Matt Amodio, JEOPARDY champion

Over $1.5 million

Matt AmodioUnsurprisingly, quite a few people have asked me how I felt about Matt Amodio as a JEOPARDY champion who won more money than all but two contestants. I think of the topic in two related, but separate ways.

The guy: I have no special feelings about him. According to my daughter’s Twitter feed, some folks are annoyed because he ALWAYS responds, “What’s…” Not “What is…” or “Who is…” or “Where is…” It is efficient, and always using the contraction saves him a fraction of a second…

…to figure out the answer. He now seems to ring in if he thinks he’ll come up with the correct question in the allotted time. In most cases, this works.

He only gives the minimum information required. This usually means giving the last name only in name categories. Occasionally, there were times when I thought the host might have sought more clarification, but that’s on the show, not him.

Like many recent champions, he started on the row of the highest value clues and works up the board. When he got the Daily Double in the first round, he usually bet it all. But, usually with a commanding lead by the beginning of the Double JEOPARDY round, his wagers tended to be more conservative, if betting $6,000 when one has a $15,000 lead is conservative.

He wasn’t as bold as 32-game winner James Holzhauer, who’s now third in the number of regular-season wins, but second in regular-season cash, barely less than Ken Jennings, who had won 74 regular-season games. James threw shade at Matt because the new guy hadn’t won as much per game as James had, which made Matt a bit sympathetic to me.. That’s because James has the 10 highest single-game winnings. No one has the per-game average of the gambler from Las Vegas.

The larger problem

It wasn’t until September 2003 when JEOPARDY changed a major rule. Prior to that, once you were a five-day champion, you had to stop. But you were almost certainly going to appear in the Tournament of Champions, comprised of those five-day winners and a few four-day contestants.

The rule change tipped the ToC on its head. When Ken Jennings won 74 regular-season games, his ToC had a three-day winner. So the rule change has made stars of people such as Amodio and 32-game winner James Holzhauer. And I gather there are people who appreciate their excellent play.

But when these people dominate so that Final JEOPARDY, and heck, the second half of Double JEOPARDY, doesn’t matter – it’s a lock game – the joy of watching it diminishes terribly for me. It’s boring TV, like a 43-12 football game.

As a matter of protest, I always root against the defending champion once they’ve won five games. Part of the problem is the way I watch the program. I might watch a week at a time. But I can’t now because either I’ll hear no J news, which means Matt Amodio won again [snore], or I’ll hear the rumors as I did when Jennings and Holzhauer finally lost.

I’m reminded of an episode of MASH when the camp was always getting for dinner “A river of liver and an ocean of fish.” Hawkeye Pierce jumped onto a table, leading the chant, “We want something else.” On JEOPARDY, I wanted someone else, somebody who’s waited their whole life to get on the show and might have a fighting chance of coming home victorious.

And finally, after 38 Amodio wins, relief.

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