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Jeopardy! Whiz Has One Unexpected Fan

Ken Jennings is really rooting for James Holzhauer right now
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2019 11:05 AM CDT
In this July 13, 2004, file photo, software developer Ken Jennings from Salt Lake City, Utah, right, poses for a photo with 'Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek on the set of the show in Culver City, Calif.   (AP Photo/Sony Pictures Television, File)
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(Newser) James Holzhauer, who will be starting up his run again on Jeopardy! Monday, is getting increasingly closer to smashing Ken Jennings' all-time cash winnings record on the show of $2.5 million—and Jennings hopes he does it. Writing for the Washington Post with nary a hint of schadenfreude, Jennings explains why he's pulling for Holzhauer, noting that viewers are "seeing history made in front of our eyes, the Jeopardy! equivalent of a basketball player notching 70-point games for an entire season or a baseball player hitting for the cycle in every game." The former champ expresses admiration for Holzhauer's knowledge, strategy—he starts off picking the squares with the highest values first, bucking tradition—and willingness to make huge wagers when it counts.

Jennings also respects how Holzhauer is able to withstand the "overwhelming and stressful" experience not only of playing the game, but also of enduring the backlash and barbs on social media—something Jennings notes he didn't have to deal with, as his winning streak on the show was in 2004. But it's Holzhauer's drive to buck long-standing tradition that most earns Jennings' laudations. "Imagine the kind of moxie it takes to tell yourself, 'Actually, I have a theory. Everyone else has been playing Jeopardy! wrong for decades,'" Jennings writes. He adds, "I'm the only person alive who knows firsthand how difficult it is to do what Holzhauer is doing, and that's why I'm rooting him on." Read the full column here. (Read more Jeopardy stories.)

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