EMPIRICALLY OR MERELY in the pop cultural mind, who's ever retired gracefully undefeated?
Susan B. Anthony?
Not Ali. Not Jordan. Not Ruth.
Not the Beatles. Not Obama. (He lost a Congressional primary to Bobby Rush in 2000.)
Certainly not "Game of Thrones."
So, why not James Holzhauer?
Would the Naperville-bred "Jeopardy!" phenom be giving his expanding brand a tremendous jolt of Garboesque mystique -- and future bankability -- by simply ending one episode of the big "J!" with a scribbled "Final Jeopardy!" response of:
"Thank you Alex and America. … Who is gone for now?"
"Me … wee!"
Out of the box?
Potentially incredibly self-serving?
Ding, ding, ring-a-ding.
Consider: Holzhauer now personifies new-mill unorthodoxy. He's incredibly smart, potentially charismatic and -- if he can ever turn down the wattage on that occasionally annoying Bucky Ipana grin -- the possible owner of an enduring likability.
Who is the only long-lasting American celebrity who reached and stayed with the stars by winning on a quiz show?
Answer: Dr. Joyce Brothers (kids, Wikipedia).
She was the telegenic New York psychologist who became the first woman to win the top prize on "The $64,000 Question" by answering a series of questions about boxing.
Brothers then went on to become Dr. Phil long before Dr. Phil. She supplemented her TV work with books, a long association with Good Housekeeping magazine and a newspaper advice column that ran for 53 years before her passing in 2013.
Sure, "Jeopardy!" has had a big champion before in million-time winner Ken Jennings.
But he was so Gen-Huh?, so Utah academic. He made Watson, the IBM computer, look like Sebastian Maniscalco.
If Holzhauer is the Neil Armstrong of a new-think intellectual moon, Jennings was Laika, the Russian space dog.
Given the delay of the "Jeopardy!" taping-to-airing sequence -- a lag of almost three months -- maybe Holzhauer has already lost.
Or, maybe he's going into the show's summer production break this month still the one.
There is no question that he is a welcome star for the times, a confident, creative, self-reliant beacon of the new and the now amid an America far too wearied by the relentlessness of polarizing politics and institutional doubt.
So, James, if the option is still there, continue the unorthodoxy and add some mystique:
Take the money and run.
With leave for a graceful return and options forward as yet not buzzed in on.
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