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It’s been three weeks and Philadelphian Ryan Long is still working on his “Jeopardy!” winning streak.
Long, a car-sharing driver, currently lives in Mount Airy. To date, he has racked up $279,400 and 15 wins to secure his spot on the show’s “Leaderboard of Legends” with the ninth most consecutive wins in the program’s history.
Long grew up in West Philly and Bensalem and graduated from George Washington High School in Northeast Philly. The 39-year-old previously worked for SEPTA but quit his job to drive for Uber and Lyft after a tough battle with COVID last year, which left him unable to meet the physical demands of his old job.
The Jeopardy phenomenon grew up watching the show and signed up as a contestant over a year ago.
This season of the 58-year-old game show had an atypical number of long winning streaks, including engineering manager Amy Schneider (40 wins), Yale PhD student Matt Amodio (38 wins), LSAT tutor Mattea Roach (23 wins), and actor Jonathan Fisher (11 wins).
Long is the latest in this intelligent lineup. From some nail-biting comebacks to his brief (and poorly documented) meeting with a president, here are some highlights of his run on the show.
His Arnold Schwarzenegger impression
Perhaps the most unique part of any episode of Jeopardy is the post-commercial contestant’s anecdote. During Long’s first, host Mayim Bialik asked him to show off one of his talents: impressions.
Long said he can do “a few acceptable ones,” including Terminator star turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The resulting impression made a great social media joke when Long took his first win. “Like Arnold, Ryan is coming back,” Jeopardy wrote on his Facebook page.
When he shot out of last place thanks to some TV link knowledge
Long is a great all-round player, but he seems to have a special talent for television, film and sports categories.
Viewers’ first glimpse of his pop culture knowledge came during its premiere, when he continued to beat opponents before the buzzer in a Double Jeopardy category called “TV: Who Played ‘Em?” Yes, Long got every lead right.
When he answered the first clue, he was in third place. But by the time he got through the entire category, he was just $400 short of the lead, putting him in a competitive position for the rest of the game.
His emotional first win
Even with its impressive run in Double Jeopardy, the first episode of Long far from a runaway† When he entered Final Jeopardy, he was in second place with $12,000. Returning champion Daniel Nguyen of San Jose had $17,600 and Marie Shapiro of San Francisco had $6,700.
Long’s $6,800 bet and a correct answer in the “State Names” category won him the game. When he won, he folded his hands and raised them in front of his face, then looked around the podium and nodded as he digested his win.
His anecdote about meeting Obama at the Mayfair Dinner
On the sixth episode of his streak, Long called back to a very special meeting at Mayfair Diner in Northeast Philly (whom he called out on the air by name, joking that he might get a free sandwich).
Long said he waited two hours at the restaurant in October 2008 to see former President Barack Obama on the campaign trail. He tried to snap a picture of the two of them together with his flip phone during a quick handshake.
But the phone took too long to load, so Long ended up walking away with a photo of his hand and the back of Obama’s head. “So when I show people,” Long said, “they say, ‘It could be Obama, I guess…'”
When he unveiled the beaded necklace, his son made it after his fifth win
After winning his fifth match and cementing his spot in this year’s Tournament of Champions, Long unveiled his lucky charm: a colorful beaded necklace handmade for him by his eight-year-old son.
Long said he forgot to wear it during his first few appearances, but remembered it later.
When he talked about his farm work for a Reading Terminal Market salesman?
Long had a pretty interesting summer job as a kid, which host Bialik asked him about in his fourth episode.
His family had met some Mennonite vendors at a meat stall in Reading Terminal Market, Long told Bialik, and he ended up spending two summers on their farm in Montgomery County to pick peas. Long was about 10 years old at the time, he told PhillyVoice.
However, the job didn’t seem like the best choice: “Unfortunately, farm life wasn’t for me,” he said.
When he battled fellow Philadelphians
Long — who called the show the most successful Philadelphian on Jeopardy to date — has played games against two other Philly residents during its three-week run: Philadelphia magazine author and editor Bradford Pearson, and Rutgers Assistant Dean Vanessa Williams. law school.
Pearson appeared on the show on May 19 (the fourth game of Long’s winning streak), and the Philly duo even watched the episode together when it aired, according to Pearson’s Twitter.
In Long’s game against Williams this Wednesday, she beat him to the buzzer on this $400 local sports cue in the “Ballpark Fun” category: “In an unexpected crossover, the green Phanatic who has supported this team since 1978 has a children’s book featuring a ‘Galapagos Gang’ of Animals.”
(The correct answer, of course: “Who are the Phillies?”)
But all was well in the end for Long — he ended up winning the hard-fought match against Williams and Portland native Meagan Morrow, adding $7,400 to his total winnings.
His story about a raccoon who entered attack mode when he was a bouncer at a Philly bar
While not all of his potential anecdotes from Long’s previous job as a bouncer were “Jeopardy-appropriate,” he did tell one story from the bar: when he and a co-worker faced a furry attacker outside Castle Roxx in Manayunk.
Admittedly, Long started to back off when he saw a raccoon approaching, but his colleague Tim didn’t take the threat so seriously… in the pub.”
When he finally got his glasses back
If you’ve watched the first few episodes of Long’s Jeopardy streak, you may have noticed him squeezing to read clues. He hasn’t talked about it on the show, but he tweeted that it was because he left his glasses at home in Philadelphia. He got them back six games — and has been wearing them ever since.
His last minute fight back to the top
Last week brought two games on the edge of your seat and great comebacks from Long.
In the May 26 contest, he came in third place from the first round, beset by some incorrect answers, but with the most correct answers of all.
Double Jeopardy fared better for him that day: He had a category called “Movie Co-Stars,” with just a few clues, which set his stride for the rest of the round. Soon the game became a runaway.
Post-competition, a fellow participant told him he “came through like a beast.”
He replied, “[I] feel like a beast that needs to sleep.”
The next day, he ended the week with a game that stayed tight into Final Jeopardy. Although Long entered the round in second place with $13,000, it was a risky bet of $12,999 and a correct answer in the “Sports and Entertainment” category that decided the game to round out its second full consecutive week of wins.