I'm going to take some time to respond to, and sometimes critique, some of the thoughts and sentiments that you shared. I'm glad you shared all your thoughts, but there are many claims in your post that I feel a need to unwind and perhaps respond to with some suggestions.
Ithaca Cricket Ump wrote:Having worked with them and gotten to know them over the last couple years (and Brooks for longer than that), there is nothing whatsoever bad to be said, as people or as moderators and staffers, about Brick Barrientos, Jason Russell, Brooks Sanders, Mike Mastandrea or Ariel Schieler.
Any/all of these people may be polite and kind to a fault, or good at doing the tasks Chip Beall assigns them, or family friends outside of quizbowl, or all sorts of other nice things. Maybe they smile a lot; maybe they give to charity - it doesn't matter. What matters is that materially supporting Chip Beall's enterprise in any way is a bad thing to do
, and all people who volunteer their time or effort to his enterprise should stop right now
. (One need not go so far as to call them "awful people" to admit the obvious here: it's easy for people to be nice
and still do bad things
which they need to stop doing
, lest they be judged in their capacity as moral agents for doing them.)
Have you tried talking to these folks about why they continue with Chip? If there is truly nothing bad to be said about these people, some amount of conversation explaining what's wrong with Chip, and some demonstration of the alternatives to his event, should show them all the things that good quizbowl circuits offer and that Chip Beall actively corrupts. (Love of learning, inspiring passions for new disciplines, reinforcing and expanding the academic material in schools, fairness, the correlation between effort and results, sportsmanship, vibrant community spaces nationwide both online and in person, etc. etc.) Maybe Brick, Jason, and Brooks are too far gone at this point. Offer to meet up with one of the others at an NAQT or HSAPQ tournament. See if they listen. If not, I'd start asking whether there is some irrationality or bad circumstance holding them back. Loyalty to this insane man, perhaps? They feel trapped, figuratively or literally?
I (now) know that people have had problems in the past with things that Ernie Anderson has said, but I have never had a problem with the guy and quite like him personally, admittedly mostly because I am a 41-year-old male whom it is practically impossible to offend.
Related to the above: Your lack of problems with Ernie Anderson does not in any way invalidate or deny the huge raft of complaints he has gotten over the years. This is a non-starter.
I read at this phase of this tournament for two years, and while I'm not trying to toot my own horn here I didn't hear about people thinking they'd been hard done by by me, screwed out of a win that they deserved by me, or that I was trying to quote 2 Live Crew lyrics to their 15-year-old daughter, either.
...This was my second year reading at the DC NAC, and this time it will certainly be my last.
I'm glad you made the discovery that this only seemed honorable, and the more honorable thing to do is just walk away. It isn't worth it to get your hands dirty or incur mistrust from other people by going anywhere near Questions Unlimited. ( In fact, you may already have trouble getting people to trust you just from going for these past two years - I don't really know.) The most
honorable thing to do, given that I know you love good quizbowl and want to promote it for good reason, is to actively thwart Chip Beall's efforts, either by working hard to create better alternatives or by attempting to peel teams off of his regime.
Almost every single problem with this tournament is directly attributable to the behavior, attitude and psychoses of one man -
. As Sam Donow said last year in the 2012 NAC thread (I'm paraphrasing from memory), I think that the net effect of the staffers at the NAC not named Beall (although his wife Yvon does seem to be a pleasant person) is to neutralize his odiousness and make the tournament experience more pleasant for the teams than it would otherwise be. I'll say this...even the die-hard
supporters at the NAC do not want to play matches in his room, to the point where one coach that had just finished a game with me openly blurted out, after checking the schedule, “Oh s***, we're in
's room next.”
Is the argumentative claim here that "Chip Beall can be severed from the rest of the organization and things will be fine", or that "the people in Chip's organization will be fine after being severed from him? If your claim is the former - don't be naive. Chip Beall is the leader and driving force of everything the organization does. There is no point in imagining QU or the NAC without Chip Beall, because he is obviously delusional and will continue running the enterprise the exact same way he's been running it, until the day he keels over at the podium. Saying anything positive about Questions Unlimited-sans-Chip, or the ways in which those people make his sham tournament better
(!!!), emboldens Chip Beall and validates his backward way of making 1983 proto-quizbowl [not] work. If you're making the latter claim - you think we can get the rest of the staffers out and isolate Chip - again, you're probably in a better place than any of us to try and bring them around. I wish you luck. (Though Brick Barrientos has staffed and played modern collegiate opens and still doesn't seem to get it.)
I will say that the Thai restaurant one block down the street from the Westin was quite outstanding, as well as reasonably priced, especially for the DC area.
Come on, man. Teams don't pay 600 dollars, plus hundreds more in travel and lodging, for Thai food.
All that having been said, the 2013 NAC phase in Washington may turn out to be a positive boon for PYRAMIDAL quizbowl in the upstate New York / northern Pennsylvania regions, since two of the locally-influential schools represented from that area, Cooperstown (NY) and Montrose Area (PA) - the latter of whom were among the contenders to win the phase, and were considered by many teams as the best or second-best team there despite their early playoff exit - will most assuredly never be attending the NAC again. I know that both coaches (Tim Iversen of Cooperstown and John Koloski of Montrose) lurk on this board, as well as some of their players... Ithaca is now completely a pyramidal quizbowl program. Cooperstown and Montrose will be next year. Even the three semi-local teams attending NAC in DC this year (Fillmore, Genesee Valley and Delaware Valley) who didn't get actively robbed of their tournament chances by
expressed interest in competing in the new local pyramidal tournaments next year, and in fact Fillmore and Delaware Valley already do (the latter were at NHBB Nationals).
It is a good thing that more teams want to do good questions. I'll take a second to put my VP of Outreach hat on, and say to those people: Hi, folks! If you're reading this and want to get involved in more non-Chip tournaments, but don't know where to start, feel free to send me a message and I'll see what I can do to help. More generally, to Scott: If you'd like to help connect those teams up with tournament hosts in their areas, that would be awesome. Let NYC or Upstate hosts know about the New York teams - when you see UBuffalo or Columbia put up an announcement, shoot an email to the TDs saying "Do you have Cooperstown on your email list? Their email is ______" - and you'll do a world of good for getting people linked into the mainstream quizbowl world.
I'd like to take a second to quash a narrative that seems to be emerging from this thread - i.e. "it's okay that this team went to Chip Beall once, since it taught them the lesson that they should HATE it and never go back!" Or: "We went one time just to laugh at it!" NO.
Certainly, if a team has started in on Questions Unlimited without knowing
about better alternatives, we should steer them away from it without judging them for their lack of familiarity with the broader, better quizbowl world. But if you know
about the problems of this enterprise, doing anything
to help it is a ringing endorsement of all the problems it has and its continued existence well into the future. This post
is absolutely right, and expresses the beliefs of the mainstream quizbowl community on this score.
I'll leave it to, and openly invite, them to give the board the details of what happened, as anything coming from me would be hearsay since none of the things they had problems with happened in my room, and therefore anything coming from me regarding this topic would be hearsay and therefore not admissible in a court of quizbowl.
I saw and heard things this year, as a regularly-scheduled staffer, that I did not see or hear last time around when I was a begged-at-the-last-minute-to-please-come-and-read-so-
First things first: Please share as much as you can about your experiences and the experiences of others. It helps pull rational coaches and well-meaning teams away from Chip Beall when people can lay out as much evidence of the NAC's problems as they can. This is thankfully not a court, but merely a discussion board. And since the tournament is so cloistered from the mainstream quizbowl world, we hear so little unless we get stories from the people who witnessed the problems firsthand. In fact, withholding demonstrably valid stories about Questions Unlimited and Chip Beall has the indirect effect of keeping teams trapped in his silent bubble, and nobody wants that. (Has anyone posted publicly on the Internet yet about his "sponsorship message" from a fictional brand of soap, delivered to an imaginary TV camera, before rounds?)
My time and my efforts, I think, are best directed elsewhere in the future, especially with having BrainBusters Fall expansion from a local to a large regional NAQT qualifier, the NYS Championship, the Cooperstown joint high school-middle school tournament at the Hall of Fame, the first-ever local middle school tournament (and MSNCT qualifier) in the early spring, helping out with Bull Bowl, NHBB, and metro-NYC tournaments, ... [see below] ...and reading at MSNCT, HSNCT, PACE NSC, NHBB Nationals and NASAT, my plate is going to be slightly on the full side from here on in.
Sounds good. Glad to have you on board.
...the usual 3 local tournaments I do with Brooks Sanders...
Can you talk a little more about these? They almost assuredly use terrible questions, and probably aren't a thing you want to support anymore. Wasn't Brooks supposed to be retiring soon? Is that not true anymore? Is this a defensible thing to do?
A postscript, and one that I'd be interested in hearing people's opinions regarding: I am actually one of the people on this board who thinks that a post-
NAC -does- have a legitimate place in the high school quizbowl world. Although he would always be working against the ethical lapses of the
years, Jason Russell, if allowed to work free of
interference (which he isn't now...my take on that situation is that he is “Head Editor” in name only since
has final call on everything question-wise), might be able to make this tournament worth attending again for teams that prefer, or at the very least don't mind occasionally playing on, shorter, non-pyramidal questions and the four-quarter format....and those teams actually do exist. At HSNCT this year, I spoke to the coaches from a team that is a recent convert from
to pyramidal quizbowl, and they did tell me that, if Jason were ever to take over NAC (or, more bluntly, if
were to leave) that they -would- be willing to give NAC another try, and I'm sure that there are teams out there who feel the same way. There are also many more out there who were so scarred by their previous NAC experiences that they'll never come back no matter who's in charge, and that's okay, too. I envision a future in which there are 4 major national multiple-category quizbowl championships: NAQT HSNCT (short-pyramidal, traditional distribution), PACE NSC (long-pyramidal academic), NASAT (state all-star long-pyramidal) and NAC (non-pyramidal four-quarter), and that all 4 tournaments can co-exist peacefully in the way that the first 3 do now. Maybe it's a pipe dream, but I think it's possible. But it's not possible until
is no longer associated with the sport of quizbowl, because the man carries too much baggage, and does not have the best interests of the sport at heart.
I disagree. I certainly wouldn't want Jason Russell writing a non-pyramidal national even if it were ethically clean and Chip-free. I doubt many people here would want that. From all we can discern, he is very bad at writing questions that fairly tell us which of the competing teams knows more about a given subject. This would make such a national tournament inherently far less fair than the existing national offerings, since the number of questions that come down to split-second buzzer luck would drown out the signal of knowledge with the noise of who buzzed first. Hardly a good way to play a game based on knowing facts. In addition to their other failings (they're worse at giving people educational opportunities, etc.) , bad questions quite frankly reward mediocrity by setting the bar for effective competition so low and making it so hard to stand out among the crowd of teams that all buzz at the same point.
This is why, more broadly, "non-pyramidal" tossups are something that good quizbowl advocates can't support. It is necessary - it follows from the very nature of what it means to have more knowledge than another person - that tossups have multiple clues, arranged so the less-known clues come before the better-known clues. Without that feature the ability to reward teams for the effort of knowing things is sharply impoverished and often crippled outright.
(Note, though: I have no problem with four-quarter format, or packet formats that include single-team
questions that aren't pyramidal, such as lightning rounds or bonuses. History Bowl uses four-quarter format with pyramidal tossups, and it does a very good job allowing kids to compete fairly and pit their history knowledge against one another nonetheless.)
Such a competition would also draw teams away from what they should be doing instead during that same time frame - namely, HSNCT and PACE. Even if they're teams that wouldn't qualify for the [rather big] fields of HSNCT or PACE right away, the low quality of the "Jason Russell Championship" questions and their speed-based nature would give those teams the wrong idea of what quizbowl success looks like, and divert them from the proper end goal of qualifying for HSNCT or PACE down the line through expansive familiarity the humanities, arts, and sciences. On the staffing level, any decently-run fourth national with appeal to the mainstream community would have a hard time pulling together a large enough staffer corps, given that NHBB, HSNCT, PACE, and NASAT all already take up a lot of near-consecutive weekends for lots of people. On the monetary level, few teams have the money and commitment for all that travel. Perhaps an explicitly JV or "non-competitive" national would draw a different enough field that this wouldn't matter, but again - the goal is to bring these teams into the mainstream quizbowl community, not shelter them from it, and propping up a national for bad teams is a good recipe for keeping them split off for ages.
Now: Fairness does mean that the better team wins. Some teams don't like the idea that there are better teams out there - they want to be on more equal footing with teams that seem unreachable. Maybe these teams are bad and scared, or maybe they're just unfamiliar with how astonishing a top-25 HSNCT or NSC team looks these days upon the first matchup with total newbies. Maybe they aren't used to questions being longer than a sentence and are just unsure if they'll be anything but bored by longer questions that all seem harder than they were before due to the stacking of harder clues at the beginning. These are all attitudes that we ought to work against
, and a "Jason Russell Championship" would cater to
each of them.
if people worry about how "LOOOONG" questions are, or they're worried that they'll never catch up to the best of the best, let's not reinforce wrong ideas with a wrongheaded question set. Let's stay firm in our commitments to fairness and knowledge, and show those teams that it's not impossible to have fun in an environment that is quite simply better at doing the things quizbowl is meant to do. Empirically: Plenty of All-Stars started out with very bad stats at the start of their careers. There are plenty of good practice questions available to get new-to-good-quizbowl players into the mindset. Questions seem way less long as you get used to typical NAQT/HSAPQ length through mere exposure, and get way more doable as players start to learn some of the clues at various points in past questions. This happens pretty quick - within weeks, usually.
If teams just want to compete at a national with lower stakes and a less-imposing field, I posit furthermore that they can do so at...the NAQT HSNCT! NAQT invites over a hundred teams that are below playoffs caliber each year, and the card system sorts less-experienced or less-good teams into less imposing competition pretty quickly. Plus, the questions are pretty short and the pacing of the games themselves is very fast.
Feel free to reply here and/or talk to me in person about any of this (I'll be at NSC) - I make all these comments in the spirit of constructive effort.