Jeopardy’s Homegrown New Champ
Sitting on my sofa at home, I blurt out random words at the TV. Corkscrew. Jupiter. Ottawa. “How do those people not know those answers?” I think to myself, convinced of how much better I would be doing if I were in their place.
I’m watching a game show, of course, along with countless other viewers, most of whom are likely similarly convinced that their knowledge and quick thinking would shine brightly too, if only they were a contestant. It is one of the integral aspects of the game show genre that makes them so timelessly popular — the ability of viewers to play along at home and to vicariously share in the contestants’ success or failure. It’s what made “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” a pop culture phenomenon not so long ago and what has made “Jeopardy” — which first aired in 1964 — one of the longest running shows in television history.
The latter has been enjoying a jolt in cultural relevance in recent months, thanks to the almost unparalleled success of James Holzhauer. The Naperville native turned Las Vegas resident and professional sports gambler has generated headlines by parlaying his intellect and risk-taking to more than $2 million in winnings, the second most in Jeopardy history. And he was still going strong when this issue of the magazine went to press, only $450,000 away from record holder Ken Jennings total of $2.5 million. But while Jennings’ winnings were earned over the course of a record 74-game winning streak, Holzhauer is amazingly on pace to surpass that amount in less than half the number of games.
That’s because Holzhauer, who we profile in our Q&A feature on page 12, has brought a transformative new strategy to Jeopardy, betting more and winning more per show than any contestant in history. In fact, over the course of his first 28 wins, Holzhauer notched the top 10 totals on the all-time list of single-game winnings, including a one-show record of $131,137.
Truly amazing. While I used to be a decent Trivial Pursuit player back in the day, and still get my fair share of answers right when watching game shows on TV, it’s hard for me to even imagine the total dominance he has demonstrated.
Better yet, while his record Jeopardy run has made him somewhat of a celebrity, Holzhauer seems to be taking his success very much in stride. Indeed, the same sense of calm confidence he projects in our interview is undoubtedly among the keys to his unprecedented success on the show.
With the weather belatedly starting to cooperate, it’s finally summertime in the suburbs, and to help you make the most of the season, we’ve put together our annual Summer Fun Guide (see page 39). Check it out for a full compendium of the area’s best festivals, concerts, farmers markets, family activities and much more.
We hope you enjoy these and other features in this issue and, as always, thanks for being a reader!Edit Module