THE QUEST FOR KEN: Why
Jeopardy is blowing it big time - February 5
me first start this column off with a huge disclaimer. I
am a huge Ken Jennings fan. Some people have to come to
think I would love to be Ken Jennings's love slave.
Sorry, that's not true. But my fandom is out of respect.
I respect what he pulled off from June toNovember of
2004. I think that the streak that he rolled off (74
games, over $2.5 million dollars) was, and is, stuff of
legend. To me, he is the greatest of all time. He is
Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods all rolled up
That being said, I think that what Jeopardy is doing
with "The Quest for Ken" is a wasted opportunity. To
wit, starting this month, Jeopardy is bringing back over
150 of the best five-time and tournament winners to
battle it out to see who will battle in a three day
finalagainst Ken himself. The winner gets $2,000,000,
the second place winner gets $500,000, and the third
place winner gets $250,000.
Now on the surface that looks perfect. To see people
like Chuck Forrest, Robin Carroll, Eddie Timanus, Frank
Spankenberg, Bob Devini, Brad Rutter and others fight it
out in a steel cage buzzer battle to the death is a
ratings bonanza. But there is one thing missingand that
is Ken himself.
Ken does not fight until the end. He is guaranteed a
third place finish and $250,000. To me, that smacks of
an appearance fee and cowardice. What I would like to
see is Ken thrown in the mix and see how he would fight
against the best of the best.
Ken and I come from a similar background. We are both
quiz bowl players. Ken still writes and consults for
NAQT, a quiz bowl organization. I still occasionally
read and play in TRASH (Testing Recall about Strange
Happenings) tournaments. We are both incredibly
competitive. And that is why I don't understand it from
a competitive standpoint.
I understand it from a business standpoint. Executive
producer Harry Friedman and Ken are doing this for two
reasonsratings and money. But what this smacks of is
fear. They are afraid that if Ken loses
the ratings will
plummet. The ratings have returned to their strong
pre-Ken levels, but if Ken got bounced out earlythey
are afraid no one would watch.
I am definitely one of the people who would watch, Ken
or not. The tournament is a concept that is almost
foolproof in its execution. But by leaving Ken out until
the final three days is nothing more than a ratings and
money ploy. It leaves the pure competitor in me with a
bitter taste in my mouth.
Answer: Everybody in this tournament field.
Question: Who is Ken Jennings afraid of?
Jason Block can be reached at email@example.com.