Do People Really Dislike Jeopardy Champ Arthur Chu Because He Hits the Buzzer Too Hard?


Let’s talk about something completely trivial for a bit: Arthur Chu, the polarizing Jeopardy! champion currently on a 7-game winning streak. Caitlin Dewey explains why so many people don’t like him:

Since time immemorial — read: September 1984 — “Jeopardy!” has followed a simple pattern: Contestants pick a category; they progress through the category from top to bottom; they earn winnings when they, through their hard-earned and admirable intellect, get the questions right.

Chu has turned that protocol upside down … and shaken the change out of its pockets. For one thing, he sometimes plays to tie, not win, thereby guaranteeing he brings a lesser competitor to challenge him the next day. He skips around the board looking for Daily Doubles, gobbling them up before competitors find them, in the process monopolizing all the high-value questions. Most unforgivably to many, Chu tries to squeeze in the most questions per round by pounding the bejesus out of his buzzer and interrupting Alex Trebek.

It’s the bolded comment I’m curious about. I understand why people could be annoyed by Chu skipping around the board so aggressively. Aside from a sense that he might be taking unfair advantage of his experience vs. a pair of newbies, it makes it a little harder to follow the game at home. I also get why some people might not like the idea of playing to tie. Both of these complaints may be overstated—Chu isn’t the first guy to go searching for Daily Doubles, and playing to tie only affects a few seconds of game play—but I understand them.

That said, what’s up with the complaint that he tries to ring in aggressively? That doesn’t even make sense. Everyone tries to ring in aggressively. Being fast on the buzzer is one of the cornerstones of the game. It might even be more important than knowing lots of answers. (Pretty much everyone who makes it onto the show knows lots of answers.)

So where does this come from? Am I missing something?

POSTSCRIPT: I myself initially found Chu a little annoying, though mostly for his affect more than his actual game play. But I’ve warmed to him just because he’s so damn good. He’s a serious buzzsaw at the game, and it’s hard not to admire that. I noticed last night, though, that the other contestants were starting to mimic his strategy. I wonder if that will be his undoing before long?

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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