I want to dislike Ken Jennings, English major and Jeopardy! champion, but I can't.
He has this certain something about him. The wit and sarcasm, the quickness with the buzzer, the way he handles the most difficult of questions seemingly without effort, all of it just makes you want to wave an American flag, put ribbons around a tree, and stand on your front porch and chant "U-S-A" as if this were some Olympic event with Cold War implications. At ten wins, he became a person of interest like the guy on Jokers Wild who ruled that summer when I was eleven. (I wonder what happened to him.) At fifteen wins, the media became involved, bloggers took up the cause and referenced David Foster Wallace, office pools were started, and my wife insisted that we TIVO until further notice. At twenty, as he ran out of things to say to Alex, the nation couldn't stop talking about him. We knew everything we could know about the man from his waist size to the fact that he likes Jell-O with his afternoon tea. Salt Lake City made plans to name a street (or a school or a park) after him if he reached 25.
He's a gracious guy, always with a friendly handshake to the two people he's just pummelled, their fifteen minutes of fame now a half-hour of nationally televised and forever in syndication shame. One recent contest, he fell behind early to contestant number three, a young Canadian who seemed to be on his game. But it was just a matter of time. The Canadian didn't know about fish so when he landed on the Daily Double! with a chance to take a commanding lead into Double Jeopardy!, he flinched, cowered at the thought of throwing away his chance at becoming the next Ken Jennings. Worst of all, he showed weakness. Like a shark to blood, Ken devoured the kid, running off entire rows of correct questions, taking the momentum to the Double Jeopardy! round where he nailed both Daily Doubles! and coasted to an easy win.
One thing about Ken: he'll only go so far. Alex dangles the one-day-record carrot in front of his nose, yet despite many chances, he plays it conservatively. Maybe he believes in karma. Or it could be his Mormon upbringing, the fact that by taking that risk, he is possibly committing a sin worse than caffeine consumption--gambling. I'm guessing that he's saving it all up for a great dénouement. He'll look into the camera as the Final Jeopardy! question is revealed and announce, "I'm stepping down, Alex." The crowd will oooh, Alex will make a horrible attempt at saying something funny, but Ken will not be swayed. "This will be my final Final Jeopardy!" And in an unprecedented move, the producers of the show will reveal his wager before his answer. We'll all see that he's bet it all. He could end up with $73,240 dollars for a "one day total."
And then it will be over.
Ken will have his street (or a school or a park) named after him. Alex will grow his moustache back in honor of this great man. We will all realize that there will never be another Ken Jennings.