Issues & Insights
James Holzhauer
Source: Jeopardy Productions, Inc

Not Everyone Gets A Trophy on Jeopardy! Exactly Why It’s Great

By A.J. Rice

Jeopardy! contestant James Holzhauer is on an incredible, record-shattering and probably once-in-a-lifetime run. He has won 18 straight shows, amassing a fortune and millions of fans along the way.

But because he is achieving something special, and he isn’t shy about his accomplishment, he has drawn the ire of the everyone-gets-a-trophy crowd. Variety published a hit piece that accuses him of being bad for the show – by being too good at it. Bad for the show because he is winning. 

“But this run represents a bit of a producing challenge. If every episode is a blowout in which two of three contestants are basically never competitive, does that not grow uninteresting over time?”

Ask six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady about that. Or Tiger Woods when he was invincible on the PGA tour. Or the 2003-04 Arsenal team called “the Invincibles” for being the only English soccer club in history to go an entire season (and a half!) without losing a single game. Or the 1972 Miami Dolphins. 

The Variety hatchet job isn’t the only one – the Washington Post has published one too. Online retail champion Jeff Bezos’ paper thinks Holzhauer “broke the game.” It’s as if the left just can’t stand anyone who stands out from the collective crowd, kind of like how Donald Trump broke the 2016 GOP primary by detonating the conventional wisdom of the establishment.   

Amazing achievement does not get uninteresting, at least not to those who appreciate it for what it is. It is amazing. We’re lucky we get to see these one-off success stories. They are inspirational. And does the achiever really care what the critic thinks? Does anyone even remember the critics’ cries when the achiever is achieving? We remember Neil Armstrong for being the first man on the Moon. Do we remember what anyone who opposed going to the Moon had to say about it? The ‘72 Dolphins still get together for a drink whenever the last undefeated NFL team finally loses a game.

Tom Brady is the GOAT – Greatest of All Time – as an NFL quarterback. His equal has not played the game. Michael Jordan, most NBA fans would argue, was the GOAT of pro basketball. Hank Aaron was the GOAT power slugger in baseball history pre-steroids.

Steve Jobs was arguably the GOAT consumer product designer. His iPhone changed the whole world, putting the power of the internet and social media into the palm of our hands. Whether that’s a good thing or not is open to debate, but there is no debating the impact of Jobs’ design concept, his product’s efficiency, or his sales job when taking his unique brand to market. He was so much the GOAT that Apple had to bring him back to get itself back on track. He taught millions to “Think different” about their aesthetic approach to the products they buy. Apple is practically a cult because of Steve Jobs, and I am a member. 

We remember GOATs. 

GOATs change the world, be they named Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali. 

James Holzhauer is currently on track to become the Jeopardy! GOAT, though he has a long way to go to match Ken Jennings’ historic 74-win run. No one else has dominated his opponents as much as Holzhauer has and his correct answer percentage is superior to Jennings’. Holzhauer doesn’t just win — he crushes his enemies. He won over $131,000 in one day — a record. He uses the game’s rules, its Daily Doubles and its idiosyncrasies, to win. Which is exactly what he is there to do. 

This success will eventually end. He’ll have an off day or meet a superior competitor and get beat. Or he’ll decide to get on with his life and go out a winner. His run on Jeopardy! will eventually close.

When it does, the Jeopardy! audience will be back to the same-old same-old of competitors who eke past one another, last a day or two and are forgotten. There will be no tightrope feeling of watching a master at work and wondering if today is finally the day he loses. Or, he breaks yet another record. From Bobby Fischer to Derek Jeter watching a champion work can be a magical experience. 

The left doesn’t see it that way. They slam Holzhauer for his gestures and his tactics. They go sourpuss on good things:

A steady march that goes the same way each episode evokes not the heady cut-and-thrust of a game well played but the dreary awareness that a game show, just like all other aspects of life in the late 2010s, can be optimized.

What’s wrong with optimization? And more important than that, what’s wrong with achievement? Achievement is hard. It takes work. Optimization takes careful study and application. James Holzhauer has earned his success and should be lauded. 

Achievement creates winners and losers. Achievers like Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, James Holzhauer – and Donald Trump – will always have their envious haters. These jealous whiners don’t even deserve our pity. They just deserve to be ignored, while we celebrate making things great. 

A.J. Rice is CEO of Publius PR, a premiere millennial-owned communications firm in Washington D.C. Rice is a brand manager, star-whisperer and auteur media influencer, who has produced or promoted Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Monica Crowley, Charles Krauthammer, Steve Hilton, Victor Davis Hanson, Anthony Scaramucci, David Bossie, and many others. Find out more at  

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