Matt Amodio seemed laboratory built for Jeopardy! The 30-year-old tore through opponents like wet paper during his 38-game win streak. His loss on Monday seemed improbable. So much so that there is a growing conspiracy online that says he threw the game on purpose.
Amodio would really like it if people stopped spreading this rumor. In a column for Newsweek, the Yale Ph.D. student said he just had a bad game. And winning at Jeopardy! requires your best effort and a little luck.
“I wasn’t being fed the answers when I was winning, and I didn’t throw the game when I lost. It’s just a competition. I was doing well and then I lost,” he said. “There’s nothing more to it. My buzzer was working fine. The only thing that wasn’t working was my brain at full capacity. The theories don’t upset me, people think all sorts of crazy things. But I do have the power not to acknowledge them.”
The reason people believe he lost on purpose is because of his bad showing in “Final Jeopardy.” Amodio went into the final round in last place for the first time in his historic run. And then he botched what should have seemingly been a no-brainer for someone with a brain that big.
The clue: “Nazi Germany annexed this nation and divided it into regions of the Alps and the Danube: the Allies later divided it into four sectors.”
Amodio answered Poland. The correct response is Austria.
But here’s the thing. Both of Amodio’s competitors answered the final question correctly. Even if he had answered correctly, he still would have lost. He was too far behind.
Amodio: Don’t Take Away from My ‘Jeopardy!’ Competitors
The insidious nature of this conspiracy theory is that it implies the players who beat Matt Amodio didn’t do it fairly. They didn’t beat him. He let them win. Jonathan Fisher, an actor from Orlando, beat the champion and has won three games since.
Amodio said he worried that his loss would overshadow Fisher’s win.
“Of course, I was feeling very sad when I lost. I loved being on the Jeopardy! stage, I loved winning on the Jeopardy! stage, and I didn’t want it to end,” he said. “But my first thought was that I felt bad for Jonathan Fisher. I remembered how amazing the moment felt when I won my first game, and I was worried that his moment of winning was going to become my moment of losing. So, I wanted to congratulate him, tell him he deserved it and push as much of the focus back on to him as I could.”
In the end, Amodio surpassed his wildest expectations for his time on Jeopardy! He walked away with some new friends and $1.5 million. But there is still one thing he still hopes to get.
“I’ve talked with other contestants I met along the way and stayed in touch with them and I’m not keeping count, but I think I’m up to three tweets Ken Jennings has posted about me!” he said. “If that phone call comes, I am answering right away. I would love to hear from him.”