Great Jeopardy Champion Says What?
Seriously? That’s What Twitter is Focused on Today?
For the past seven days Jeopardy has been in the presence of greatness. Matt Amodio debuted last Wednesday and progressively is becoming one of the greatest champions the series has seen in nearly two years, certainly the best so far in the Post Alex Trebek era.
His approach has changed slowly as his wins have piled up. He has taken the approach of legendary champion James Holzhauer by starting on the $1000 clues and working his way up, searching for that elusive Daily Double. As he has play, his self-confidence has increased as in the Jeopardy round he traditionally wagers everything on those Daily Double has almost invariably been correct on them. Unlike Holzhauer, he has not been nearly reckless on his approach in Double Jeopardy; he’ll still search for the Daily Double, but when he finds them here, he’ll bet a lot more conservatively. As it is his totals have not been as enormous as a lot of champions, but they’ve been growing. Yesterday, he won $74,000, a single game total that has only been reached by three other players, two of whom were named James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings. (Need I say LeVar Burton was impressed?) Last night, he passed the quarter of a million dollar mark, which very few have ever reached.
Matt Amodio is truly becoming a great player. Yet for some reason, the online verse is a little irked at him for what may be the pettiest thing to hate a Jeopardy champion for. Apparently for every single response he gives in the game it itself, he always precedes it with ‘What is…”
Several things. First of all, I’ve been watching the game with an eye to detail for nearly thirty years, and I don’t think I would’ve picked up on it unless the truly anal retentive people in the Twitter-verse had found it irritated enough to mention.
Second of all, seriously? This is something to be irritated by? There have been a fair share of polarizing players on Jeopardy over the years, and you’re choosing to be irritated by the fact that he doesn’t use “Who” when he has the opportunity. I realized we lived in a nitpicking culture, but this strikes me as a truly ridiculous nit to pick.
And finally the most obvious reason, I have no doubt over the decades that Jeopardy has been on the air; many players have chosen this approach. That’s how the show has evolved. Whenever a date is mentioned, no one has ever gotten up in arms over the fact that contestants never phrase their response: “When is…” Geographic clues usually come up every game; does the world react that no contestant precedes there response: “Where is…” And since How and Why aren’t real players in this game, that leaves Who and What. Is the fact that Matt has decided not to use one of the two traditional phrases for his answers really worth making a stink over? Are we that focused on everything that we have to complain that he uses one word a hundred percent of the time? I’d think people who watch the show would be more impressed that he almost never gets a clue wrong, rather than the fact that he never uses who.
What Jeopardy has always been known for — and given that we are now in an era of flux for the series, the show needs now more than ever — is great Jeopardy champions. And it is clear that Matt Amodio is very much one of them. The world should be cheering for Matt, and to be clear, that’s what the lion’s share of Jeopardy fans are doing now. I certainly am. I want to see how far he can go, and how much he can win. If he chooses to occasionally say: “What is Henry Ford?” who are we to judge? All that really matters for a good champion is for him or her to do whatever works for them. And I don’t think anybody can argue that’s it definitely working for Matt. See you in the Tournament of Champions.
UPDATE: After I wrote this article, Matt won his eighth consecutive game. He did, however, get Final Jeopardy wrong. In a weird irony, the answer involved the classic Abbott and Costello routine Who’s on First and the question asked of the 5 W’s, the two that didn’t appear in the routine. He guessed: “What are where and why?” It’s actually where and when.
I guess in this case, knowing those two words would have helped him. But he won another $22,400 and is fast approaching $300,000. Keep it up Matt.