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It’s been three weeks, and Philadelphian Ryan Long is still on his “Jeopardy!” winning streak.
Long, a rideshare driver, currently resides in Mt. Airy. So far, he’s racked up $279,400 and 15 victories 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 left him unable to meet his old job’s physical demands.
The Jeopardy phenom grew up watching the show, and applied to be a contestant over a year ago.
This season of the 58-year-old game show has 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 brainy lineup. From some nail-biting comebacks to his brief (and ill-documented) run-in with a president, here are some highlights from his run on the show.
His Arnold Schwarzenegger impression
Perhaps the most unique segment of every Jeopardy episode is the post-commercial contestant anecdote. During Long’s first, host Mayim Bialik asked him to show off a talent of his: impressions.
Long said he can do “a couple of acceptable ones,” including Terminator star-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The ensuing impression made for great social media joke fodder once Long clinched his first win. “Like Arnold, Ryan will be back,” Jeopardy wrote on its Facebook page.
When he surged out of last place thanks to some clutch TV knowledge
Long is a great all-around player, but he seems to have a special knack for television, film, and sports categories.
Viewers’ first glimpse of his pop culture knowledge came during his premiere, when he kept beating opponents to the buzzer in a Double Jeopardy category called “TV: Who Played ‘Em?” Yep, Long got every single clue correct.
When he answered the first clue, he was in third place. But by the time he got through the whole category, he was just $400 short of the lead, putting him in a competitive position for the rest of gameplay.
His emotional first win
Even with his impressive run in Double Jeopardy, Long’s first episode was far from a runaway. Going into 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 wager of $6,800 and a correct response in the category “State Names” won him the match. Upon winning, he folded his hands and raised them in front of his face, then looked around the stage and nodded as he processed his victory.
His anecdote about meeting Obama at the Mayfair Diner
On the sixth episode of his streak, Long called back to a very special run-in at Northeast Philly’s Mayfair Diner (which he shouted out by name on air, joking that maybe he could get a free sandwich).
Long said he waited inside the diner for two hours to see former President Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in October 2008. He tried to snap a photo of the two of them together with his flip phone during a quick handshake.
But the phone took too long to load, so Long ultimately walked 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 him after his fifth win
Long said he’d forgotten to wear it during his first few appearances, but remembered later on.
When he talked about his farm work for a Reading Terminal Market vendor
Long had a pretty interesting summer job as a kid, which host Bialik asked him about on his fourth episode.
His family had gotten to know some Mennonite vendors at a meat stand in Reading Terminal Market, Long told Bialik, and he ended up going to their farm in Montgomery County to pick peas for two summers. Long was around 10 years old at the time, he told PhillyVoice.
The job didn’t seem to be the best fit, though: “Sadly, the farm life was not for me,” he said.
When he competed against fellow Philadelphians
Long — whom the show called most successful Philadelphian on Jeopardy to date — has played games against two other Philly residents over his three-week run: author and Philadelphia magazine contributing editor Bradford Pearson, and Rutgers Law School assistant dean Vanessa Williams.
Pearson made his appearance 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, per Pearson’s Twitter.
In Long’s match against Williams this Wednesday, she beat him to the buzzer on this $400 local sports clue in the category “Ballpark Fun”: “In an unexpected crossover, the green Phanatic supporting this team since 1978 has a kids’ book with a ‘Galapagos Gang’ of animals.”
(The correct response, of course: “Who are the Phillies?”)
But all was well for Long in the end — he ultimately won the hard-fought match against Williams and Portland resident Meagan Morrow, adding $7,400 to his total winnings.
His story about a raccoon entering attack mode when he was a bouncer at a Philly bar
Though not all of his potential anecdotes from Long’s past job as a bouncer were “Jeopardy-appropriate,” he said, he did share one story from the bar: when he and a coworker faced a furry attacker outside Castle Roxx in Manayunk.
Admittedly, Long himself started to retreat when he saw a raccoon approaching, but his coworker Tim didn’t take the threat as seriously… “and of course, it goes and clamps on his foot,” Long said, “and I’m already inside the bar.”
When he finally got his glasses back
If you saw the first few episodes of Long’s Jeopardy streak, you might’ve noticed him squinting to read clues. He hasn’t talked about it on the show, but he tweeted it was because he’d left his glasses at home in Philadelphia. He got them back six games in — and has been wearing them ever since.
His last-minute fights back to the top
Last week brought two edge-of-your-seat games and amazing comebacks by Long.
During the May 26 match, he came out of the first round in third place, dinged by some incorrect responses but with the most correct responses of anyone.
Double Jeopardy went better for him that day: he ran a category called “Movie Co-Stars” just a few clues in, which set his stride for the rest of the round. Soon, the game became a runaway.
Post-competition, a fellow contestant told him he was “coming through like a beast.”
He responded, “[I] feel like a beast that needs to slumber.”
The next day, he ended the week with a match that remained tight all the way into Final Jeopardy. Though Long entered the round in second place with $13,000, it was a gutsy wager of $12,999 and a correct response in the “Sports and Entertainment” category that decided the game to wrap up his second full consecutive week of victories.