My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 7

Yogesh on the ‘Jeopardy!’ set, with ‘Jeopardy!’ host Ken Jennings.

Welcome back.

When we left off a fortnight ago, Yogesh was detailing some of the negative feedback he’d received after his 3-game appearance on Jeopardy! in January this year…


SH: This may be a naive question, but did you get much – or any – positive feedback online?

YR: Yes. 

SH: Good! Good, that’s a relief!

YR: From people who know me in particular, yes. But it’s easy to gloss over that. But yes, there were certainly people who I hadn’t been in contact with for 20 years reaching out to me and posting about me on social media.  And I did kind of say this: That just within the past year I was one-fourth of the team that won the Quizzing World Cup for the United States, I was the leading scorer on the team that won Chicago Open Trash, I was the captain of the team that won the Connections Online Quiz League World Championship. These are pretty impressive feats that involve taking on people from across the country and across the world. That really tested the depth of my skill and that allowed me to work with other people to really exercise my creativity, test my memory, and so on. These are super-impressive achievements – but no one cared until I beat two guys.  

SH: On TV.

YR: And as I said that’s hardly an insult to those two guys – they’re obviously qualified to be on Jeopardy!, they’re obviously very good. At any pub quiz, they’d be among the people you’d most want to have on your team, no doubt. But the thing is, it’s not them – it’s the format. It’s a format that doesn’t care what would happen if you took on the entire world – it’s just two people you happen to be randomly matched up with. It could be Troy Meyer. You could put up a huge game and it could be against Troy Meyer, and no one would really recognise that: it would just look like you lost. Or you could put up a bunch of victories against people who weren’t particularly strong competitors and you would be treated like a god. None of that is a reflection on any of the competitors involved. It’s just about the way in which it is framed in the culture.  Somehow, this is the only thing that matters. The hurdles that I faced to be able to perform well on Jeopardy were things like 

– Auditioning 

– Coming across as a high-energy extroverted person while auditioning 

– Coming up with good anecdotes for my audition 

– And then, while on the stage, being able to time my buzzing accurately to those lights. 

These are all genuine skills and I mean no disrespect to people who have them. But they are not quizzing skills and so the fact that I succeeded at them says nothing about my ability as a quizzer. Whereas the fact that I won Chicago Open Trash and COQL Worlds and the Quizzing World Cup says quite a bit. 

SH: Yes it does.

YR: And yet not only am I not getting anything more than small trivial prizes for them, but also I’m not getting any kind of recognition or status.  And you can say that that’s selfish, and maybe to some degree it is. But it’s not about whether I specifically get recognition – I want these competitions to get recognition, because there’s a lot of work that goes into making them really good tests of the best players in the world, and really good ways of both learning new things and watching high-level people compete. 

SH: Yeah, for sure. 

YR: And they’re fun!  As I said, I did have some level of fun playing Jeopardy. But it’s harder to have fun when there’s tens of thousands of dollars at stake and one tiny break in concentration can permanently end it. At the end of the day, Jeopardy is designed to be a cutthroat, zero-sum competition. Three people enter, one leaves, and that’s it.  In all of these other things – in Chicago Open Trash, in COQL – I can work with a team. I can connect my knowledge up with their knowledge and see if something new arises. I can indulge the real depths of my knowledge… not just the mile-wide, inch-deep type stuff that Jeopardy tests. And I can really sink my teeth into the questions and not have to work at the pace that Jeopardy has, where even stuff that is creative is just up there for 10 seconds and that’s it. 

YR: So I went and I found this. This is a postcard that was sent to my home address, which was not, as I said, public information. It’s handwritten, stamped, and everything on it, including my address, was written by hand. Here is what this person had to say, that they felt they needed to get directly in front of my eyes, not just through social media, but through hunting down my address, writing it, putting a stamp on it and putting it in the mail. They wrote:

First, it’s not racist when you get beat. You’re only so-so. Secondly, shut up. A little twerp like you is insignificant in the big picture. Go cry elsewhere.”

To my home address. And this did result in a police report and a report with the studio that makes Jeopardy. 

SH: No way of finding out where it came from?

YR: Obviously, the person did not write their name or return address. The postmark is Orlando, Florida, which is about as far away in the continental US as it is possible to be from me in the Pacific Northwest. 

SH: Well, that’s something at least. They’re not going to show up…

YR: Yes. And obviously you can try and break down the exact stupidity of what they’re saying. I mentioned how they start off, It’s not racist when you get beat”. I already mentioned how the narrative about me has to involve me insisting that I was treated unfairly by the show, even though I never said that. I made many statements about facing racism, all of which I’m willing to stand by. But I never claimed that the fact that I lost on a game show was racist. That’s what they’re putting in my mouth to discredit me. 

You’re only so-so”? Sure, people in Australia go out of their way to send friend requests to people on the other side of the world and connect them with people who run websites, and have interviews, because they’re “so-so”.

And of course, I don’t even know what effort there is to put into refuting someone who tells me that I’m “insignificant in the big picture” after they went to the trouble of hunting down my home address and handwriting a postcard to me and stamping it and putting it in the mail to get it to me. That’s how insignificant I am to them

SH: You’re pretty significant in their picture! You’re significant enough for them to go to all this trouble and spend however much money they spend on the postcard and the stamp. So, yeah, I think they’ve just shot themselves in the foot there. 

YR: Right. And even the last part: “Go cry elsewhere”. I like the implication there that somehow I’m inserting myself into their life in order to cry in front of them, and they need to expel me. Everything I said was on my personal social media and my blog. No one is exposed to it unless they go out of their way to encounter it. I was not putting myself into anyone else’s life and having them accept my emotions. I certainly wasn’t writing anything down on a postcard and sending it to their home mailing address! 

SH: Also, to illustrate the absurdity, they’ve said “Go cry elsewhere”, but they’ve sent it to your home address! So… they’ve contacted you – at your home – to tell you not to cry at home, but to go out of your home and cry somewhere else? Just the brainless absurdity of it… I’ve already spent too much time thinking about it. For God’s sake, what a loser. 

YR: Right. And there’s a certain point where I have to accept that, yes, there may be a number of them, and they may be very loud and they may be very willing to transgress my privacy, but ultimately they’re not rational or sane or reasonable people. 

SH: No, that’s right. There’s an Australian saying, “Never argue with a mug”. A “mug” is a stupid or ill-informed person. And sometimes there are people, who if you start to get into an argument with them, you quickly realise that you just won’t ever win. Or even make the tiniest dent in their wall of stubbornness. Continuing to engage them is just a waste of your time, it’s a waste of oxygen. In those cases, it’s best to just say “Have a nice day, see you later”.  Never argue with a mug. You can get the measure of a person pretty quickly and whether they’re worth your time to debate, or engage with. And this person’s just advertised to you – in fact, they couldn’t have advertised more clearly – how worthless they are. 

YR: Right, but it would be nice if the media were to marginalise those voices the way they’ve clearly demonstrated they deserve to be marginalised. It would be especially nice if the media took the emphasis off of me entirely, and onto the many cogent arguments that I made, that are worth having conversations about. Even if I’m wrong, it’s worth having the conversation, and every time the story is made to be about me, it takes away an opportunity to have that conversation. And with the whole announcement of the Jeopardy Wild Card Tournament, many of these publications – TV Insider, The Sun, these ones – are not reaching out to me for comment. They’re still putting my picture at the top of their articles, even though they haven’t talked to me. And it’s that glowering picture that makes me look one turban away from being an Ayatollah. I’m more than happy to give them my regular Facebook photo, which is very smiling, and I don’t know how interested they’d be in running that, but if they want to, I will happily give them the rights to it. 

Against my better judgement, I skimmed one of those articles. And it says something like, “Jeopardy fans find it controversial because it means inviting back controversial contestants like Yogesh Raut, who blasted the show after he was on it”… It was not my decision to have a wildcard tournament – it’s a Jeopardy producer. So if you’re a person who’s angry at the Jeopardy producers for that, well, who’s the one who’s blasting Jeopardy?

SH: That’s a good point. There is a wild card tournament coming? Have you been invited? 

YR: I have not. I mean, I don’t know if they’ve necessarily locked in who will be invited to the Tournament of Champions. Because the executive producer of Jeopardy took to their official podcast to declare that I was not going to be excluded from the Tournament of Champions because of my comments. I suppose it’s still possible I could get in. 

SH: When does it happen? Do you know? 

YR: No. I don’t know anything, nor have I really sought out that information. 

SH: Other things to worry about. Yeah. 

YR: They have specifically said that I’m not going to be banned from Jeopardy because of my comments, which is good; that really should just be normal. It’s a TV show. There’s no actual threat. The show will never be cancelled because of anything that I say! I represent no threat to the show. 

SH: I think that’s a fair prediction. 


And that’s where we’ll leave our chat for today. We’ll see you back here next Tuesday for the penultimate instalment of our discussion, but until then, a quick reminder that you can find Yogesh’s blog The Wronger Box right HERE, and his podcast Recreational Thinking is right HERE.  

See you next week!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.