A Champion of Tournaments
- May 24
youngster, the World Series did not hold my attention.
The Super Bowl was just another thing on TV. The NBA
Finals and Stanley Cup weren't even on my radar. For me,
my yearly 'appointment event' was the Jeopardy!
Tournament of Champions. It was for many of the same
reasons that sports fans gather during the post-season.
After watching 35 weeks of shows, I had seen the best of
the year. It was time for my post-season. I would put
together a bracket and follow the action. I had picked
out my favorite contestants, and rooted them on to
victory. Sometimes I would be reacquainted with
contestants I had watched months ago, and then
remembered them. I would make sure that I would be home
at least for the two-day final, at least before the days
of the internet. Geeky? Hell yes, but I didn't care.
This was my nerdvana, and I loved it. Catching the
repeat some eight weeks later just wouldn't do.
Some years had particularly interesting
fields (1990 and 1994 spring to mind) If two of the
better competitors managed to get to the finals, so much
the better. The 2003 championship where Brian Weikle,
Mark Dawson and Eric Floyd battled for the $250,000
grand prize was some of the greatest Jeopardy! I've ever
seen. The Tournament final with Dan Melia making
mincemeat of Bob Harris and Kim Worth was good
television, I got to see good game play and good comedy
from the losers. Having the tournaments held in another
city was a stroke of genius. It was our knowledge Super
Bowl, and the new location added to the excitement. The
big money also helped. On regular shows, players would
be lucky to win $15,000; $20,000 or more was rare
company indeed; now the best players would have a shot
at $100,000 for winning four games. You just didn't see
that anywhere else.
year's championship was a bit of a disappointment. When
Jeopardy! changed the rules to allow unlimited
championships, I predicted that the annual tournament
would suffer for it. I was right: while there were
several champions of six, seven, and yes 19 games, the
field was filled out with two college winners and
several three and four-game winners, those who would not
have a sniff at the $250,000 in past years were given a
backdoor entry. Out of three finalists, I barely
remembered watching Vik's games, and Michael (the
eventual winner) did not jog my memory at all. Bill
McDonald was the only one I could remember, and thus my
only rooting interest. The increasing of the loser's
prizes was a bit of an oddity too: why have 'minimum'
prizes for the finalists at all if there's no chance for
the players to exceed that amount? To top the $100,000
second place prize, a player would have to roll up two
near perfect games, only to lose to the eventual winner.
What's wrong with $25,000 and $50,000 as runner-up
prizes? I'd fly out to California for that.
I think the time might be for having a
tournament every other year. Stretching out the
qualifying period to two years allows for two college
entrants (what happened to allowing the winning teenager
into the tournament?) and would increase the talent
pool. Have some sort of special week during May (the
show's Silver Anniversary is coming up, I'm sure they'll
do something for that) and the Tournament of Champions
will again become the premier event it once was, rather
than another two weeks of something other than vanilla
Travis Eberle can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to drop a line and
tell him how absolutely geeky he is. Go on, you know you
want to. You don't even have to reply in the form of a