The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


(Photo by AP)

I watched Jeopardy! for the first time in a while yesterday, and I finally got to see this Ken Jennings fellow that Rebecca posted about the other day.

By the way, I should note that I was a Teen Tournament tryout non-selectee in 1996, in my freshman year of high school. Having long hair, as I did back then (and do now), isn't necessarily a window to being telegenic. Also, the studio is a LOT smaller then the television cameras convey. And I kept the pen they gave us to take the qualifying test. But I digress...

In short, Jennings knows his shit. I think his other secret, though, is his reflexes with the clicker. Sure, his knowledge base is quite extensive, but it's not like the average two challengers they throw out there are doorknobs. It's likely that on a given question, all three contestants, or at least two of them, may know that, say, Franz Liszt* wrote the Faust Symphony. But the secret of Jeopardy champions, including Jennings, appears to be in the clicker: Somehow he always gets in first, even on the easiest questions.

It could be a matter of better reflexes, just as it was for that fellow who won a hundred grand by memorizing the sequences of lights on "Press Your Luck" back in the 80's. But perhaps Jennings has an added intimidation factor. If you're a challenger going up against a guy who's won 20+ straight games, it's possible you'll be a bit on edge, and your clicking reflexes may suffer. (Jeopardy keeps people who click too early from being able to answer the clue. At least that's how it worked in 96.)

Still, eventually Ken will bite the dust. Even if it means Alex Trebek announces categories like "Obscure Events in the Childhood of the Two Challengers" or "Hey Look Over There! MST3K Is On!" or something. Oh yeah, that's right, Rebecca mentioned he's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan. Good for him, as I was a die-hard MiSTie for much of the mid-late 90's. Maybe if his next two challengers were Torgo and Mitchell, that would throw him off.

Oh, and I totally had him on Final Jeopardy last night. Captain Cook, dude!

* - First Rule of Jeopardy: When there is a category devoted to classical music, Franz Liszt will always be the answer to either the 4th or 5th clue.


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