Go ahead, James Holzhauer. Be excellent.
Everybody loves a winner — except, it seems, when it’s someone running the board day after day and toppling records on “Jeopardy.” Then suddenly that person is compared to a robot and told to “give someone else a chance.”
Holzhauer, a Naperville North High School graduate and University of Illinois alumnus, has prevailed over his opponents for 16 episodes as of Thursday, tallying up $1.2 million. A professional sports bettor with a mathematical mind, he dominates early, casting big bets with his signature “all in” hand gesture.
We’ve noticed some viewers squawking at his dominance as somehow unfair. We say appreciate the man’s game while it lasts. No one wins forever.
We suggest everyone, especially the Holzhauer Haters, study his keys to superiority:
Master the subject area. Technique aside, Holzhauer only wins if he gets answers right — in the form of a question! — and he does, over and over again. Bravo.
Master the tools. He’s agile on the buzzer — he practiced using a homemade version — and his timing is impeccable. And he knows how to assess a wager. The strain of mental calculations is not slowing his roll.
Master the strategy. He dances to his best advantage across the game board, one that’s been broadcast in plain view for decades. Holzhauer watched the show as a child with his grandma. Don’t blame him for figuring a few things out along the way.
Act boldly. Holzhauer isn’t rattled by the dollars. He obviously gets an edge here from his day job, but other contestants could get into this mental mindset just the same, remembering that any money lost is on paper only. He also isn’t “paying his dues” by playing the board in the usual order, which irks some viewers. There are no extra points for timidity or plodding.
If watching Holzhauer triumph repeatedly dulls the show’s tension, that’s not his fault. Producers select contestants, and it’s their job to evaluate who will make an entertaining show. What the occasional outlying champion costs “Jeopardy” in prize money, the show surely makes up for in publicity.
Two of those with the most skin in the game have toasted Holzhauer’s success. Alex Trebek, the storied host who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after these shows were filmed, teased him good-naturedly, Holzhauer has said. Ken Jennings, a previous “Jeopardy” super-winner, has marveled while watching this new star in action.
“This is absolutely insane,” Jennings tweeted. “I’ve always wanted to see someone try ‘Jeopardy!’ wagering this way who had the skills to back it up.”
Now that’s showing a love of the game.