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Celebrity Slam - What is beef?

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Another week, another beef. We sure do love it when famous people get into squabbles with one another, because it makes our jobs here at Celebrity Slam so much easier. We just love really leaning into these celebrity feuds and finding out what’s what. We love to throw around some scorn and derision, you know?

Sometimes, however, we don’t have any interest in scorning or deriding a beef. These are the beefs that are clearly all in good fun, with tongues planted firmly in cheeks. While genuine antipathy is obviously entertaining, there’s something to be said for two people getting in some gentle digs while beefing in a more performative way.

And that’s why this week, we’re going to talk about the goofy non-beef beef between James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings.

That’s right, folks – “Jeopardy!” beef!

For those who are unaware, Holzhauer is the current sensation of the show, having spent the past month or so building the second-highest winning streak and second-highest winnings total in the game’s history with an unconventional and brazen style unlike anything we’ve seen.

Jennings, on the other hand, is sort of the patron saint of “Jeopardy!” His 2004 run of 74 straight wins is the most impressive feat in game show history and one that had never seemed remotely approachable … until now.

(Editor’s Note: This is the spot where I will mention that I myself appeared on “Jeopardy!” last fall, because even though many regular readers almost certainly already know that, I will mention it again and again whenever the opportunity presents itself for the rest of my life, because hey man – I was on “Jeopardy!”)

It all unfolded via Twitter, because that’s how beef works these days. The “Jeopardy!” social media team put together a video intended to celebrate the current phenomenon of Holzhauer’s run. As Holzhauer is a professional gambler by trade, it made sense for there to be a gambling theme – particularly as Holzhauer had just broken into second place with his 21st straight win. That number and Holzhauer’s day job made blackjack an obvious choice. But after Holzhauer’s 21, they went to Jennings, and with a deluge of kings illustrated that the newcomer still had over 50 wins to go.

The “beef” began with Holzhauer tweeting “Basic strategy says you shouldn’t have hit your 20.” Jennings responded with a sassy “I was counting cards and was pretty sure I would get five more kings.”

Things branched out, with Holzhauer responding to a fan’s tweet that it would be boring with him for the next two weeks (the show’s annual Teachers Tournament is currently airing) by saying “Think of it as another fortnight for Ken Jennings to anxiously await his fate.” Jennings responded with a picture of himself chilling on a beach with the caption “Note to self: start worrying in about fifty shows.”

So good.

Look, we’ve done plenty of actor beef and athlete beef and SO MUCH hip-hop beef. But this is hands down the dorkiest beef we’ve ever had the pleasure to share in this space. Of course, we’re not going to scorn or mock this beef, because it is so good and so pure and so transparently contrived. We just wanted to make sure you – our loyal fans – knew about it because this is delightful.

Is there any actual heat here? Not yet – there seems to be a genuine amount of mutual respect here. Jennings has gone on record as being impressed by Holzhauer’s bold betting and buzzer acumen, while Holzhauer has expressed his admiration of the quiz show king on numerous occasions. That being said, that might change if we get closer. One doesn’t reach the heights that these two achieved without having a significant competitive streak. You don’t win at anything that much unless you REALLY like winning. So it’s tough to say what will happen if the record is any real danger, although if we had to guess, it’ll probably be more of the same.

Not that it really matters, because while it seems like Holzhauer has been with us forever, he’s still not even a third of the way to Jennings. He’s got a whole lot of form-of-a-question answers still to give. All we ask is this: regardless of how this plays out, we really need to see these two meet on the field of battle.

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