The Fundome

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Theory Of The Leisure Flask
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The Fundome

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:32 pm

So, this is a story I’ve wanted to share with the community for quite some time, and am just getting around to now- a story of epic travel disaster, 2003-style, back in what for most of you was Ye Olden Days but for me was just undergrad.

So, a little background: back in these old days, we had things called “juniorbirds”, which were tournaments that only people in their first two years of competition could play in, and which featured accordingly easy questions. The idea, of course, being that this was a good difficulty-controlled introduction to the game, with less fearsome questions and less fearsome competition, and in my estimation it was an excellent idea whose withering away in between my undergrad and grad years has always struck me as a damn shame. Maybe they’ve been revived here and there? I assume at the very least you still have a Delta Burke mirror pop up every once in awhile.

Not that they didn’t have some issues, of course: many were ran on NAQT IS sets back when that was merely looked down upon rather than totally verboten. Sometimes you’d have issues where only upperclassmen could drive, but if they couldn’t play they’d be less likely to go (we’ll get back to that point later, oh yes we will). And of course there is the FUN TIME of trying to run packet-sub on questions submitted by freshmen with no writing experience. Even back in the early-aughts, when a lot of modern standards hadn’t quite risen to what they are now. These questions had issues, but this wasn’t the uber-prehistoric age of VVBs and “son of a sailmaker” or anything. Things were rough-hewn and shorter and were still occasionally written out of Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, but at least they tried to be pyramidal and generally succeeded. (Digression: for years afterwards I felt a pang of nostalgia for the 5-10-15 and 30-20-10, though yes I know objectively why they were phased out.)

But these juniorbirds were a good experience for many players, and I know that getting to play in several my freshman year kept me more engaged with the quizbowl community than I would have been otherwise, and kept our team (Swarthmore) much larger and more involved than it otherwise would have been- and not just because we hosted a particularly large junior bird, SNEWT, each fall. (This was particularly crucial after my freshman year, when literally all the upperclassmen graduated/stopped caring/had actual honest-to-goodness nervous breakdowns and I had to build things up from scratch. But that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway. That’s a lot of digression. So, one of those junior birds was hosted by the University of Maryland, and went by the name DSHIT, or David Scott Hamilton Invitational Tournament, ostensibly after one of their particularly notable players (but mostly for the winking naughty acronym, which is a topic that could lead me on another long digression…). And, it was the spring semester of my sophomore year, March 2003. And, unfortunately, it was the same day as one of our campus’s big traditions, a giant party where people would set up their roommates on blind dates in memorable and hilarious ways. So, the one member of our team who had access to a car/van license didn’t want to go, nor did most of the team.

It was just me and one other guy, a freshman at the time, who was similarly crazy/dedicated/antisocial, and had recently joined such that this would be his first tournament. And neither of us could rent cars. So the only option was Amtrak. (Our travel woes, as a tiny all-undergrad school with very few opportunities for people to own cars or get college vans, was a constant thorn in my side back in those days, for good reason. We were lucky to have one car-owner on our team for awhile, but travel logistics were never as easy as they might seem to outsiders.)

And, since we were out in the suburbs, we’d have to take commuter rail in, which meant coming down the night before and finding lodging, which was some random Best Western out on U.S. 1 a two mile walk from the Metro stop because that was cheapest.

So, we go and meet up at the train station to go into Philly and catch the train down to DC. And this guy shows up in a rumpled T-shirt and old sandals. In early March. As it’s starting to SNOW.

What could go wrong?

Well, the trip down was fine. But, then once we get down to College Park, and start to trudge toward our lodgings, my teammate’s sandal breaks. The strap comes undone. Plenty of walking left to do, and he’s basically barefoot, and it’s late so most places are closed. And keep in mind that Baltimore Ave. north of Paint Branch is not exactly a pleasant place for a pedestrian even with good weather and footwear.

We do find a 7-11 en route, and I buy some Krazy Glue, and try to apply it to the sandal. It works for a few steps, then it pops off again. Ugh, what next.

Well, what’s next is we make it to that Best Western, which is not just a motel but a motel and "Fundome”. The Fundome is basically an indoor pool with a glass roof and some sad-looking fake palm trees and maybe like a tiny shuffleboard court or something. Our trip has been very “fun” so far (and SPOILER ALERT is about to get even more "fun"), so I take the appellation with morbid humor; I think my teammate decides that he should have packed swim trunks so he could take a dip.



Fast-forward to the next morning, day of the tournament. We slowly trudge all the way to Jiminez Hall, me with my weather-appropriate clothing and my teammate still in shorts and a T-shirt and carrying his busted sandals with him. The Krazy Glue still doesn’t hold.

The tournament itself is a surprisingly small affair. There are 7 teams, and four of them are short-handed. There’s me and my teammate as Swarthmore, Morgan Saxby playing solo as Virginia A, Leo Wolpert making the trip all the way from Michigan, and one more really good player without any teammates. Possibly Chris Frankel? Not entirely sure about that one. And then there were three full teams of actual newbies; I think Delaware, Virginia B, and a house team but don't hold me to that. The morning rounds went fine, a round-robin where all four small teams beat up on all three full teams. My teammate is getting some sweet history, Bible, and pop culture buzzes and together we have a shot at winning this. After lunch, there will be a bracketed double round-robin, split 4/3.

So we break for lunch. And, as was our custom, we start to head down the hill to Baltimore Ave, where my team had always eaten before. But Mr. Busted Sandals is being pokey, what with having to walk barefoot in the snow and all. So, I tell him: “You wait here. I’m going to run down and get some masking tape from that mailing/copy store at the bottom of the hill and that’ll hold your sandals in place. I’ll be right back.”

He nods assent. I run down, I get the tape, I run back up.

He has vanished without a trace.

I try to trace his footsteps, doesn’t work. I yell his name to the high heavens. I am running around like a panicked madman: I have lost an easily-disoriented, callow freshman in the wilds of Maryland, if he has vanished it is all on my head.

I run into the TD room and beg for help, beg for postponement of the afternoon rounds. The TD, Dan Greenstein I think, is very obliging. They very generously let me eat a couple of the staffer’s donuts, which ends up being my lunch. I am still running around everywhere, hither and yon, yelling this guy’s name, trying to find him. No avail.

Eventually, we’ve stalled enough and the afternoon rounds must start. I can’t give up the ship; I settle down for some one-on-one solo play. And dutifully lose each and every one of those matches, with panic and guilty conscience and holes in my knowledge.

Then, as the last round of the day is about to start, who staggers in but my prodigal teammate. With police tape around his sandals. And a story that:
a) he was robbed and doesn’t have his wallet anymore
b) he went to the dining hall (which, and for this bit I blame my own youth, I did not know was open to non-students)
c) asked around for the “College Bowl tournament”, which nobody had any idea what he was talking about, because of course they don’t, and
d) got arrested by the police for being a hobo and a crazy person.

Which, given his aforementioned wardrobe choices and lack of functioning footwear…

We win that last round. And even manage to make it back home.



That’s all the story I knew for some time, but it’s not really the end, or the complete truth. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get robbed or arrested; he just lost his wallet and was confronted by campus security or something for entirely obvious reasons. And someone kindly found the wallet, and called the emergency # therein, which was this guy’s dad out in CA, who had NO IDEA that he was going to Maryland for a quiz bowl tournament and of course popped a vein.

And said dad called my teammate’s roommate, because that’s the number he had on file and it was in the pre-cellphones-for-everyone days. (Again: this was 2003. I did not have a cellphone back then, nor did my teammate.) So my teammate’s roommate gets to hear that side of the saga, too; and this tale is his as well as mine. I believe there are other details from his end that I'm leaving out, but this thing is long enough as is.



Anyway, you’d think after that, my teammate would be scarred for life from quizbowl and never return. You’d be wrong. He stuck around the team until I graduated, though we always made DAMN sure to have someone keep an eye on him at all times from then on. He was never a true powerhouse player, but he was a valuable contributor, and part of our A team my senior year. His wardrobe was mostly more appropriate going forward, except for that one time he went to ACF Fall still in his Halloween costume.

No, we never booked a room at the Fundome again.

And we’ve kept in touch, in fact. I even went to his wedding two years ago- yes, he’s a happily married man now, and a productive member of society.



Oh, it occurs to me that I never actually mentioned the name of this teammate. Well... some of you you may have heard of him, and can even see him in action tonight and tomorrow. Check your local TV listings.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:44 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by Guile Island » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:58 pm

Wow, this is easily the best thing I've seen in a while.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by heterodyne » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:08 pm

Is there any chance that this Best Western has since become a Clarion Inn? I ask because for 2013 PACE we stayed in a Clarion Inn and Fundome in College Park that meets your description of a room that is neither fun nor a dome. I wonder if at some point the room was a Fundome by that definition, like an actual place with a dome that is fun. In that case, something something ship of theseus.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:13 pm

Western Leader wrote:Is there any chance that this Best Western has since become a Clarion Inn? I ask because for 2013 PACE we stayed in a Clarion Inn and Fundome in College Park that meets your description of a room that is neither fun nor a dome. I wonder if at some point the room was a Fundome by that definition, like an actual place with a dome that is fun. In that case, something something ship of theseus.
Most likely my brain is getting soft in old age. I actually just Googled it before I saw this post to make sure I had the right chain and it appears that I didn't.

EDIT: Oh, wait a minute... it did actually change hands.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by I'm a goff (in case you couldn't tell) » Fri Nov 21, 2014 12:05 am

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:
Western Leader wrote:Is there any chance that this Best Western has since become a Clarion Inn? I ask because for 2013 PACE we stayed in a Clarion Inn and Fundome in College Park that meets your description of a room that is neither fun nor a dome. I wonder if at some point the room was a Fundome by that definition, like an actual place with a dome that is fun. In that case, something something ship of theseus.
Most likely my brain is getting soft in old age. I actually just Googled it before I saw this post to make sure I had the right chain and it appears that I didn't.

EDIT: Oh, wait a minute... it did actually change hands.
Yeah, that's the same place.

On a related note, the MAQT website has apparently gone to the great /dev/null in the sky, but the Wayback Machine still has a tournament writeup from TD Dan Greenstein and the stats.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Fri Nov 21, 2014 12:13 am

The Motley Eye wrote:
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:
Western Leader wrote:Is there any chance that this Best Western has since become a Clarion Inn? I ask because for 2013 PACE we stayed in a Clarion Inn and Fundome in College Park that meets your description of a room that is neither fun nor a dome. I wonder if at some point the room was a Fundome by that definition, like an actual place with a dome that is fun. In that case, something something ship of theseus.
Most likely my brain is getting soft in old age. I actually just Googled it before I saw this post to make sure I had the right chain and it appears that I didn't.

EDIT: Oh, wait a minute... it did actually change hands.
Yeah, that's the same place.

On a related note, the MAQT website has apparently gone to the great /dev/null in the sky, but the Wayback Machine still as a tournament writeup from TD Dan Greenstein and the stats.
I see that I got some details wrong regarding the teams and results. Ah well. The part where all the top bracket teams had fewer players than the bottom bracket teams was true at least- and was easily the most notable thing about how it all shook out.

Oh, Scott Francis. The less said about him the better.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:51 am

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Oh, Scott Francis. The less said about him the better.
Au contraire! Not that you owe it to us after that excellent tale, but the more stories shared the better.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Fri Nov 21, 2014 2:00 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Oh, Scott Francis. The less said about him the better.
Au contraire! Not that you owe it to us after that excellent tale, but the more stories shared the better.
The short version is that he was a puerile, bro-tastic jerk-off who thought it would be SO FUNNY and STICKING IT TO THOSE HUMORLESS P.C. WOMEN LOLZ to name a tournament after a particularly offensive term for female anatomy. And, then, to pepper said tournament with all sorts of inappropriate bonus lead-ins featuring quiz bowlers (especially Chris Frankel), sex, and drugs. Basically a real immature Animal House type guy.

We actually went to that tournament, against our better judgment, since I was desperate for more playing experience and was willing to look past my moral qualms. I think we even gave Matt Weiner a ride up to Cornell IIRC. One of our teammates was the only woman in attendance (Swarthmore always tended to have better gender balance than most teams, for what that's worth) and was 100 percent justifiably pissed about the whole affair. The questions were, FWIW, actually not that horrible for the era if you discounted the frat house atmosphere. But, still, it was a pretty bad experience all in all and I very much regret giving him our business.

...

One thing I'm also kind of curious about is if any of you folks have encountered Arthur's writing in his second career as a culture blogger (which, of course, stemmed from the soapbox he got from playing on Jeopardy!). I know he touches on a lot of controversial issues and is kinda combative, but I'll certainly stick my neck out and say that all in all he's using his powers For Good.
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Re: The Fundome

Post by noobynoob » Sun Nov 23, 2014 2:11 pm

So apparently the Chicago Tribune ran an article today with a picture of him (or another jeopardy player of the same name) in it
will attach later if needed
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