Did I ever tell you folks that I owe my journalism career to Jeopardy!? In high school, my trivia team placed eighth nationally, although I cannot take much credit for it. We had a few guys on our team that were ridiculously great players, one of whom would put himself through medical school by selling trivia questions, and another who would go on to win College Jeopardy and return a couple of times for the Tournament of Champions and that Best of the Decades. My buddy had privately let me know that he’d won College Jeopardy! before his show aired and told me I could interview him for the school newspaper. The only problem was: I wasn’t staffed on the school newspaper. I had made several attempts to get on, but they kept rejecting me. So, I basically called them up and told them that I had an exclusive with the College Jeopardy! champ, and if they wanted it, they’d have to hire me. They did, and within a year, I had a weekly column, which elicited a few death threats, got a fraternity suspended, and pissed off a whole lot of people. It was amazing.
Anyway, that has nothing to do with James Holzhauer, who ended his 33-game winning streak on Jeopardy! yesterday — it was the second longest streak ever, and Holzhauer fell just $58,000 short of surpassing the all-time earnings leader, Ken Jennings. He lost to a surprising opponent:
I kid. He was actually defeated by Emma Boettcher, a librarian who wrote her thesis on Jeopardy!. #FuckYeahLibrians!
Congrats to Emma Boettcher! If someone had to end James Holzhauer's fantastic run, we're glad it was a #librarian. https://t.co/1YrbwQ7aXj The paper for her MLIS degree, “Predicting the Difficulty of Trivia Questions Using Text Features,” relied on #Jeopardy clues.— American Library Association (@ALALibrary) June 4, 2019
The way Jeopardy! works, however, is that it’s all taped months in advance, so Boettcher had no idea she was playing a guy who had won 33 consecutive games until right before she played, so the import of that win probably didn’t catch up to her until Holzhauer’s episodes began to air.
We have a new champion! Congratulations, Emma Boettcher!— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) June 4, 2019
Stream the final episode of James Holzhauer's incredible streak here, available now through Friday: https://t.co/hUk4MCbBVo pic.twitter.com/9dTwuOnZLr
In either respect, Holzhauer ended his reign with class.
CONGRATULATIONS to Emma on a world-beating performance. There's no greater honor than knowing an opponent had to play a perfect game to defeat me.— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 4, 2019
"James will eventually beat himself by flubbing one of his big bets.” Nope, James got his ass kicked straight up by an elite player who nailed her own big bets.— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 4, 2019
The story went that, because Holzhauer was away from home for so long playing Jeopardy!, his daughter was actually rooting for him to lose because Holzhauer promised her a party when he finally did.
Sure, I could stick around and play a game that pays me $150,000 per hour, but I'd really rather get toys thrown at my crotch for free https://t.co/xb6Fg6MMKP— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) June 4, 2019
There were a lot of crazy theories about why he lost, but the reality is, he just got his ass kicked. Still, it all made for a remarkable story, especially against the backdrop of Alex Trebek’s fight with cancer — a fight he appears to be winning, despite the odds.
Congrats to Holzhauer for his successful run; congrats to Ken Jennings for hanging on to his titles; and congrats to Boettcher for a game well played. Hopefully, she can start an impressive streak of her own now.
Header Image Source: YouTube