The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

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The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby chc » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:29 pm

Hi, I have a question that's been bothering me for a long time and I would like to hear answers and/or thoughts from the quizbowl community here. The question is:

What's the origin of the term "quiz bowl" and what are it's effects on the growth or the difficulty of the growth of quizbowl?

I came up with this question while reading threads about how just about every high school administrations is reluctant to adequately fund quiz bowl teams (which is the case at Arcadia as well), as well as threads on improving QB's image. I feel like the name "quiz bowl" just doesn't sound important to school administrators. Most school teachers and admins know the word "quiz" to mean "a short test usually not worth very many points." A "bowl" to them is a household object, or something related to football. I myself would like to know the origin of the word "bowl" to mean an academic competition.

What I am saying is that names like Scholastic League or Academic League (even with its scandals), or, god forbid, even :chip: 's NAC sound more attractive to school officials than "we're going to a quizbowl tournament, yippee!" I think most quizbowlers realize at some level that the name "quizbowl" sounds a bit frivolous; ACF, PACE, PACE NSC, HSAPQ, HSNCT all do not include the words "quiz bowl" in their names, and NAQT does not include the word "bowl."

I'll give an example which is mostly pertinent to the Southern California circuit, but should be relevant or analagous to at least some school's situations across the country. I read Chris Chiego's thread in this forum (viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11621) and this is my response to it. School administrators feel like Academic Decathlon is more prestigious than quizbowl, and I think part of the reason is the name. Our school's quizbowl coach recently decided to leave us to coach Academic Decathlon. People at my school always have the impression that Academic Decathlon is a prestigious team while the quizbowl team just gets quizzed on random stuff, no matter how long we've tried to quell the misinformation.

A note: Science Bowl doesn't suffer from any of these problems because it's sponsored (all expense paid for) by the Department of Energy.



TL;DR: The term "quiz bowl" sounds kinda funky and unimportant and may be responsible for some problems.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby cchiego » Mon Aug 29, 2011 10:09 pm

Interesting points. I don't know if it's so much the term "quiz bowl" as the lack of a single, unified national organization. Academic Decathalon and things like the Spelling Bee/Geography Bee are national organizations intimately associated with their activities. There's no dissent; it's their way or the highway if you want to do those activities. That's sort of how it used to be with Chip and College Bowl, but players realized the flaws in those organizations and set up our own associations. So we now have the blessings of a (relatively large) variety of quiz bowl competitions, loose regulation, and fairly prompt responsiveness to players' demands, but at the cost of prestige and national organization.

The issue with established local leagues is trickier. I see no inherent conflict with local leagues and "good quiz bowl" so long as the leagues adhere to good quizbowl rules and formats. In fact, these leagues may be the best ways to get the vast majority of schools exposure to good questions and all the benefits that come with that. Unfortunately, the traits which often lead these local leagues to have prestige in the local community--their longevity and official legitimacy--tend to make them resistant to changes.

One possible solution, which is already taking place in various forms around the country, is the rise of various state and regional organizations staffed by players/alumni that promote good quizbowl around the country. These organizations have the potential to act as focal points for not just promoting good quizbowl, but publicizing good quizbowl and making it more mainstream. Of course, simply supporting good quizbowl is an immensely draining experience and most of these orgs have their hands full doing that formidable task. Trying to publicize and "professionalize" good quizbowl requires dealing with even more bureaucracy, plus members of the press, and all of it is time that could be spent writing questions or other more directly productive activities. And to reach the level of professionalization/branding that AcDec has would require a serious re-allocation of resources away from directly promoting good quizbowl and towards lots of seemingly frivolous non-quizbowl stuff. I'm not sure most quizbowlers would want to accept such a tradeoff.

But hey, if anyone has any snazzy new name ideas, it can't hurt to throw 'em out.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby Broad-tailed Grassbird » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:11 pm

I'm waiting for the 7th place MAC team to play the 4th place Sun Belt Conference Team in the "PACE Quiz Bowl".
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby MahoningQuizBowler » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:57 am

Pszczew wrote:I'm waiting for the 7th place MAC team to play the 4th place Sun Belt Conference Team in the "PACE Quiz Bowl".


Sell it hard enough and I'm sure CBS College Sports would pick it up.

On the topic of local leagues, when I approached the coaches in my now-former league to adopt NAQT in 2007, there was some resistance in the beginning. What ultimately sold the county educational office (the official organization behind it) was the cost of the questions. Ohio format, being as specialized (and bad) as it is, has very few dedicated writers for it. At the time of the switch, it was costing us $50/round. With 27 rounds needed, the entry fees from the schools ($100 each) weren't going to cover the cost of the questions, let alone everything else. Once I told the county staff that switching to NAQT would save over 50% on question costs, they rubber stamped the changeover without a vote of the coaches.

After four seasons, tossup/bonus is all the players know unless they choose to go play an Ohio-format tournament elsewhere. I'm not saying the Youngstown, Ohio circuit is a paragon of quizbowl virtue, but I'm just using it as an example that change is possible.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby cvdwightw » Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:02 pm

Short answer to your question: throughout most of the 1950's and 1960's, the most visible academic competition for colleges was "College Bowl," a radio/television show from which most of the parameters of the modern game emerged. Many of the longstanding high school academic competitions in the same vein started around that time, some directly citing College Bowl's influence, and used the term "bowl" to describe their event, but obviously couldn't use the word "College" as it was both factually inaccurate and likely to get them sued by the College Bowl Company. I don't know who came up with the term "quiz bowl," but the term "quiz" certainly describes many of the short-question-on-random-topics formats that grew up around College Bowl, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were multiple origins of the term. To this day many college teams still call themselves "College Bowl" teams even though the actual College Bowl tournament no longer exists; I'm actually advocating that our club change its name so that we stop getting people asking us about bowling.

I think the legitimacy problems are a lot more on the side of what Chris said: we have a lot of obstacles compared to most of the "more prestigious" activities; including:
  • We don't have a single unified organization or national championship. Even if NAQT, PACE, and NAC were to miraculously merge into a single championship, we'd still have to contend with the hundreds of local and state formats run by "official" organizations like departments of education and state athletics associations. Quizbowl means one thing to Missouri administrators, a different thing to those in Illinois, and a third thing entirely in Virginia.
  • We don't have a single marketing arm. Occasionally, some teams get a small snippet of news for their performance at nationals. Most of the time, even if you give the local press word about it, it's likely to get lost among the other news tips (e.g., I let the Pasadena Star News know about Arcadia's playoff finish at HSNCT). Maybe I'm just writing news tips horribly wrong, but this seems to be a pattern nationally.
  • We don't have a single qualifying tournament. Most "big-name" competitions have a single day of competition at which the highest finisher(s) advance to the next level. You have one shot to qualify and you'd better bring your best. In quizbowl, however, we have a bunch of local tournaments, all of which have roughly equal "prestige" and qualify for some national tournament that is not run by the group actually running the tournament. So, when you say you're competing at Academic Decathlon, you're competing one time - it's a BIG DEAL. When you say you're competing at quizbowl, administrators get to say, "Didn't you just do that three weeks ago?". They don't seem to understand that the schedule is far more analogous to something like track and field than it is to a typical academic competition.
  • We don't have a prayer of getting on anything other than public-access television. The College Bowl Company is on record as saying that they'll come after any organization that puts tossup-bonus format(TM) games on television. No one wants to find out what would happen if, say, LASA's path to the HSNCT finals was chronicled on The Longhorn Network.
  • Our "business model" is "backwards." Academic Decathlon works on the College Bowl model, in which it costs you a heck of a lot of money each year to buy the materials necessary to compete at the local level, but it costs you little money if you qualify for higher-level competitions. Many other academic competitions work on the same model, with the possible exceptions of competitions that have huge government or corporate sponsorships that make the up-front cost manageable. Quizbowl works on the exact opposite model: it costs you pretty much nothing to practice as a quizbowl team (packets: free online; buzzer: probably already belongs to a Science Bowl/Certamen/etc. team), it costs you very little to enter a local tournament, you can enter multiple teams into multiple local tournaments for additional costs, and it costs you a lot ($500 entry fee plus travel expenses) to compete nationally.
  • We can't even agree on a name. Is it "quizbowl" or "quiz bowl"? Are those things the same as "Academic League," or "Scholastic Bowl," or "Knowledge Bowl"? What about all the "[insert specialty here] quiz bowl" competitions that have nothing to do with the activity but show up in search engine results? Academic Decathlon means the same thing to everyone, and all Academic Decathlon-like competitions are called Academic Decathlon. We can't say either of those things about quizbowl.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby Nick » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:18 pm

In my mind, I always thought of "quizbowl" as the name of the game, and the name of the team was something like Scholastic Team or Academic Team(which is what we called it at my high school). To me this was akin to being on Crew Team where your sport was "rowing."

cvdwightw wrote:[*]We don't have a single unified organization or national championship. Even if NAQT, PACE, and NAC were to miraculously merge into a single championship, we'd still have to contend with the hundreds of local and state formats run by "official" organizations like departments of education and state athletics associations. Quizbowl means one thing to Missouri administrators, a different thing to those in Illinois, and a third thing entirely in Virginia.


I dont think this is a huge problem. Marching band, cheerleading, and as silly as it may sound, beauty pageants, all have a similiar set up and theyre just fine. Miss America and Miss USA both value different aspects of the competition differently, but theyre still largely the same thing. Same with NAQT and PACE.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby chc » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:32 am

cvdwightw wrote:Short answer to your question: throughout most of the 1950's and 1960's, the most visible academic competition for colleges was "College Bowl," a radio/television show from which most of the parameters of the modern game emerged. Many of the longstanding high school academic competitions in the same vein started around that time, some directly citing College Bowl's influence, and used the term "bowl" to describe their event


I researched up to College Bowl and couldn't find anything before that, so thanks for letting me know that's where it started. Great, so the guy who founded Academic Decathlon decided to use the name of a prominent sport whose Olympic champion is known as the "Greatest Athlete in the World", while our founder decided on tableware.

cvdwightw wrote:When you say you're competing at quizbowl, administrators get to say, "Didn't you just do that three weeks ago?". They don't seem to understand that the schedule is far more analogous to something like track and field than it is to a typical academic competition.

Hmm, this seems like something useful to tell our coach, who is also the school track coach, to relay to the administration.

cvdwightw wrote:We don't have a prayer of getting on anything other than public-access television. The College Bowl Company is on record as saying that they'll come after any organization that puts tossup-bonus format(TM) games on television. No one wants to find out what would happen if, say, LASA's path to the HSNCT finals was chronicled on The Longhorn Network.


Well, perhaps that company will cease to exist in a couple years and we'll see what happens then.

cvdwightw wrote:We can't even agree on a name. Is it "quizbowl" or "quiz bowl"? Are those things the same as "Academic League," or "Scholastic Bowl," or "Knowledge Bowl"? What about all the "[insert specialty here] quiz bowl" competitions that have nothing to do with the activity but show up in search engine results? Academic Decathlon means the same thing to everyone, and all Academic Decathlon-like competitions are called Academic Decathlon. We can't say either of those things about quizbowl.


Exactly the problem I'm talking about. This was especially apparent to me when competing at HSNCT where I saw team T-shirts and sweatshirts with literally a dozen variations of Scholastic Bowl, Scholastic League, Quiz Bowl, Quiz Team, Academic Team, etc. on them. I wondered, we're all competing at the same thing? Something about this whole game seems really disorganized on a national level.

Nick wrote:In my mind, I always thought of "quizbowl" as the name of the game, and the name of the team was something like Scholastic Team or Academic Team(which is what we called it at my high school). To me this was akin to being on Crew Team where your sport was "rowing."

cvdwightw wrote:[*]We don't have a single unified organization or national championship. Even if NAQT, PACE, and NAC were to miraculously merge into a single championship, we'd still have to contend with the hundreds of local and state formats run by "official" organizations like departments of education and state athletics associations. Quizbowl means one thing to Missouri administrators, a different thing to those in Illinois, and a third thing entirely in Virginia.


I dont think this is a huge problem. Marching band, cheerleading, and as silly as it may sound, beauty pageants, all have a similiar set up and theyre just fine. Miss America and Miss USA both value different aspects of the competition differently, but theyre still largely the same thing. Same with NAQT and PACE.


Yeah, my school's team is just called "Quiz Bowl" which we are seriously considering changing.
Marching bands pretty much just have field shows and parades as the main form of competition, and most of the judging criteria is more consistent than the various formats of local quizbowl. I and sure hope we can aspire higher than cheerleading and beauty pageants.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby DumbJaques » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:34 pm

If someone would decide not to check out quizbowl because it's called "quizbowl," I somehow doubt they'd be sticking around through early morning Saturday tournaments or 500 points losses. Or, like, any of the other bazillion things about quizbowl that most people wouldn't exactly relish. I see no more logic in catering to people like that than I do in throwing a monkey wrench into the previously efficient apparatus of natural selection with all those "WARNING - DO NOT CLIMB ELECTRIC FENCES" signs.
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:06 pm

I agree with Chris Ray. You could critique any potential name for our activity as being silly, being off-putting, or having unintended consequences. This is a problem with the very concept of language, not a specific problem with the name "quiz bowl".
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Re: The Name "Quiz Bowl" and its Effects

Postby chc » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:41 pm

Well, we're doing alright as to recruitment, actually. It's mostly the administration not giving us any more funding that's the problem.
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