I'd like to start off by saying that this post reflects the views solely of myself. I am not speaking on behalf of the members of my team, nor any other staffer/volunteer at the tournament, nor in any official capacity as a moderator of this forum. Also, I am not speaking as a matter of personal animus towards any person involved with the tournament. This is all just based on what I saw and heard around me over the weekend. Because this is turning into a book, this is Post 1 of 3. Post 2 will be on Sunday's events, and Post 3 will be opinions and suggestions. They'll show up eventually.Friday
Check-in was handled well, at least when I was there. There was some confusion, in that I had intended to pay for the bowl with a check, and the bee with cash, since we had overpaid at regionals. Since the only thing I had that served as an invoice before Thursday was the screenshot of the registration page, I just brought a check for the amount of the bowl. Whoever was there took the check, but was confused by what I was saying about the cash, so that didn't happen at that point or later. I owe you a bit of money, David. I picked up our check-in folder; I'm not sure what was inside it as I mingled everything together. Some teams on Saturday had signs; if we had one, I never saw it, but it wasn't a big deal.
David had seen me right when I came in, and wanted to ask me something; I was warned it may be a request to use my room for competition, but in fact he was asking me to help out Nick with the moderator meetings. I had stopped in briefly for the meeting to get my polo and clear up some quick questions. Interestingly, the note of "What if it's tied at halftime?" was quite important to settle--three consecutive matches I read were level entering the lightning round. Anyway, I told David that I would be happy to help out with some after the evening Bees, but that I was there as a coach and my team wanted dinner, so I was unavailable then.
I missed the start of the opening ceremonies, but they were reasonable. A few things to point out: the Raynell challenge exemplified several things about the Dave Madden Experience that I find negative: he has a very game-show treatment of everything, revealed partly in his moderating style. He also tended to ramble a bit in introducing it, and I'm not sure how many people cared. The "ceremonial-but-actually-counting opening tossup" was more than a little strange, and the message of "On time means early"
with respect to the weekend's schedule was stressed.
The Friday night Bees
were a hilarious mess. I can only imagine how awful they would have been if the field had been half of what Madden said the cap was, since the adult Sports Bee had roughly 25 people and barely ran with that. One person was calling out the schedule for each participant in each bee, which obviously took a really long time. Even one more person who could've taken one of the two subjects would've cut this time considerably. Once we had assignments, we went up to the room and waited in the hallway. There appeared to be well over a dozen people clamoring as moderators, but we sat there for 10-15 minutes waiting for someone to come by with a room key, then waited for ten more minutes for a moderator who said he had just been drafted to work, then another five more minutes for packets. Once the three rounds were over, we returned downstairs for finals, and the buzzer system that was set up didn't actually work, nor did the second one retrieved, and the third one had us moving the tables when someone reported that the youth bee had finished and we could move back to the main ballroom. We'd have been better off going back to a bedroom. The questions during this bee were OK; many were very transparent, but not awful except for the one that I strongly protested. I and some others noted the lack of sports-themed prizes which had been mentioned as likely.Saturday
Because of the demand that we be at our away site before its scheduled 8:30 beginning, I rushed my kids through breakfast and we got on the Metro. In the tunnel from the hotel, Madden gave me two extension cords because he said my site needed them. Because of a sluggish early morning subway system, we arrived at German Marshall Fund at roughly 8:20-8:25. The GMF liaison saw me in my red polo and asked if I was the staffer she was waiting for; thinking I was the last coach to get there, I said yes, but in fact it was the case that the Site Director wasn't present. While we waiting, the liaison assigned rooms--one was a kitchen open-air to lobby--and I tried to do as much pre-planning as possible. Site director John arrived at 8:50 saying he had been assigned to deliver buzzers to different away sites. We found out that the other bracket at GMF was attached to Slovenia, which had one room and one constant team, while their opponent would be shuttled back and forth. The Brindlee Mountain coach, whose team was playing round 1 in Slovenia, reported that they had contacted her and the directions were crap.
The morning went fairly well if slow, because of the obvious problem of having to wait 15-20 minutes between rounds for the shuttle. When I thought out loud that the driver should return to GMF during the round because our game would finish first, a team said that was impossible because the driver was the one reading games at Slovenia. Seriously, what the
were you thinking? That had no chance to work out well. By round 5, the JV games were at halftime before my second team had arrived. The site director was taking time to text scores in to someone, but I have no idea what that accomplished. The online schedules were never updated, not that I particularly expected them to be. The site director had all the info necessary to determine 1-6 rankings (save the last Slovenia game), and while waiting for my round 5 team to arrive, another coach and I worked out what we could.
It would have been a very good idea to have printouts of schedules for each team, not only for the morning, but in advance of the afternoon. That way, at the end of the morning session, we could gather everyone together and say "First place was Team A, here's your afternoon assignment. Second was Team B, here's your assignment." With actual room numbers, rather than just a "You're in the block of floors 3/4." With all due respect to the gigantic undertaking that was the Magical History Tour, this was one of the reasons why you said you would stop holding regionals a month before the national tournament, so that you could focus on logistical planning. Instead, the field wasn't set until a week or so before, meaning there wasn't much time for setting brackets and preparing advance material.
Anyway, my students finished up though I was still reading Round 5 (I got the team arriving from Slovenia every round, which was probably for the best as that way I could keep them from falling too far behind). Our last round ended, we updated the standings, and saw that in fact the last tossup in my game had decided who moved on and who would have to wait for a possible wild card. By this time it was 12:45 or so. My team wanted lunch, but I said that it would be at least a 45-minute trip back to the hotel, and I wanted us to go back first, so we would know how long everything was delayed and therefore how long we would have for lunch.
In fact, because of track delays at Dupont, we got back to Crystal City at around 1:45. We hurried through the mall and tunnel, and I walked into Rosslyn II and asked "What time do the afternoon games start?" For some reason that COMPLETELY escapes me, Nick said "Seven minutes ago." I know now that there was absolutely no chance any games had started, because no one even knew who would play who, so Nick must have been saying that the original schedule had those games starting seven minutes earlier... which, I mean, no
, I know it's 1:52 and the tournament's running late. I want to know how late, so I know if we have time to get lunch, or what. I immediately respond "That is BULLS---
." I don't think that was out of line: we'd been warned repeatedly that lateness meant forfeiting games, and I was not going to stand for us having to forfeit games due to inept selection of sites. I know now that other places faced delays possibly as bad as ours, but at the time, I thought we were the only group of teams hurrying back to make it in time.
At just that moment, Madden came in and saw he had to talk me down. He said we could go get lunch, but "Do so quickly, and come right back. We're starting soon." I commanded my team to follow those instructions, even telling one kid who had gone to the bathroom to just take his meal with him back to the hotel. We went to our tower, and I got to the pod central to find a put-upon Paul Nelson. I was the third-ish moderator to show up out of six, and we had far from enough teams. Long story short, Paul was unable to ever get firm word on who was supposed to be in our block nor anything else. At some point, teams from Bracket A came up bearing schedules they'd been given; much later, there were rumors of schedules for Bracket B. Both of those had errors in which teams were in them, that we found out much later--though at least we found out those errors before we started playing games. Meanwhile I turned on the hockey game and dozed off.Afternoon play started at 3:45
. I had Chattahoochee in my room for all five playoff rounds. They were in good spirits, and their opponents were as well. I did my best to catch up to the pre-announced schedule. I engage in minor banter with teams while moderating, and at one point quipped before a game (in homage to 1010 WINS's slogan), "You give me 22 minutes, I'll give you a game of History Bowl." In fact, timing myself, that game took 19 minutes because of quick buzzes. Still, there's no reason at all a game should take more than 30 minutes, so 35-40 minute windows should be plenty. The other moderators in our block were also satisfactory, and we finished Round 10 at about 6:30-ish. Both brackets broke 5-4-3-2-1-0, so we knew the eight knockout teams from our half of the bracket. The other half of the bracket......
Again, I had no knowledge of how the other parts of the tournament were doing in terms of scheduling, and I had volunteered to fill a gap in the playoff moderating schedule, so I went to headquarters to get a status report and schedule projection. Eventually I told my team to go get dinner in the mall, because I had no idea how long they would have before knockouts would start. I decided to do what I could to help out in planning, and perhaps regretted that decision. Steve Frappier and I helped out the official above-the-fold staff to determine the brackets. Others have mentioned the lost scoresheets and chaos of that nature. At one point, while I was sorting scoresheets and totalling scores on the JV charts, Madden told a staffer coming in with piles of envelopes and packets to talk to me; neither I nor he knew why. Every so often, Madden would ask how close I was to having the JV bracket ready, and the answer was always "What the hell is the deal with this Pope John Paul II scoresheet, when Iolani is the team on the schedule?"
At some point, someone answered with "Yeah, we know about that, we're calling that the Iolani fiasco
. Through an apparent sheer failure to count wins, the wrong team played three rounds in a JV playoff bracket, so all three rounds had to be made up. Not sure where they found the packets, but that took obviously more than an hour to fix.
Meanwhile, Matt Weiner and David Madden were resolving a the "Moscow-Washington hotline" protest in the DCC-Irvington game
. I came in late, but from my understanding, Matt's ruling was that the acceptance rather than prompting of "Russia" is not something that can be protested, and therefore if it's taken at the time, it's good. Everyone involved with the game at the time disappeared, and I tried to ascertain what that did to the standings. Despite several people's insistence that it was Varsity, the game in question was actually JV, which was good because that meant I knew where the scoresheet was. And the scoresheet says DCC 170+, Irvington 170 (OT) after allowing Irvington 10 points for the tossup in question. In other words, DCC had won, and was still protesting the question. This is not DCC's fault; their moderator told them he had deducted Irvington's 10 points and that was what caused the tie, and that if the answer was accepted Irvington would win 180-170; this was wrong. I tried to find DCC to see if they had a scoresheet to cross-check; two players got two feet in the door before being pulled back by a coach who had discussed this
for an hour and was sick of it until I said "No, really, I think you have won the game despite the protest." Much time was spent tracking down Irvington because Madden never compiled contact information for the teams. Since Irvington hadn't been keeping a separate score, once they checked my math, they acquiesced to the ruling and DCC was declared the winner of that game. Oh yeah, the moderator of the game, “Swade”, was not ever reached to provide insight on what had happened.
This created a seeding tie, of course between DCC and Bergen--my team. Where Steve and I had resolved a seeding tie in varsity by coin flip, I was for the sake of perfect transparency not willing to be the person who flips a coin to determine my own team's opponent. Madden hemmed and hawwed for a few minutes before declaring morning record to be the next tiebreaker; my team had the higher performance and got the higher seed.
By this time, I had gotten really sick and tired of being a red-shirt whipping boy. Parents and relatives would come up to me and ask where their student's game was, and I had no idea. No one did except for Madden. At one point, with us about to announce the round of 16 for Varsity and JV, I told a (grand?)parent in front of Madden, "Once we announce this round, we'll post the brackets and we'll do our best to put room numbers, so you can see where they'll play their next round also." Despite being literally the easiest thing in the world to do, room numbers were never written on the bracket. I have to guess teams kept reporting back to the ballroom and standing around for 15-20 minutes waiting for the next set of assignments, which is incredibly poor.
My team lost in the Round of 16 and retreated to their rooms; I went to the ballroom to tell Matt what I'd discovered about the DCC-Irvington game and while we stood around with some other staffers discussing things that had gone wrong, Madden came over unbeckoned and said something which I hope he realizes was really
-ing stupid: "You know what's nuts about this day? We're gonna finish on time."
It was 9:20, and the quarterfinals had not yet started. The schedule given to moderators on Friday had the finals starting at I believe 9:30 (maybe 9:45), so this was obvious fantasy.
When I realized I was standing among people who were getting assigned to read games, I backed out of the room quickly to go get dinner and watch hockey in the hotel bar. A parent of a middle school student there for the bee discussed strategy with me, and at one point I saw Greg Bossick. I wanted to ask him if it was over yet, with the time past 10.
He and another staffer (Maggie, I believe) were cornered by a group of parents from Homer Center MS, the team which had gotten screwed over by the apparently bull-:bees: cheating accusation. The loudest and most insistent father freely admitted he'd been drinking for a while and that was fueling his anger. Putting together the pieces I picked up then and later from conversation with Raynell: St. Ignatius Loyola accused a player on Homer of looking at the packet (I don't know how), and the accusation came from all parties--students, parents, coach. Raynell made the ruling to replay the game on the basis that he hoped that would make it go away, but Loyola won the replay in overtime. The student accused of cheating is apparently competing in the $50,000 bee two weeks hence, and his parents noted that they couldn't trust the latter competition to be on the up-and-up after what they'd been through today. Reference was made to "video evidence" that would clear the team of cheating, and that no one looked at. Raynell reported to me that he looked at the video and it was completely inconclusive.
After talking to my team and telling them what their curfew was in advance of Sunday morning’s Bee, I returned to the ground level after 11, curious to see who had won. I found the varsity final still going on somehow, and liveblogged the ending, so I can report it was 11:37pm when the tournament ended. Hunter was a very strong champion, and Bellarmine a deserving runner-up.
As noted above, this is long enough for now, so I’ll talk about Sunday in a later post.