It’s almost hard to imagine, but Ken Jennings has been a part of our lives for close to two decades now. First appearing on Jeopardy! in 2004, Jennings took audiences and the game show by storm with then-unparalleled winning streaks. In the years since, he’s gone on to appear on over 70 episodes of “America’s Quiz Show” – leading to his crowning in 2020 as the official GOAT of Jeopardy!.
After beating Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer for the title, Jennings officially retired from the game. This led to his hiring as the show’s goodwill ambassador before the passing of his mentor, Alex Trebek, which would then lead to him becoming the main guest-host for the first season of Jeopardy! in a post-Trebek world.
Yet despite all these remarkable achievements, it is Jennings’ GOAT crowning that holds the brightest place in his heart. Or at least it was upon this November 2020 TV Insider interview.
Speaking to the trade, Jennings would note the title as “one of the greatest highlights” of his life.
“I mean, I’m married with two kids, so I don’t want to say it was better than my wedding day or the birth of my children. But, boy, is it up there,” he stated outright. That seems fair, doesn’t it?
‘Jeopardy’ GOAT Says He ‘Caught a Break’ in Winning Title
Even at the time, though, the whole thing still felt a bit surreal to the Jeopardy! superstar.
“Isn’t that crazy that’s probably going to turn out to be the big TV story of 2020 is a week of Jeopardy in prime time? I guess if there’s any nice thing that happened this year, it might be that,” Jennings says at the time amidst the worst throws of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I was very nervous going in [to the tournament],” he continues, a sentiment he would echo before and during guest-hosting. “I was convinced that I really couldn’t win that against two players of that caliber. I’d never beaten Brad [Rutter]. James [Holzhauer], watching from home, just seemed unstoppable. I thought I was a little past my prime.”
Ever the humble Jeopardy! champ, the game show icon says he would “catch a few breaks and play just well enough to squeak out that win.”
For Jennings, this win and title was the result of “as much luck as skill.”
“I really felt like I had dodged a bullet,” he says at the time. “It was so surreal, I couldn’t believe it. Something that nice happening. But, I got to hand it to those two, Brad or James easily could have won that being on a different set of nights.”
It may have felt like “chance” to Ken Jennings, but Jeopardy! enthusiasts have all the faith in the world in their GOAT. But Ken wasn’t having it.
“There’s a lot of luck in the game of Jeopardy!,” he echoes, “and I just squeaked one out. But, that was just one of the greatest highlights of my life.”