Why Terry McElhennon Is Smarter Than You


So Jeopardy! went viral last night because of a response Terry McElhennon gave where he said that Auburn was the Crimson Tide.

I’m seeing this morning that the entire state of Alabama “is offended” this morning. While I haven’t seen these myself, I’ve heard reports that “football-crazed rednecks” are sending threats Terry’s way.

To this, I have three words:

Leave Terry alone!

Seriously. Full stop. You’re not cool.

As any Jeopardy contestant can tell you—and I’ve interviewed quite a few!—the pressure of the studio, with the lights bearing down on you, can be quite intense! And you’d make mistakes you wouldn’t ordinarily otherwise make.

So he made a mistake. As one person on my Facebook said, confusing Alabama and Auburn “doesn’t make you stupid. It makes you human.”

And if you’re still offended? Go register for the contestant test at the end of this month. Then you might have a general idea as to just how smart Terry is (spoiler alert: he’s smarter than you are).

Anyone who’s ever been through the gauntlet of trying to get on Jeopardy knows how tough it is. Two extremely difficult 50-question tests, a mock game and personality interview where really, only the best get through that hoop, and even then, only the best 10-20% or so out of their contestant pool get chosen each season. They say that it’s easier to get accepted into Harvard than it is to get on Jeopardy!, in terms of the number of applicants who eventually make it onto the show.

Just to make it onto the show is a tough process. To actually win a game like Terry did? Only 25% of all contestants who even make it on actually win! Just being a 1-day champion puts him in the 99th percentile.

And that’s why, in spite of one minor error, Terry is still much smarter than you are.

5 Comments on "Why Terry McElhennon Is Smarter Than You"

  1. Lynda Quidley | January 6, 2016 at 1:08 pm |

    Amen! Don’t steal his thunder! He answered a question wrong. Get over it! He went further than we could have….

  2. Ron Barth, Jr. | January 6, 2016 at 5:36 pm |

    No, he’s not. Full stop.

  3. While I agree that the rage was ridiculous, you have to understand that mixing up Auburn & Alabama is a lot like mixing up, in terms of teams, the Yankees & Red Sox or the Cowboys & Redskins, or, in terms of countries, England & Ireland or England & Scotland. I’m an Auburn fan who lives in the state, so the rivalry is a part of my daily life.

    There is a lot of hatred in the rivalry. It’s led to serious crimes ranging from vandalism of places on the National Historic Register to murder. Threats, bullying, and harassment related to the rivalry are nothing new. That’s why Alex cringed & why the news blew up about it. Mixing these two schools up can be dangerous.

    I don’t think he’s unintelligent or that he meant to offend. On the other hand, I won’t say that the people offended aren’t as smart as him. Their threatening behavior was reprehensible & deserves punishment, but they aren’t really dumb. Well, not all of them.

    • Andy Saunders | January 19, 2016 at 12:51 am |

      But still, at the end of the day, it is a clue on a quiz show, and there was no need to get up in Terry’s business about it.

      Jeopardy! contestants make surprising mistakes all the time. Today’s Final Jeopardy, for example.

      Heck, Even Nick Saban screws up. Kicking that long field goal in 2013, not taking a possible missed field goal into account? 😉

      As the post said, making mistakes makes you human.

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