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Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. The UCLA men's 88 and UConn women's 111 consecutive victories. The Boston Celtics' 10 straight NBA Finals appearances. For the last month, it appeared James Holzhauer's scorched-earth run though the world of "Jeopardy" would join them as legendary, nigh-untouchable streaks.
But then, on Monday, just as he was on the brink of "Jeopardy" immortality, it all came crashing down for Holzhauer. Against a librarian from Chicago named Emma Boettcher, Holzhauer couldn't employ his usual strategy of racking up big dollars early, and on the final question — “The line ‘a great reckoning in a little room’ in ‘As You Like It’ is usually taken to refer to this author’s premature death” — Holzhauer answered the question correctly but was trailing Boettcher. She also answered correctly and won. Holzhauer’s total take of $2,464,216 left him just a few questions' worth of coin behind Ken Jennings' record total of $2,520,700, set in 2004.
(One interesting sidelight: because "Jeopardy" airs at different times around the country, some viewers learned early in the day that Holzhauer was toast, and promptly spoiled the experience on Twitter. We can keep secrets about "Avengers: Endgame" and "Game of Thrones," but this, apparently, was too much. Holzhauer himself added a mic-drop tweet clowning on everyone's favorite bad-luck charm: "Knew I shouldn’t have invited @Drake to the @Jeopardy taping.")
Why was Holzhauer so fascinating? And why the heck did we spend so much time covering him on the Sports page? Simple. None of us is ever going to be able to defend a Steph Curry stepback or complete a pass against a Chicago Bears rush. But all of us can answer in the form of a question. And all of us want to be the one who runs the table and knows all the answers. In the end, that's why we kept an eye on James and his quest. Who wouldn't want a chance to bet their dreams on a Daily Double?
*-The answer was "Who is Christopher Marlowe?", but you knew that.
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