Was Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time truly the greatest tournament of trivia masters of all time? The winner has been announced, and it’s actually encouraging. This win also proves one thing: Actually just knowing stuff is more important than playing games. And that’s a great message for our kids.
Spoilers for Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time. Yeah, just in case you want to stream it and find out for yourself, I’m warning you now.
All the rounds of Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time have ended, and the winner is Ken Jennings. The way this happened is that after four nights — and eight traditional 30-minute games of Jeopardy! — Jennings hit the 3-point mark. Basically, each night, the dollar amounts from two 30-minute games were added together. Whoever had the highest got one point, which is why Trebek called this modified format “a two-game total point affair.” (It also means that somebody could have technically lost one of the individual games, but still won the “match” if they made up for it with enough winnings in the other one.)
In the end, though, it wasn’t that hard for Jennings to nearly pull a clean sweep. If this were Wheel of Fortune, we could say there’s an element of luck involved — which is certainly true — but Jennings hit 3 points when James Holzhauer only had 1. Meanwhile, Rutter didn’t have a single point and had not won any individual games by the end of the GOAT tournament. In some ways, despite Rutter’s skill, the overall tournament was really just between Holzhauer and Jennings. Or, to put it another way: between a gambler and an engineer. There’s nothing wrong with being a gambler, of course, but if Jeopardy! is a kind of half-assed yardstick for real intelligence, then, on some level, it makes sense that a slightly more knowledgeable person won.
There’s an old quote from science fiction author Isaac Asimov which goes something like this: “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” This is basically a quote that describes Ken Jennings. He’s a know-it-all and a know-it-all that parents could aspire to be more like. Jennings path to Jeopardy! success doesn’t have a gambling “hack” like James Holzhauer. Jennings is just the guy who knows everything. Not all of us can be this guy, but it’s certainly a more sustainable goal than trying to trick the system.
Although Holzhauer came close to breaking Jennings’s record last year, Holzhauer’s strategy is connected to his gambling background, rather than actual knowledge. And, when Holzhauer was on his big streak last year it seemed like we were all celebrating strategy over knowledge. This isn’t to say Holzhauer doesn’t also know things, just that his strategy is decidedly more numbers-oriented than knowledge-based. After all, he did lose to a librarian.
Being a good person doesn’t mean you have to be smart or obsessed with trivial minutiae. But, because families often watch game shows together, Jeopardy! does, on some level, create a model for how intelligence can turn people into superheroes. Which is why it’s gratifying Jennings is The Greatest of All Time. It’s cool to be a young gambler who likes to go “all in,” but it’s arguably even cooler to just know what the hell you’re talking about. As parents, we might not have all the answers, but as Jennings proves, sometimes it’s just all about knowing the right questions.