Some called it awkward...but did Jeopardy contestants really avoid the African American History q's?
The TV game show Jeopardy! has been around so long that riffs on its nerdish quality are a Saturday Night Livestaple and jokes about its answer-with-a-question format are commonplace.
So, it didn't take long for online commenters to weigh in on the Feb. 17 episode in which three white college students, including Texas A&M junior Tucker Pope, appeared to avoid the "African-American History" category.
Screen shots of the game board in the final minutes of the Double Jeopardy round showed African-American history still untouched after every other question had been asked, on topics as arcane as "Kiwi fauna."
What that might mean is open to interpretation but some commenters didn't hesitate to call it a lack of familiarity with the category.
"In other words, these kids were more confident in their knowledge of weird animals in New Zealand than black human beings in America," stated the website jezebel.com.
But Pope, a 20-year-old from Lubbock, said he and his two opponents shared a preference for working their way through the board, left to right.
"It happened in the first round, as well," he said. "The last category we came to, we had left it untouched. We felt most comfortable picking one category and going all the way through, rather than jumping around the board."
While some viewers have attributed the sequence of events to racism, Pope said he would "wholeheartedly disagree."
"When you're actually up there, it goes by so fast, you don't have time to think about it," he said. "You just find a category, find a clue and call it out."
At the end of the Double Jeopardy, or second round, the candidates had correctly answered three of the five questions on black history. Pope's two opponents were Whitney Thompson, a junior at the University of Oklahoma, and Laurie Beckoff, a sophomore at the University of Chicago.
Pope, who won the semi-final round, correctly answered two of the five questions. In a Twitter message Wednesday he said, "It's annoying and disconcerting how much people seem to want to read into the way we went through the board."
He was replying to a previous Jeopardy! champion, Alexander Chu, whose Tweet advised Pope, "Be glad you didn't get a Daily Double in African-American History and go 'Five bucks! I dunno!' "
Pope appears in the final round of the quiz show's collegiate competition, to be broadcast Feb. 20 and 21.