Yesterday marked the return of Ken Jennings to Jeopardy!. He’s won more than $1.3 million through 39 games so far.
Watching someone do so well on Jeopardy! is an eerie thing. A lot of people who watch the show (and, I suspect, a lot of people who don’t watch the show) confuse doing well on the program with actual intelligence. (In fact, a lot of people confuse simply appearing on the show with actual intelligence. I learned this first-hand a couple of years ago, when I made it onto the show but lost the only game that I played. Curse that Travis Brazil!) I have no reason to think that Ken Jennings isn’t a smart guy, but he wins because he holds an impressive inventory of trivia in his memory, he can recall it quickly, he’s phenomenal on the buzzer, and — most important, I think — he’s become a sort of geek Dale Earnhardt. He’s the Intimidator, and he knows it.
Yet while he’s celebrated for some of the wrong things, and while he might be winning for some of the wrong reasons, you have to admire the guy. He knocks Alex Trebek back on his heels a little bit, and that’s a good thing.