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Unprecedented dominance

2004 July 2
by Skip Sauer

Bob Tollison alerted me to this phenomenon:

How long will it take for Mr. Know-It-All Ken Jennings to become a loser?

That’s what millions of Americans who have been tuning into the quiz show Jeopardy! are waiting to see.

On Thursday night, Jennings’ 22-day total reached $737,760, and he may be the only Jeopardy champ people know by name.

…Fort Myers resident Rob Gillespie, 32, said he hasn’t watched Jeopardy! in years, but he knew of Jennings’ triumphs.

“I was watching (ESPN’s) SportsCenter last night and they did the “Top 10 Plays of the Day” and he was No. 2,” Gillespie said.

On an ESPN Web site poll, more people said Jennings’ streak is a greater achievement than the 82 consecutive saves by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Eric Gagne.

…Only Jennings, the studio audience and fellow contestants know when his streak will end. The Jeopardy! episodes featuring him were taped in February, and Jennings is back home in Utah.

I haven’t watched Jeopardy in years either. The interest in watching “Ken the Merciless” on Jeopardy! has a parallel in sports competition. In the old days of barnstorming in baseball, fans bought tickets in droves to see the Cincinnati Reds. They were unbeatable. But once other teams became competitive, it took structured competition in the form of a league to sustain interest.

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