Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

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Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by Mike Bentley » Wed Apr 10, 2019 3:16 pm

For those who haven't seen it, here's an article on Slate by Ken Jennings on how quizbowl is the "secret Jeopardy minor leagues": https://slate.com/culture/2019/04/jeopa ... nings.html
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Wed Apr 10, 2019 4:55 pm

The content of the article is mostly very good. I hope it was an editorial decision and not Ken Jennings' to call us Jeopardy's minor leagues (I don't know in what other games the minor leagues would be substantially more difficult than the major leagues).
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by cchiego » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:22 pm

The content of the article is mostly very good. I hope it was an editorial decision and not Ken Jennings' to call us Jeopardy's minor leagues (I don't know in what other games the minor leagues would be substantially more difficult than the major leagues).
This is the key problem with quizbowl in popular perception and why non-pyramidal TV shows with Jeopardy!-esque overtones continue to take priority over quizbowl in many areas today.

The article itself does note the major differences between quizbowl and Jeopardy! in a way that I think expresses the strength of pyramidal questions and fair practices (that Jeopardy! deliberately avoids in the name of excitement and audience involvement) quite well. But one might forgive the Slate editor for still thinking that a prime-time TV show with slick production values is more prestigious and more important than quizbowl. As Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame put it, "television validates existence" and "on TV, the impact of an event is determined by its image, not its substance."

This gets back to the larger questions of PR for quizbowl and image management of the game. Here's a recent video of a local non-pyramidal high school TV show with plenty of funn gimmicks. In contrast, here's a recent video of the best college quizbowl teams in the world playing on fair, well-written questions. If you were a member of the public, which one would you think is major league vs. minor league?

There's also an amusing comment on the article that claims (falsely), "...the fact the NAQT treats the bible as social studies and other mythologies as literature is a little suspect for people that don't know those proclivities." The fact that this person claims to be an active quiz bowl coach makes me wonder what other false "beliefs" are out there about the game.
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:10 pm

cchiego wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:22 pm
The content of the article is mostly very good. I hope it was an editorial decision and not Ken Jennings' to call us Jeopardy's minor leagues (I don't know in what other games the minor leagues would be substantially more difficult than the major leagues).
This is the key problem with quizbowl in popular perception and why non-pyramidal TV shows with Jeopardy!-esque overtones continue to take priority over quizbowl in many areas today.

The article itself does note the major differences between quizbowl and Jeopardy! in a way that I think expresses the strength of pyramidal questions and fair practices (that Jeopardy! deliberately avoids in the name of excitement and audience involvement) quite well. But one might forgive the Slate editor for still thinking that a prime-time TV show with slick production values is more prestigious and more important than quizbowl. As Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame put it, "television validates existence" and "on TV, the impact of an event is determined by its image, not its substance."

This gets back to the larger questions of PR for quizbowl and image management of the game. Here's a recent video of a local non-pyramidal high school TV show with plenty of funn gimmicks. In contrast, here's a recent video of the best college quizbowl teams in the world playing on fair, well-written questions. If you were a member of the public, which one would you think is major league vs. minor league?

There's also an amusing comment on the article that claims (falsely), "...the fact the NAQT treats the bible as social studies and other mythologies as literature is a little suspect for people that don't know those proclivities." The fact that this person claims to be an active quiz bowl coach makes me wonder what other false "beliefs" are out there about the game.
I mean, yeah, that’s kinda the way it works. Not taking away from James Holzhauer’s legendary performance last night, but I bet I’m not the only one who thinks that what Sameer did six years ago (winning the National History Bowl solo) is even more impressive than a 110K Jeopardy haul, and yet James makes it to the front page of ESPN and Sameer’s achievement barely gets reported anywhere at all.

This is why I was disappointed that NAQT’s summary of last year’s MSNCT (Shiva winning solo) was so cookie-cutter and boilerplate, rather than being a full-throated human interest story propagated to all the news organizations. The recordings are less than ideal in terms of presenting qb somewhat comprehensibly, never mind slickly. NAQT and the other qb organizations have somewhat upped their social media/news media game, but not quite to the extent they should have.
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by Cheynem » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:19 pm

I think Slate/Jennings was using "minor league" more of in the sense of "a feeder league" as opposed to "weaker level of play," as in baseball teams pull up their top players from the minor leagues, so to, the best players from Jeopardy come from quizbowl. I do think Chris is correct, though, about perceptions.
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:30 am

Yeah, quizbowl is certainly a "minor league" into Jeopardy in the way Mike Cheyne articulates above. I'm sure I'm not the only person in this thread who has auditioned for Jeopardy, and they make you list all the people you know who have been on Jeopardy...and yeah I have to list like 20 people I've met via quizbowl, some of whom are among the winningest Jeopardy champions of all time.

I love quizbowl, I've dedicated years of my life to it, but it's a pretty boring spectator sport. It's boring for me to watch people play quizbowl (unless there is a very animated player on one of the teams, then it's fun because it would be fun to watch that person do anything) and I imagine it's even more boring for people who aren't into quizbowl to watch it. If quizbowl is going to succeed as a thing that the media pays attention to, I agree it's the human story that is going to have to get told. Look at how the media talks about chess, for example: it's usually about the personalities and stories involved, not the chess moves.

I'm sure we can all think of a half dozen people we've played with or against who have compelling personal stories, either in the way that they prepared for tournaments, or their personal lives outside of quizbowl (obstacles they overcame, etc.).
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by cchiego » Thu Apr 11, 2019 4:57 pm

I love quizbowl, I've dedicated years of my life to it, but it's a pretty boring spectator sport. It's boring for me to watch people play quizbowl (unless there is a very animated player on one of the teams, then it's fun because it would be fun to watch that person do anything) and I imagine it's even more boring for people who aren't into quizbowl to watch it. If quizbowl is going to succeed as a thing that the media pays attention to, I agree it's the human story that is going to have to get told. Look at how the media talks about chess, for example: it's usually about the personalities and stories involved, not the chess moves.
I just don't buy this. Thousands of people tune in to watch other people play video games on Twitch and, increasingly, in person. People watch football games without knowing the rules at all, but rather for the experience. I think that sure, personalities are important and adding context to who is competing would be interesting and valuable, but more fundamentally the game needs to be analyzed and explained in ways that make sense to a wider audience. There are a number of specific ways to do that including:

- COMMENTARY both before and after the match to put what people are seeing and about to see in context. On a live feed this would be challenging, but of course there could be a way to make timeouts and halftimes in taped matches a bit longer to provide time for commentary. There absolutely, however, should be more post-tournament analysis of matches with commentary that put into context what went on in the match. Liveblogging worked well enough at the time it introduced, but now we need more: there needs to be a host who manages social media and information from the tournament during the competitions as well as a someone or ideally a set of people who can help analyze matches at the time and afterwards. Simply explaining the jargon and stats abbreviations would be a big contribution.
- Make national tournaments an EVENT. As Ankit points out above, generic press releases aren't going to work these days. You need a set of storylines. Even more than that, you need to generate excitement and make quizbowl nationals seem like the very exciting events that they are when you're there in person. Unfortunately, that energy is usually not translated to the way quizbowl is treated; there are more posts on Twitter about state regional Scholars Bowl competitions than there are about some quizbowl nationals. If you want funding, recognition, and support for the next generation of players, you need to care about this.
- More stats and info should appear onscreen and be available for interested parties. It would be nice to have something like Advanced Stats that tracks how well players have been doing in various categories so far in the tournament (if not over multiple tournaments over time) so that if Player X powers a Lit TU, it can be accurately described as hugely important consider that Player Y usually gets most of the Lit. You could project periodic updates of who's gotten what categories throughout the match and make this the topic of discussion. IPNCT including the by-category breakdown is a good start, but more tournaments should do more.
- Better visuals. The multi-cam approach at HSNCT last year was a good start, but the audio was distractingly out-of-sync and the lighting was terrible. I understand that not every room can be adequately prepped for taping, but why not have a featured room that the final matches are played in with good visuals and audio? Also, trying to use a projector in the room as a substitute for actual scores on the bottom of the screen (which PACE has managed to do in their videos!) has been pretty much an utter failure for XNCTs. It looks ugly when it works and often doesn't work.

Quizbowl is fully capable of being an entertaining, fun-to-follow competition that can leverage the fact we have filmable interscholastic matches (which you don't really get in a number of other academic competitions!) to grow the audience for the game and thus the amount of prestige, funding, and participation. But until there's more of a laser-like focus on this and a belief that it can be done, we'll continue to languish as the minor leagues to bar trivia and TV shows.
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Re: Ken Jennings Slate article on quizbowl

Post by Cheynem » Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:26 pm

The commentary thing is an interesting one. The much-maligned aspect of "color commentary" might actually be very helpful here; I think a preamble before the game videos in which (from our perspective) very obvious points are raised ("The key to most matches is buzzing in on strong hunches, maybe not when you're 100% sure"; "You have to work together as a well-oiled machine during bonuses or you run the risk of just shouting stuff"). Just have like a person ask the color commentator, "what are some keys to gameplay you expect to see in this match?"

After the question is over, perhaps very briefly freeze the match, put up the answerline and perhaps a simplistic factual statement. "ANSWER: The Interpretation of Dreams. This text by Sigmund Freud is a landmark text in psychology." For bonuses, perhaps just flash the answerlines.

I also wonder if during moments that might be confusing for the general public, another brief pause could allow the commentators to explain things. "Everyone is reacting angrily here because this tossup had what's called a cliff--the clues were very very hard and then suddenly became easy--notice how everyone tried to buzz right there."
Mike Cheyne
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