Jeopardy! is a game show about order and following the rules. Answers in the form of a question. Run categories from top to bottom. Come up with a good story to tell Alex Trebek or he’ll roast you into oblivion. It’s as close to baseball as far as unwritten rules and decorum as you’ll find in the game show world. And short of Wheel of Fortune creating some disasters when people pronounce things wrong, there’s no other game show that is more closely tied to its rules.
So when an answer in Final Jeopardy was deemed incorrect earlier in the week that seemed to go against the game’s storied rules, fans freaked out. And days later, they’re still buzzing about the fate of Betsy, a contestant whose appearance ended with what was ruled an incorrect answer on a Final Jeopardy question about “The Music Biz.”
Here’s the question: In 2019 at a 60th anniversary event in Detroit, this producer announced his retirement saying he had “come full circle.”
Everyone got the question wrong, but Betsy was ruled incorrect after writing down “Barry Gordy,” which is a slightly different spelling than the actual answer, Berry Gordy. Betsy would not have won, as she had just $2,000 and the eventual champion, Cory, was well above that and did not wager any money on the question.
Still, Twitter lit up with people talking about the differences between “Barry” and “Berry” on Tuesday night, with former show contestants and many popular fan accounts taking exception to the ruling and questioning whether the judges had made a mistake in the moment.
I have no words.
That judges’ ruling in Final Jeopardy tonight is completely inconsistent with past practice.
— The Jeopardy! Fan (@_thejeopardyfan) September 16, 2020
This is what I’m referencing: if the judges had been as stringent in my game as they were last night, my opponents’ responses would have been found incorrect and I would be a #Jeopardy champion. pic.twitter.com/BpJLxtx8oa
— Emily Brown (@feministpastor) September 16, 2020
Many fans brought up similar instances in the show’s past where contestants were not penalized for similar misspellings or words largely pronounced the same way.
Curious why this misspelling of Yul Brynner was accepted but Betsy's misspelling of Berry Gordy wasn't. pic.twitter.com/pVQdjjaYZT
— Libby (@libbyjones715) September 16, 2020
Many highlighted the show’s rules, the fifth of which states that Jeopardy! is “not a spelling test” unless a category specifically makes it such.
Barry and Berry should have been considered correct based on the rules on the Jeopardy! Website pic.twitter.com/1yFpiuaGtA
— Meghan Marie (@Megs2100) September 16, 2020
Days later, fans were still talking about it. It’s sparked memes online, and many are still discussing it on Twitter, where the show’s official Twitter account has taken to responding with a form reply that’s a bit revisionist in its ruling: the claim is that the answer Betsy put down was a different name that added “incorrect information to an otherwise correct response.”
Still mad about this ridiculous revisionist “Jeopardy!” decision from Tuesday’s episode pic.twitter.com/JcjMbJg6fn
— lukezim (@lukezim) September 18, 2020
That answer didn’t cut it for most fans, who continued to talk about it on basically every tweet the Jeopardy! account has sent out since. And fans keep coming up with different reasons why Betsy should have been given a different ruling. We even got a Teen Wolf reference in discussing the incorrect answer.
The only argument in favor of ruling AGAINST the answer "Barry Gordy" would be if there were a music producer by that name frequently confused with Berry Gordy.
— Jennifer Morrow (@jenniferemorrow) September 17, 2020
It’s certainly not the news the show wanted to make in its return to air, but it does mean big Jeopardy! fans will be talking about Betsy and Berry Gordy for years to come.