EP Michael Davies Discusses Jeopardy! as a Sport, Introduces Daily Box Scores
“Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.” This is a quote attributed to the political commentator and journalist George F. Will (a correct response on Jeopardy! himself in 2007 when he played the rear end of a POLITICAL, PICTORIAL BEFORE AND AFTER clue with England’s Holy Patron St. George). As a rabid sports fan, I couldn’t agree more with his observation. But can you think of more vivid examples of excellence than the dominating performances of Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio on Jeopardy! this season? Maybe, in some significant ways, Jeopardy! also has many of the qualities of a major league sport. It certainly out rates almost everything else on television outside the NFL.
While I’m not sure Amy or Matt would describe themselves as athletes or what they do as athletic, I’m sure any top athlete or coach would recognize their focus, their sense of calm under pressure, their endurance, their competitiveness, and their mindset.
They are champions. They are next level. And their stats bear this out.
Aha! Stats! My obsession since I joined the show a little more than 4 months ago. Last week we started publishing some comparative stats of our top 4 champions – Amy, Matt, James Holzhauer, and Ken Jennings – and the response has been fantastic. Today we are continuing our foray into Jeopardata with the first release of our daily box score.
Everyone at Jeopardy! owes a massive debt of thanks to some notable members of our community who have done extraordinary work compiling, developing, and publishing all sorts of stats about our show. My team and I read and appreciate so much of this work on your websites, your Twitter feeds, and on the Jeopardy! subreddit. Jeopardy!, we feel, has a responsibility to add to this body of outstanding work and perhaps fuel even more. We have decided that the best way we can do that is by publishing an official daily box score every night.
You will see from the box score posted below for today’s episode, Amy’s 31st win, that it is a dense, stats-filled spreadsheet. It will not be for everyone, just like a MLB box score isn’t for everyone. But for many of our fans, it contains some fascinating information. For the first time ever, we are making public the “lock-in” or “buzzer” data that we collect in every episode but have never published before. Now you’ll be able to see, for example, that in today’s game Amy attempted to buzz in 46 times in the Single and Double Jeopardy! rounds. She was successful 32 times and gave the correct response 30 times (right around her elite daily average). But you’ll also see that her opponents, Emma and Ally, made 57 attempts to buzz in between them in Single and Double Jeopardy!, but were only successful a combined 19 times. And hence, the game became a runaway.
So now for the first time, you will actually get proof of what, anecdotally, non-winning Jeopardy! contestants have shared for years: they couldn’t get in on the buzzer! It is such a vital element of the game, and our champions dominate in that aspect. (If you’re interested in a little more detail about the buzzer, here’s a link to a fantastic article from a few years back about how it works.) From what I have observed, our returning champions buzz in first partly because of experience and natural speed, but also because they have figured out the correct response quickest, or in Amy’s words in her brilliant essay for Defector: “You have to untangle the question before you can even begin to find the answer.”
Another massive aspect of the game is Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! wagering, and we include that data in our box score. What we do not include is what is known in Jeopardy! circles as the “Coryat Score.”
“What the heck is that?” I hear the few of you who have made it this far screaming into your phones or laptops. The Coryat Score is, simply put, a way of looking at contestants’ scores without considering the wagering on Daily Double clues. We believe it was first suggested by a former contestant, Karl Coryat, as a pure metric to compare performances, since not every contestant has the opportunity to wager on the Daily Doubles or to control when they come up.
It is important here that I make clear that Jeopardy! fully and completely recognizes and acknowledges the Coryat Score. (Yes, this will actually mean something to a few, extremely passionate members of our community.) We understand how useful it is for potential contestants to measure themselves against our contestants or champions or even for our champions to measure themselves against each other.
It is yet another brilliant data insight developed by the Jeopardy! community and we fully support the fact that it is tracked and published. But at the same time, it is not an official metric used in our game, the game that Merv Griffin created, and doesn’t feel quite appropriate to us to publish in our own official box score.
Anyway, we hope that, for some of you, the daily box score will provide additional insight into the game you love. We are certainly looking forward to hearing your feedback. Like with everything else on the show, our aim and desire is to constantly evolve, and we can only do that by listening to our audience and our community. I would like to thank Ken Jennings who spent an entire weekend developing a first draft of this box score. And frankly, no one knows more about Jeopardy! stats than Ken, our GOAT.
So what else have we been working on at Jeopardy!? Well perhaps the biggest thing, outside of the editing of our first National College Championship in prime time for ABC (starting February 8!), is figuring out when our eagerly anticipated Tournament of Champions (or “ToC”) is going to take place. Over the 37 previous seasons of Jeopardy!, the ToC has taken place in six different months and, in eight seasons, not at all! Well, we are delighted to announce that going forward, Jeopardy!, the major league sport that it is, is going to have a structured season and postseason every year: returning to its rightful and traditional place in the calendar in November, this year’s ToC will feature Amy and Matt, our Professor’s Tournament champion Sam, Jonathan, Tyler, Andrew, Courtney, and many more of your favorite players and champions since the last ToC. We are going to be working with our partners at CBS Media Ventures, our affiliated stations all across the country, and all of our brand partners to bring an unprecedented amount of national and local attention to what should be an unprecedented event. This is our Super Bowl! And we need to treat it as such.
And while we’re talking about superstars, let me conclude by paying respect, on behalf of all of us, to this season’s incomparable hosts, Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings. In their own ways, they have much in common with superstar athletes too. They are certainly both vivid examples of excellence who, day after day, make what is so hard look so effortless.
Now back to the game,