, Lynn more than held his own, and led several times. When the game reached Final Jeopardy, he was in second place, ahead of contestant Tyson Schindler, an airline pilot from Texas, and nipping at the heels of returning champion Rachel Liptak, a substitute teacher from California, who had already won more than $19,000 on a previous episode of "Jeopardy!"

In Final Jeopardy, contestants were told that 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" and an unnamed 1950s movie were the only two musicals in the American Film Institute's top 10 movies of all time.

Schindler guessed wrong that the unnamed movie was "West Side Story," a 1960s musical.

Lynn's turn

Then, it was Lynn's turn. Lynn, whom Trebek identified as a property manager because he owns four row houses in west and east Baltimore, correctly guessed "Singing in the Rain," and now led the game.

But Liptak got it right, too, and bet enough money to win the game. Someone in Zen West threw a balled-up napkin at the TV screen in frustration.

But as the 30-minute show ended, the crowd rose and gave Lynn a standing ovation. He took off his cap and waved it to them.

Although he totaled more than $20,000 at the end of the show, he only won $2,000 as the runner-up. The check hasn't arrived yet, and neither has his official photograph with Trebek, he said.

Lynn said the experience alone was well worth it.

"No matter how you do, you can say, 'When I was on "Jeopardy!' ..." he said.