It’s a tale as old as time: A “Jeopardy!” contestant goes on a massive winning streak, generates attention from fans and media, and eventually gets stumped on a clue or doesn’t wager enough money, ultimately falling to a new “Jeopardy!” champion.
And almost every single time that happens, fans begin to speculate: Did the contestant throw the game? Did the player really not know the answer?
It happened two years ago, when James Holzhauer lost after his 32-game winning streak. It happened earlier on this season of “Jeopardy!” when Matt Amodio lost his 39th game. And it happened this week, when Ryan Long, an Uber and Lyft driver from Philadelphia, concluded his run on “Jeopardy!” with 16 wins.
“I saw somebody say that I threw the game,” Long recently told USA Today. “I didn’t throw the game. I didn’t lay down for it, but I wasn’t sad that I lost either. I felt like I was maybe ready to go, but I didn’t lay down. But I knew I wasn’t on my top form that day, when the Daily Double with Dr. King came up.”
When Long landed on that Daily Double during the first round of the game, which aired June 6, he was in the lead with $4,400. He wagered $2,000 on the clue, which fell under the category “non-medical doctors”: “Near the Mass. Ave. T stop on the Orange Line is where this man lived in the 1950s, getting his theology Ph.D. at Boston University.”
Long, who learned about Martin Luther King Jr. growing up and knew he lived in Boston for a time, failed to come up with a response. He told USA Today he knew that was “probably a sign” his time on “Jeopardy!” was coming to a close, also noting that he was a little slower on the buzzer than usual during that game.
The “Jeopardy!” filming schedule can certainly take its toll on players — the show films a week’s worth of episodes in a single day.
“That’s an astonishing amount of work, and the COVID protocols at ‘Jeopardy!’ are strict and regimented. So it’s a real physical and mental effort,” Jonathan Fisher, who won 11 games earlier this season, wrote in a column for Newsweek. “I bet if you ask James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings, they would say that at some point you do get really tired.”
Now, Long — who won nearly $300,000 over 16 games — is focused on resting up, preparing for the upcoming Tournament of Champions in the fall, and figuring out how to use his winnings.
“I’ve been telling people I just want to take my son fishing,” he told USA Today. “That’s pretty much where I’m at. I’ve got to get a bunch of stuff figured out before I can even go kind of crazy. I just made my first ever appointment with an accountant today. I never had a need for an accountant, or a lawyer. Now, I’m looking into getting both, and it’s really trippy.”