If you’ve been watching the Jeopardy! Greatest Of All Time tournament this week, you may have noticed that Brad Rutter, who has won more money than any other contestant in Jeopardy! history, and who has reliably knocked the stuffing out of fellow competitor Ken Jennings in tournament situations, has completely eaten shit during the first two nights of competition. His performance in last night’s second game was so abysmal that he ended the game in the negative and was therefore unable to participate in Final Jeopardy! – in a normal episode, a contestant missing Final Jeopardy! is merely a huge bummer. In a tournament ostensibly created to determine the greatest player in the show’s history, a contestant missing Final Jeopardy! is a blight on all participants. You could argue that Rutter should be disqualified from the tournament for playing so badly, and I would have real trouble putting together a convincing counterargument.
Rutter’s poor showings are easily described. He bets all his points on all of the Daily Doubles he finds, then gives the wrong answer every single time. He appears to be a step behind both Jennings and James Holzhauer on the buzzer, and therefore gets relatively few cracks at answering. When he does manage to buzz in, he gives wrong answers at a rate that sinks him even further. By the time Final Jeopardy! rolls around, he’s so far behind he has no chance of catching up, regardless of how much he bids. And that, of course, assumes he is able to participate in Final Jeopardy! in the first place.
While they may be easily described, Rutter’s poor showings are not easily explained. I have no idea why a player of Rutter’s caliber should be struggling to this degree, short of “He forgot to study” or “He’s playing on Xanax” or “He simply doesn’t care all that much”. Whatever the reason (or combination of reasons) may be, I am disheartened to see Rutter do such an awful job. Brad Rutter is my dude and I wanted him to win this one. Ever since he won the Million Dollar Masters Tournament when I was of an impressionable age, I have regarded Brad Rutter as a trivia deity. Ken Jennings seems like a decent dude, but I got sick of him by his 20th win in 2004, and James Holzhauer is a dick, albeit a skilled one. I still have a sliver of hope Brad Rutter can pull it together, but I no longer believe the tournament is his for the taking.