Is Jeopardy! Too Professional?

Political News

Tom Nichols, himself a former five-time winner, thinks so:

Mastering that little clicker is everything. . . . Why does this matter? Because the more times you use the buzzer, the better you get at it. It really is a learned reflex. It takes a little getting used to, and then you develop a rhythm . . . Watch the veterans play after they’ve won a few games. They have cracked the code, which, as paradoxical as it seems, includes completely ignoring the host. The losers—again, you can watch this happen—are very focused on looking at the host, but the winners are looking at the board. They’re reading ahead, forming an answer, and waiting for the light to go on. In my best moments on the show, it was me and the board, that little light, the buzzer, and nothing else.

If you’ve done all this even two or three times, new players are at an instant disadvantage. No one wants to play against a returning champ. . . . What makes it worse is that players like James Holzhauer basically turned the game into a full-time job before they even got there. As I said at the time, it was about as interesting as going to the Sportsbook room at Caesars Palace and watching guys handicap the ponies or figuring out the spread in a college-basketball game. Don’t get me wrong—Holzhauer’s damn smart. But when he finally lost, it was to someone who had literally written a graduate thesis about Jeopardy. That’s a bit more commitment than you’ll find in the average player. The charm of the game, the thing that made it beloved to so many people, was that you weren’t watching a brute-force match between a Vegas odds guy and a Jeopardy scholar; you were watching a New York City cop and a librarian from Tucson, Arizona, and a homemaker from Dubuque, Iowa, battling it out with little more than a high-school education and some quick recall.

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