Former Cal star Aaron Rodgers’ concluded his two-week stint as the guest host of Jeopardy! with a comment Golden Bears fans should love: a dig at Stanford.
Friday’s correct Final Jeopardy response was “Who is Leland Stanford?” All three contests failed to get it, and though the clue had nothing to do with sports, Rodgers identified Stanford's namesake as “the school in the Bay Area that gets beat by Cal all the time.”
But aside from a couple of “Go Bears!” uttered by Rodgers during the first week and the unforgettable moment when the returning champion playfully mocked the Packers’ decision in the NFC championship game, Rodgers’ run was primarily about directing the classic game show that began in 1964.
Was he good enough to deserve serious consideration as the permanent Jeopardy! host, a position Rodgers publicly covets?
From our vantage point, Rodgers was efficient and understated, as the host should be, only occasionally providing a wry comment, the way Alex Trebek did. His good looks and impish grin play well on camera, and the mere fact that the reigning NFL MVP was hosting Jeopardy! was interesting enough for sports websites to devote myriad stories about his participation in the show.
We are anxiously awaiting the Nielsen ratings for Rodgers’ time on the show, wondering whether the presence of the Packers quarterback lifted the show out of a ratings slump that has dropped Jeopardy! behind Family Feud for the top spot among syndicated game shows for the first time in ages.
The kind of publicity sports sites are providing has to weigh in Rodgers’ favor.
Vinnie Iyer’s column in The Sporting News website about Rodgers’ Jeopardy! experience included these excerpts:
There's no question Rodgers' intelligence and personable nature have been major assets during his successful two-week run as guest host on "Jeopardy!." Rodgers once excelled as a celebrity competitor on the show and the Packers MVP quarterback would have made the late great Alex Trebek even more proud of how he did in his new role.
Would Rodgers rock full-time hosting "Jeopardy!"? Of course he would, but he's one of those transcendent athletes who can do pretty much everything and anything he wants once his playing days are over, whether he's in Green Bay, L.A. or back in Northern California.
But would the initial intrigue of a football star being the host of an iconic game show wear off over time?
Afterall Jeopardy! at its core is a show about trivia nerds directed at would-be trivia nerds.
If we switch from the sports world to the other fields, Rodgers may not be as acceptable.
In a column in the TVnewscheck site titled “Aaron Rodgers as Permanent Jeopardy Host? Dear God, No,” Alex Backman described his distaste for an athlete intruding on a game of brains this way:
The jocks are shoving the smart kids out of the way once again.
In the celebrity-gossip arena, as reflected by Gossip Cop, Rodgers’ performance was pretty good, but not the best.
Here’s how Gossip Cop ranked the five guest hosts so far.
1. Michael Richards
2. Ken Jennings
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Katie Couric
5. Dr. Oz.
First of all, ranking the Jeopardy! executive producer No. 1 removes considerable credibility from these rankings since Richards was terrible.
Anyway, here is what Gossip Cop said about Rodgers.
Green Bay Packers quarterback (and Shailene Woodley's future husband) Aaron Rodgers was an unexpected hit as guest host. With his soft-spoken and pleasant demeanor, the athlete surprisingly resembled Trebek in his delivery. He showed that he’s just as adept on a game show as he is on the gridiron.
Does Rodgers have the charisma of a permanent game show host? Probably not. But even Chicago Bears fans (the Packers’ rivals) can admit that the 10-episode run was head-and-shoulders above Oz’s time on the show.
“[He] came in so prepared it was unbelievable,” executive producer Richards told The Ringer, “He approached this like he was breaking down game footage. He watched a ton of episodes and he came in with questions like, ‘Now if this happens, how do I deal with it?’ And I was like, ‘Well, that doesn’t really happen.’ And he said, ‘I saw one! I want to know because I want to be prepared.’ He came in prepared like an MVP quarterback would for a huge game.”
But the tough competition has yet to arrive. CNN journalist Anderson Cooper is the next guest host, and he will be followed by 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker, Today show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, The Big Bang Theory actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, CNN chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Buzzy Cohen, a former Jeopardy! champion scheduled to host this year's Tournament of Champions.
Those are some heavy-hitters who will apply as much pressure on Rodgers as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And there are likely to be others.
A lot of Jeopardy! viewers know more about those people than they do about the Green Bay Packers’ storied history, as Rodgers found out when the contestants whiffed -- much to Rodgers’ dismay -- on a sports question about the Packers’ dynasty of the 1960s.
So while Packer fans try to stay informed on Rodgers' troubling contract situation, Jeopardy! fans are wondering whether Rodgers can stand up to the challenges of a guy named Buzzy, a sitcom star and several TV news personalities.
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53
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