If you know anything at all about “mature” folks, you’re fully aware that there are two TV shows at the top of our watch list: “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

These programs help keep our minds sharp, relatively speaking, so that our brains don’t turn to mush all at once. Besides, it’s fun to solve a “Wheel” word puzzle with just a few letters in place and it’s satisfying to get a “Jeopardy!” question right when it involves the Battle of Hastings or “Hamlet.”

Some of us have been watching these shows since Vanna had to physically turn letters and since Art Fleming was host of “Jeopardy!,” and the correct questions were worth $10-$50 each.

But these days, things are a bit different and “Jeopardy!” is giving away tons of money to a brilliant player named James.

James makes his living as a professional sports gambler in Las Vegas. This begs many questions. How does one choose to become a professional sports gambler and what training is involved? Does a professional gambler spend eight hours a day at “work” in casinos or does he simply play until he’s reached his daily quota, stop off at the bank to make a deposit and head home for the day?

I wonder at what age he decided to go into gambling as a profession and I would love to know what his parents thought of his decision.

But, that’s not the point. He’s been a “Jeopardy!” contestant champion for 13 shows (at the time this is written) and on Monday night, he won $90,812. That’s normally what a good player would garner in a string of five wins. Monday’s prize brought his total winnings to more than $942,000. That’s dangerously close to a million. He’s been averaging $71,000 a night. On one particularly fruitful night, he won more than $130,000.

James is one of those “upside down” players who start at the bottom of the category row. He gets most of the daily doubles and frequently goes “all in” with his bets.

I feel sorry for his opponents, but I root for James. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of what I consider obscure information contained inside this young man’s mind.

Before James, I could miss “Jeopardy!” now and then for such important alternatives as checking email, washing dishes or taking a short nap. But now, it’s become “must see” TV and I look forward each evening to seeing how big a bite he’ll take out of the show’s prize budget.

In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if James will take a break from his gambling profession once his “Jeopardy!” run has ended or if this will just fuel the fire.

No matter, really. His performance has brought a little bit of excitement into the cerebral world of the game show choice for us Baby Boomers. Go, James!


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