Media

Which sports personalities would make good hosts for ‘Jeopardy!’?

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Clockwise from top left: Kevin Garnett, Mina Kimes, Lisa Leslie, Klay Thompson, John McEnroe, Peyton Manning.


When “Jeopardy!” and sports are linked, it’s often because the program’s contestants — folks usually dedicated to more scholarly pursuits — go viral by struggling hilariously with a sports category.

It’s the one time doofuses like me get to feel smart watching the best game show ever created. No, Phillip, Joe Namath didn’t throw 50 touchdown passes in 2007. It was Tom Brady! Who doesn’t know that? And you say you graduated summa cum laude from Harvard? Pshaw. [Smugly reaches into Doritos bag, gets two questions right the rest of the show.]

But there was another notable sports link to the show recently when Aaron Rodgers seemed ready to walk away from his gig as Packers quarterback and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player to become the “Jeopardy!” host.

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Rodgers was prepared and charming during his two-week stint, certainly ranking among the better guest hosts as “Jeopardy!” sought a successor to the beloved Alex Trebek, who died of cancer last November.

The show is back in guest host mode again as it begins filming the new season after Mike Richards — the executive producer who manipulated his way into being the full-time host for the syndicated version of the show — resigned last Friday after superb reporting by The Ringer’s Claire McNear documented a pattern of scummy behavior in his past.

The upcoming lineup of guest hosts hasn’t been revealed yet. But with Rodgers’s good impression in mind, it got us thinking: Which sports personalities would make for a worthy or at least interesting “Jeopardy!” host?

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The website Twinspires.com came up with a decent list, including tennis icon Serena Williams (an outstanding suggestion), basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (would he use the alias “Roger Murdoch”?), and NFL and former Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (interesting, but since he’s never made the playoffs, he’s probably not qualified to host the Tournament of Champions).

Those are excellent suggestions. Here are a few more we’d add, some more serious than others …

John McEnroe: You cannot be serious, you say? Of course I’m serious. The bombastic — that’s another word for “acts like a spoiled brat,” right? — nine-time Grand Slam champion has an easy camera presence, having served as a candid and funny tennis analyst for ESPN since 2009.

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He’s terrific, an inspired choice, as the narrator for the Netflix program “Never Have I Ever.” And he even has game show experience, albeit brief, as host of “The Chair” on ABC for its nine-episode — yes, episode, not season — run in 2002.

Mina Kimes: By any definition, the Yale graduate is one of ESPN’s smartest hires in years, first as a superb investigative reporter before emerging as the kind of television presence who enhances every program she appears on, particularly “NFL Live.” It might be more interesting to see how she would fare as a contestant, though.

Alex Rodriguez: He’s not bad as an occasional pinch hitter on “Shark Tank,” he kind of carries himself with the genial insincerity of a game-show host, and — here’s the key part — it would get him off “Sunday Night Baseball.”

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Henrik Lundqvist: The recently retired Rangers goalie looks the part of TV star; how did he keep his hair as perfect as a London werewolf’s beneath that helmet? And like Trebek, he has an effortlessly classy way about him. In that spirit, we will also accept nominations for Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, though there’s no way we’re allowing him to leave his day job for at least another five years.

Alex Faust: Perhaps it’s a name-recognition thing, but I’m actually surprised the Los Angeles Kings’ play-by-play announcer and Northeastern grad hasn’t been one of the guest hosts; he was cited in 2018 by Trebek, who was a huge hockey fan, as someone he could see hosting the show someday.

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Bill Walton: I can see how this would go. A player would choose the first “answer” from a category about, oh, famous thieves to begin the game. Walton would read the question, veer off script immediately, and turn it into a winding, joyous 27-minute soliloquy on the Grateful Dead’s “Steal Your Face” album, Larry Bird’s steal against the Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, and why bats are vampires that will steal your soul. Then it will be time for Final Jeopardy. I’d watch.

Kevin Garnett: OK, so he might be a little too intense. But it would be fun to watch him stare down players after a wrong answer, or head-butt the podium to begin the game. Pretty sure Trebek head-butted things only once every couple of years.

Klay Thompson: He’s an avid newspaper reader, which makes him permanently cool in our book, and he’s had a lot of time to read the past two years while recovering from a pair of serious injuries. He’s also known to have some quirky interests and opinions, including some deep thoughts on the state of New York City scaffolding. But really, we’re just looking forward to seeing him in the NBA again. The league hasn’t been quite the same without him.

Dan Patrick. The longtime sports radio host and legendary ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor has ties to the show, having hosted “Sports Jeopardy!” during its three-year run from 2014-16. He said in July that he would not be joining the lineup of guest hosts, though the show’s producers did reach out to him.

He’d be good at it, but I’m glad he’s not the choice. His is one of the few national sports shows that is consistently enjoyable.

Peyton Manning: All right, fine, he’s legitimately funny in all those thousands of commercials, and he nailed it during his “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig in 2007. At some point, though, if he did host, would it be too much to ask for a “Devastating Interceptions in the Super Bowl” category?

Kevin Harlan: “Anteaters is … the CORRECT answer, Peggy. You’ve doubled your winnings WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE!” All in on this one. All in.

Lisa Leslie: The Basketball Hall of Famer and current Big 3 coach has television experience — she’s a studio analyst on Orlando Magic broadcasts — and has undeniable camera presence. She was by far the best actor among all the basketball players in “Uncle Drew.” Not a high bar there, but she cleared it with ease.

Rolf Benirshcke: Few seem to remember this, but the inspirational former kicker for the “Air Coryell” San Diego Chargers of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s actually hosted the daytime version of “Wheel of Fortune” in 1989. Let’s just say he was better under pressure as a kicker than he was when those bright TV lights turned on. Maybe he’s ready for his second attempt.

Mike Richards: No, not that white-bread Machiavelli, the one who just lost a gig he never deserved. We’re talking about the former NHL player who scored 133 goals in 11 seasons. True, he has some baggage of his own, but he wouldn’t be a worse choice than his namesake.

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