Deciding to watch Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time is easy. It features three of the best players in the beloved show’s history competing in a multi-night television event hosted by Alex Trebek , who maybe might not be hosting for much longer. What’s not to love? But deciding to appear on the show was, for at least one contestant, a more difficult proposition.
When he was first approached about the event, Ken Jennings, who’s won $3,370,700 on the show, was not interested. Or was he afraid?
“I said ‘no,’ honestly. I said, ‘I don’t know if I want to,'” Jennings said at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. before describing his thought process.
“So, what? I’ve got to spend the whole holiday worrying about ‘Jeopardy? I think I’m too old,” he remembered thinking. “The more I thought about it, honestly, it was Alex [Trebek] that changed my mind.”
“I’ve been listening to him my whole life. Even now, just hearing that voice, it reminds me of being a kid and running home to watch Jeopardy! when I was 10 years old. It reminds me of standing behind that podium and scrambling to come up with an answer. It’s a lot of the cadence of my life, that voice.”
When it came down to it, the chance to compete on Jeopardy! hosted by Trebek—which it won’t be forever—one last time was too good for Jennings to pass up.
“Just the idea that you’ve got a chance to be associated with your favorite show one more time, kind of a capstone of Alex’s career, you don’t want to screw with that,” Jennings said.
Jennings also joked that he kept losing to Brad Rutter and wanted one more chance to best his frenemy on the Jeopardy! stage.
“Every time they invite me for a tournament, I’m excited and I make the finals, and I make second. I’m always just chasing that ring. Maybe one of these times my number will come up.”
On that front, he’s doing well. So far, Jennings has won two of the three nights required to win the competition while James Holzhauer has won one and Rutter has won none.
“Being associated with my favorite show and my favorite host in some small way has just been the greatest honor of my whole life,” Jennings said. “But, it’s also just so much fun,” he added. “Once you’ve got that adrenaline rush to play ‘Jeopardy!’ against the smartest people, you don’t want to turn that down.”