Think of the most fearsome, dominant individual-sport athletes of the past couple of generations. At their best, you had little chance of beating them.
Mike Tyson. Michael Phelps. Tiger Woods. Serena Williams. Jason Belmonte. Usain Bolt. James Holzhauer.
Yes, James Holzhauer.
Holzhauer, the record-breaking “Jeopardy!” doyen, is undeniably the most dynamic, unstoppable force in the show’s modern 35-year history.
(Footnote I: The original daytime version of “Jeopardy!”, hosted by Art Fleming from 1964 to 1975, is known as the show’s “dead-ball era.”)
Holzhauer, 34, a sports bettor from Las Vegas, might not approach Ken Jennings’s legendary 74-match winning streak, but he already has established the show’s seven highest single-day scores, eclipsing the million-dollar mark in 14 outings.
He doesn’t just vanquish his foes; he annihilates them. Like Tyson, Holzhauer often delivers a knockout blow in the first minute. The ex-heavyweight champion once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Holzhauer bolts out of his corner by choosing the highest-priced clues, and before his opponents have even settled in, he is ahead by $4,000 or $5,000.
Would you want to be one of the two challengers being led to your game-show slaughter?
It’s like being a deer caught in headlights. It’s like Christians being fed to the lions. It’s like, uh, uh … oh, I can’t even think of a third animal to reference because I’m not smart enough to be on “Jeopardy!”
(Of the 60 questions on each show, I can usually answer maybe 10 of them. My only chance for success would be if the categories were “Chad Family Dysfunction,” “Chad Marriages,” “Chad Divorces,” “Losing Poker Sessions,” “The Pro Bowlers Tour” and “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”)
What amazes about Holzhauer — other than he has to know all this stuff — is that they tape five “Jeopardy!” shows in a day. He goes up against new competition all afternoon; they bring ‘em in two at a time, fresh-minded and fresh-bodied, and he keeps sending ‘em out on a slab.
I’d take Holzhauer heads-up against Albert Einstein. Einstein’s IQ might be a tad higher, but Holzhauer is a buzzer genius.
Indeed, the buzzer is the key to it all. When Alex Trebek finishes reading the clue, you’ve got to be first to buzz in. Holzhauer’s buzzer management is nonpareil. The other players hold their buzzers chest-high, pressing them again and again, but Holzhauer’s unseen buzzer beats them to the punch.
By the way, let’s give a brief nod to the understated brilliance of Trebek. He has the perfect contestant-side manner for the job. What, you want Steve Harvey or Drew Carey fronting this baby? No. Trebek seems more expedition guide than game-show host.
Holzhauer says he has prepared for years for this; he made it his personal mission. So, you ask, “Who turns over their life to ‘Jeopardy!’?” Hey, it’s not as if he devoted his energies to “Wheel of Fortune.”
(Footnote II: In many TV markets, “Jeopardy!” is followed by “Wheel of Fortune,” which is like going from, say, Tufts University to Trump University.)
While Holzhauer may seem impenetrable, one must wonder: Can he play from behind?
Sure, he’s a great front-runner, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you’re trailing. Can he execute his erudition when down and out? For all we know, you put this brainiac in arrears a few thousand and he won’t even be able to tell you who was buried in Grant’s Tomb.
Plus, he’s not infallible, folks.
Winning his 17th straight match last week, at one point Holzhauer took “Crazy Weather” for $1,000, and here was the clue:
“In 2013, there were 114-degree temps in La Rioja, the wine belt of this South American country.”
Holzhauer buzzed in, “What is Chile?”
Chile? Chile? Are you kidding me?
The correct answer: Argentina.
What a moron.
Ask The Slouch
Q. We can’t help but notice how often questions from Spokane, Wash., readers appear in “Ask the Slouch.” Why is this? (Tom and Carol Bellinger; Spokane, Wash.)
A. I don’t have exact data on this, but my Spokane readers, I believe, are in the top 1 percent nationally for inherent wisdom. Any one of them could challenge James Holzhauer.
Q. Was the New York Giants’ shocking selection of Daniel Jones with the sixth pick in the NFL draft actually a brilliant maneuver by GM Dave Gettleman to ensure they receive the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft? (AJ Carle; Oak Hill, Va.)
A. Jones is a dual-threat quarterback — he has a degree from Duke and he has his parents’ money to fall back on.
Q. Can you think of anything more overhyped than the NFL draft? (Curtis Bare; Charlottesville)
A. Maybe avocado toast.
Q. Is it true that the NFL plans to increase the drama during next year’s prime-time draft by starting with the seventh round? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
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