You come at the king you best not miss.
So now that my nightmare has finally been realized and Jeopardy has run out of new episodes, they have started airing reruns and they played Ken Jennings’ first appearance earlier this week. As I tweeted out, Jennings was an absolute weapon from Day 1, but it was far from a runaway as he barely won in Final Jeopardy. On a sports question no less, which the Jeopardy nerds notoriously struggle with.
The Final Jeopardy category was 2000 Olympics and the clue was “She’s the first female track & field athlete to win medals in five different events at a single Olympics.” The answer was Marion Jones. Ken Jennings’ answer: Jones.
Like I know for a fact that Jennings wins this episode, but watching it I wasn’t sure if Trebek was going to bust his balls for not being specific enough.
So Ken sounded off on all of us for questioning his knowledge of trivia.
I actually went searching for the official Jeopardy rules and the full rulebook is not actually that easy to find. There are some basic rules and strategy guidelines on the Jeopardy website, but these debates continue to rage in the internet streets. Although I did learn that in the event of a tie after Final Jeopardy, Trebek will read one tiebreaker clue for no additional money and the first contestant to buzz in with the correct answer walks off with the win.
In fairness though, I’ve seen Trebek not give people credit on an answer for less egregious omissions. Maybe, thats just me remembering Trebek smoking people over the years for infractions that I thought the judges should have accepted.
But hey its not just me, Jon Tomase legitimately wrote an article about the same exact thing yesterday.
Jennings simply wrote “Jones,” which could’ve been interpreted as a guess of a common name. But after consulting with the judges, host Alex Trebek declared the answer valid because, “in terms of female athletes, there aren’t that many.”
“I had been trained by years of ‘Jeopardy!’ watching and college quiz bowls that you only give the last name,” he said. “Because there’s then an additional opportunity to introduce some kind of error. By default, I just wrote down ‘Who is Jones?’ I didn’t even think what a common last name that is. It wasn’t until Alex revealed my answer that I realized it looked like I just guessed a random last name. Who is Jones? Who is Smith? Who is Williams? There was what seemed like an eternity of a pause. He looked at the judges’ table. It didn’t take too long before he got a nod.
“I don’t think it was a tough judgment call. The ‘Jeopardy!’ rule is almost always ‘the last name is acceptable by itself’ unless there’s a particular ambiguity, like Benjamin Harrison versus William Henry Harrison or something like that. I did think for a moment, ‘There are probably a number of American athletes named Jones, is it not clear I meant Marion Jones?’ I remember feeling this wave of euphoria when Alex said it was correct. Somehow, against all odds in these 20 minutes, I survived.”
It’s crazy how after winning 74 games in a row and over $5 million in his Jeopardy career, Jennings nearly was a one and done Jeopardy contestant. That is some serious butterfly effect type stuff right there.