Comeback for the ages!
That could be the fitting description for this Jeopardy! season. For a season that started disastrously with hosting announcement fiasco what has unfolded has been amazing. In a season which has already featured astonishing 38-win streak by Matt Amodio, 40-game win streak by Amy Schneider and almost forgotten 11-game game winning streak by Jonathan Fisher the newest sensation is Mattea Roach The young lady has been lighting up the scoring board and racking up big wins. As of Friday, 4/29, Roach has a 19-game winning streak on. Like other big winners of the show the 23-year old native of Canada has been absolutely dominating and it will be interesting to see how many more games she wins. She has an interesting personality too. Waving hands while speaking, thinking loud at times and showing emotion she has multiple tattoos and piercings too. What I like most is the look of total delight and disbelief in her smile after every win. Looks like a person who has far exceeded her own expectation and having a lot of fun while winning big. Would a genial Canadian young lady on a trivia show cause controversy? Alas. yes.
Some of the hardcore Jeopardy! fans can be a picky and prickly bunch with strong opinions about how a champion should play (eg. starting with low value clue in a category, finishing the category and then repeating the same in other categories; gestures and display of emotions etc.). From the games I have seen Mattea play what I see is youthful exuberance and genuine display of emotions when getting response right or wrong. Also a bit of impatience that comes with youth. In the most recently aired show one clue was “Two States in the US on the east and west coasts have their most populous cities with the same name”. The city name is Portland and the States are Maine and Oregon. In a hurry Mattea responded “What are Maine and Portland?” and then reacted as if she wanted to kick herself for making a silly error even while knowing the correct response. To me that seems like a natural reaction. In short she is somewhat quirky and kinda cute in the way she plays the game and reacts.
Ken Jennings has been quite good too as guest host of the show. When he first started as a guest host last season he was filling in big shoes of a legend, appeared stiff and stilted and probably was trying too hard to be like Alex Trebek. In recent times he has been doing it his way, using some humor, supporting and encouraging the contestants and keeping the game moving smoothly. I have always believed seriousness and levity can co-exist if they are not mixed inappropriately. Yeah, there is a risk that sometimes the humor may not land well and fall flat or may be misunderstood. All is good if the intentions are noble or benign though. It’s better to be true to oneself and fail once in a while if the lessons learned are used to adapt at getting better.
There is also some concern about these long win streaks. Returning champions have the advantage of prior experience with the buzzer (signaling device) and familiarity with the cadence of the person hosting the game. I have thought of a simple solution for leveling the odds but that’s material for a different piece. Now it’s time in the sun for a young champion