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THE QUEST FOR KEN: Why Jeopardy is blowing it big time - February 5
Jason Block
Brooklyn, NY

Let 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 in one.

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 final—against 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 missing—and 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 reasons—ratings 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 early—they 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


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