Jeopardy! fans, why hate on James?

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 5/22/19

By the time you read this, we’ll know if James Holzhaur is still the reigning champion of Jeopardy! And although I don’t wish his opponents ill, I do hope he continues his record-busting …

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Jeopardy! fans, why hate on James?

Posted

By the time you read this, we’ll know if James Holzhaur is still the reigning champion of Jeopardy! And although I don’t wish his opponents ill, I do hope he continues his record-busting performances.

On the other hand, some other people just love to hate on James.

Although James is sometimes referred to as a Goliath, he is a mortal human being just like the rest of us. Most contestants don’t come close, true, but that happens in any runaway game. James has had some close ones, victorious by only $18 recently but, through careful wagering, many other Jeopardy! champions have won by as little as $1.

James has earned nearly $1.7 million with his depth and breadth of knowledge on almost every subject. Much has been said about his strategies with high-value clues and Daily Doubles, as well as his ability to ring in first and block his opponents.

Frankly, though, these tactics are available to any contestants willing to employ them. James, on the other hand, also has the remarkable ability to rapidly access the motherlode of information in his brain.

As you might guess, James is a topic of discussion across the media spectrum, in analyses of his strategy, his possible vulnerabilities, and his life as a professional sports gambler. Here is where the conversation turns ugly.

In a New York Times article last week, James outlined his path to victory in the context of his childhood and young adult life. It’s probably not surprising to learn that James is a bona fide genius who was completing math problems at age four, was moved to fifth grade math at age seven, and who skipped the second grade altogether.

Maybe that’s why he finds success as sports gambler, and maybe this profession is what raises peoples’ ire. But I just don’t get that. Why wouldn’t a math whiz use his exceptional abilities at analysis, statistics and scores to make his living?

Commenters on the Times article have called him “robotic,” “arrogant,” “forced.” (James admits he is naturally a shy guy.) Others have jeered about his career choice: “After he’s gone, lets follow up and see if he blew all his winnings gambling.” Some believe his prowess has bankrupted Jeopardy! but the show’s producers are pretty pleased with increased ratings and ad revenue.

Still others insist that the rest of the world is entitle somehow to James’ work – his own extensive learning, his competitive personality and his strategic maneuvering – saying: “So, this man, with his brilliant mind, is doing what to make the world a better place? Is his goal anything other than selfish?”

Say what? How could anyone, much less a stranger, possibly have the right to tell James how he “should” spend his money?

Along with his wife, James supports his family. He donates to multiple children’s charities in his community and, according to his hometown newspaper, James still takes out the trash.

One commenter had a perfect tongue-in-cheek retort to someone else who said watching Jeopardy! is now boring: “Yeah, why watch professional sports either when a great athlete is playing? Boring.”

James, if you’re listening, you don’t bore me. You thrill me with your talent, and, as always, may the best contestant win.

Andrea Doray is a writer who tapes Jeopardy! so she can watch any episodes she misses. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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