Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Disappointment on Jeopardy!

Before the Final Jeopardy clue that ended the College Championship tonight, there was a commercial for the Teachers Tournament, which begins tomorrow.

Great. Another tournament.

The College Championship took up the first two weeks of the month. I was hoping that the regular games would return. And now I've just found out on the Jeopardy! website that the Teachers Tournament will take up the rest of February.

I don't like the tournaments. Sure, the Teen Tournament is useful if I've been feeling particularly dumb watching the regular episodes preceding it, but the tournament contestants all come from one age group or profession. They've got the same shot as the players during the regular games, but it's the commonalities I don't like, especially in the College Championship where some of the students believe that they're so funny at their respective universities, their undeniable wit will carry over to the real world on Jeopardy!. Those quirks tend to be vastly annoying, and they probably exaggerate them even more because of the prestige of being on Jeopardy!.

I respect how far these college students and teens and teachers have come to make it on Jeopardy!, but I have greater respect for the players who are on the regular games. They come from different states, they have different jobs and different skill sets. It's more interesting to me because you don't know where the champion is going to come from. On Monday, January 23, there was a poker dealer named Kirby Burnett who won $27,600 in his first game. He lost on his third day with $27,600 (The guy who beat him had $28,000 and was the new champion). When he first appeared in the introductions, you wouldn't think he would be the one who would win. Generally, we expect these champions to have a bright look about them, like Ken Jennings and many others who have won weeks at a time. I liked Kirby because he had this slightly grizzled look about him, like he had seen a lot in his lifetime and being a poker dealer, I have no doubt. Here was a guy who had clearly taken a lot of time in his life to read and learn a lot. It was a lot of fun to watch him for those reasons.

I make an exception in my dislike of tournaments for the Tournament of Champions, which collects the highest-scoring players who have played for a great number of days or won their respective tournaments, such as I think it will be with Monica Thieu, a sophomore at the University of North Texas who won the College Championship. But there's the difference. Most of the players for the Tournament of Champions come from the regular games. They still come from different states, and still have different jobs and different skill sets, but the stakes are much higher. They have to work harder because of their opponents. I doubt Monica can be as quirky in that group as she was in the College Championship.

With February gone, I hope March has room for the regular games. I'd like to see more Kirbys for hopefully a long time before they decide to do whichever tournament comes next.