“Jeopardy,” is experiencing a modern-day renaissance thanks to a professional sports gambler named James Holzhauer.
Mere weeks ago, watching the game show anchored by Alex Trebek was deemed “an old person’s activity,” done by very boring people and wanna-be-Mensa members. Suddenly, the show is more viral than an anti-vaxxer convention and ratings are soaring. In fact, last week, “Jeopardy” eclipsed “Family Feud,” as America’s most watched game show for the first time in years, much to the chagrin of that host, Steve Harvey. All of this is thanks to Holzhauer who, as of this writing, has won 17 consecutive games and amassed over $1.2 million in total winnings.
His appeal is multi-faceted; he makes seemingly stupid enormous wagers when given the opportunity, he defies all of the traditional “strategies” by choosing the highest dollar amount (and thus hardest questions in each category) first, he spends most of the show far too relaxed, he is clearly some sort of savant, and he has an oddly awkward yet appealing smile and demeanor about him. Oh, and he’s taken the game show that makes all of us look like abject idiots in our family rooms and turned it into a cake walk.
No one really knows where this streak will end. Jeopardy recently wrapped up taping for this season, meaning we’ve got less than a month of new episodes and then 3 months of re-runs. Will James be back in September or has his run already ended but that show just hasn’t aired yet? Some of their regularly scheduled “gimmick weeks,” begin soon, including the teachers and teen tournaments which will further delay Holzhauer’sstreak. Or demise. Or whatever. The show begins taping again in July for episodes that won’t air until September, so it’s very likely we’ll spend the summer waiting to see how far this goes.
All of this, to a normal, well adjusted human, is somewhere between fascinating and spectacularly impressive. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer normal, well adjusted Americans so of course Holzauer to many, is public enemy number one. His crimes? Many, according to the sewer that is social media are as follows:
- He makes the show boring because he’s so good
- The show is clearly rigged. They’re giving him the answers to drive up ratings. No one is this smart
- He has no personality
- He’s an entitled elite who doesn’t value money which is why he can bet such large amounts
- He’s a bully who is robbing his competitors of their chance at winning
In other words, in 21st century America, as is the theme; success, intelligence, largesse, and talent are evil things. They all make someone better than others, and that’s just not okay. Many have suggested this is why Jeopardy should return to its’ 15-year-old rule of limiting the number of games one contestant can win so that more people “can have a chance.” Yes, God forbid someone actually earn their way to the champions’ spot…let’s hand it to them, as we hand so many, in so many other walks of life, so much…without them earning a damn bit of it.
I often opine that sports are a mirror reflection of our society; as is pop culture. Once again, we get to see how the “make life fair, be nice, and spread the wealth,” crowd are dominating the vernacular.
Those who want to self-soothe can insist this is nothing more than the vocal minority and, to be fair, they may be correct. The sad thing is that the vocal minority is winning most battles and changing the very fabric of all that we are.
Either way, I’m team James and hope he wins until he decides he doesn’t want to and literally walks away on his own terms, more successful than anyone else before him. I realize that makes me a horrible human being and I’m good with that.