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Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:31 pm
by cvdwightw
The Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009
This list consists of the most scandalous people, tournaments, and full-blown episodes in Southern California quizbowl this decade. Other lists revolving around my 10 years in Southern California may go up later, when I feel like sifting through stats and making them.

Criteria for getting on this list are simple: it must have been "scandalous" in some sort of the word, it must have involved a player or team from Southern California, and I must have heard about it. This list is drawn from both high school and college quizbowl.

Honorable Mention: The "Bad Boys of Southern California Quizbowl." A possibly self-appointed title first bestowed upon Los Alamitos players of the 1990s; while acting as the "coach" of the 2002 team, one member of this group allegedly pulled the fire alarm at the Austin, Texas airport. This moniker has since been appropriated by the rowdy bunch at Santa Monica.

Honorable Mention: Technophobia X. It made Charles Meigs feel like a 1970's Albanian peasant. Enough said.

Honorable Mention: A certain shower incident whose story I will not go into as (1) I heard this thirdhand and (2) I don't know the exact details.

Without further ado, here is my top 10:

10. Ghetto Warz (2004-2008)
"Scandalous" in the best and worst senses of the word, Ghetto Warz I featured the last(?) known appearance of timed rounds at a non-NAQT event in Southern California, the infamous UC Irvine packet, and a playoff tie that was never clearly resolved. Ghetto Warz II featured the UC Irvine parody packet, originally written for the non-existent 2004 UCI Open, and was notable for being delayed because the Revlon 5k had made it impossible for anyone to find parking. Ghetto Warz III featured the "Packet of Abominations" and a Yogesh-penned theme packet, and ended in a tie as despite the existence of the "surprise" trash packet, no finals packet was produced. Ghetto Warz IV was clearly the best of the lot, as just about all of the problems that did not involve missing science bonuses were clearly attributable to Charlie Steinhice. Ghetto Warz V featured the hilariously terrible decision to use a packet from Ghetto Warz IV after said packet had been publicly posted to the Stanford Archive. All in all, the most scandalous tournament series ever.

9. UC Davis Pulls Out of Aztlan Cup II (March 2006)
UC Davis responded enthusiastically to my frantic last-minute e-mail trying to find teams to fill out the field for Aztlan Cup II. Somehow, they showed up to the tournament under the impression that (1) this tournament was run by ACUI and (2) it was run with College Bowl questions. Perhaps things would have gone better had their first buzz not been "Disneyland" for "Brasilia," or had I not made the ill-advised decision to switch packets 1 and 2 so that a late team could have a first-round bye, leading to the first bonus leadin of the tournament being "Travel around the continent of Asia with the girls of the acclaimed Asian Street Hookers series!", or had they not lost the only game they were at all close in on a current-events protest denial. In any case, at lunch, Davis stated that they "were not having fun," paid a finally-negotiated reduced entry fee (this after considerable haggling to get them to pay anything), and left the tournament. A couple of days later Charles and I received an e-mail from the ACUI Program Coordinator disparaging both us and the tournament. Unfortunately, my copy of that e-mail and the resulting exchanges was destroyed when my computer crashed, but I'm hoping that either Charles or Jerry might still have a copy.

8. Hose Bowl (early 2000s, exact year unknown to me)
QuESADILLA, a guerrilla tournament run by Caltech from 1998 to 2004, was known for all sorts of terrible questions that come with the concept of the guerrilla tournament, but Hose Bowl is considered the worst. This packet, written by Arcadia High School students, was a theme packet in which the theme was that every single tossup contained a hose. According to Charles, who played on it, the moderator in his room laughed every time someone was fooled by a hose and negged.

7. Cam (fall 2001)
This was the Basileus scandal before the Basileus scandal. An anonymous poster sent a Yahoo! group message indicating that a certain player had put up suspiciously high individual points "at home," but rather pedestrian point totals "away from home." In this case, the troll was fed (although it appears that Jason Paik was launching a much-more-discrete investigation into the incidents), and suspicion quickly mounted on Cam, a player for Harvey Mudd, whose then-girlfriend was the president of the Scripps club. Cam posted some interesting defenses of himself, various people came to Cam's defense, and to this day the issue has never truly been resolved. Although the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, several posters to the Yahoo! group refused to believe in his guilt and presumably still do.

6. Zeus (February 2006)
Eventual top-12 HSNCT finisher Santa Monica met talented relative newcomer La Jolla late in the prelim rounds of Baby Anteater. The match was hotly contested throughout, even more hotly because this game featuring two then-undefeated teams was assigned to a room without a working buzzer system. At the end of the game, Santa Monica was ahead by 5 points. La Jolla's coach protested a Santa Monica bonus part in which an answer, possibly directed, was given, followed quickly by a different player's correction to a different, wrong answer, which the coach protested was directed. The moderator accepted neither answer as directed, waited the full five seconds, and prompted for an answer, upon which both players yelled their answer simultaneously. The moderator, consistent with NAQT rules, asked the captain which answer was the team's answer, and the captain gave the correct answer. The protest should have thus been denied, as the moderator clearly did everything the way the moderator was supposed to. Instead of ruling this way or ruling that the wrong answer had been directed, the conference of Irvine moderators ruled that the teams would play a three-question playoff to determine the winner. The moderator who revealed this genius plan explained it with the reasoning that "I am God," and then according to a Santa Monica player "went on to compare himself to Zeus and his fickleness."

I apparently either screwed up a tag or wrote too much, so hsquizbowl.org isn't letting me post this in one part. Scandals 5-1 coming shortly.

Top 5 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:38 pm
by cvdwightw
Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009, Part 2

5. JCV Fiasco (February 2002)
The idea was sound: mirror a college tournament and advertise it as a tournament for a college/high school combined field. The execution wasn't. Only one college team, Arizona State, showed up. The JV division of this event was won by a Capistrano Valley team with virtually the exact same composition as the team that finished in the top 15 at HSNCT that year. Scores were generally low across the board, and many teams appeared not to have fun. Willie Chen used this as his excuse for not paying the previously-agreed-upon mirror fees, and according to legend blamed the entire fiasco on ACF. Whatever actually happened in the tournament aftermath, it is known that the ACF Regionals held two weeks after this was the last area tournament until 2008 to feature a combined high school-college field, and that this tournament was the last ACF-style high school tournament to actually happen in the area until 2009.

4. Basileus (December 2005)
If it means anything, I've been going back and forth a bunch of times on what order these top 4 are in, mostly because all of them are so ridiculously unbelievable. Anyway, Basileus was a player that scored 232 points per game on an NAQT IS-A set, with an amazing 71:2 power:neg ratio (both negs came in a single game; outside of the Santa Monica B game, he had an impossible 60:0 ratio for the prelim games). His team, an "Amelia" High School that did not exist in the Southern California area, beat such talented teams as Arcadia, Edison, and Santa Monica by unheard-of margins. Furthermore, his team finished 12th out of 17 in bonus conversion, behind the last-place finisher in the other prelim bracket! Charles Meigs (who else!?) brought the attention of the national community to this aberration, and the scandal took on a life of its own, much like L'Affaire Cam four years previously. It started when a new poster "dafirenze" claimed to be a Southern California quizbowler in awe of Basileus' mighty tossup-getting power. Pat Freeburn combined "mediocre internet detective work" with his "special email address viewing abilities" to reveal that "dafirenze" was Paul Harold, a quizbowl player at Amelia High School in Ohio. Having been caught lying once, Paul then decided to backtrack, claiming that he was the teammate of the mighty Basileus and that he "heard all about it on the flight back." This argument was sandblasted by a "character witness," the mother of one of Paul's friends, who put to bed any doubt that Paul Harold was not Basileus. In any case, you can read it all here.

3. Smoking at State Champs (spring 2006)
Going into the last preliminary round of the 2006 Southern California NAQT State Championship, Arcadia and Santa Monica B were tied at 7-1; the winner of that round would take the last spot in the championship bracket. Sometime around tossup 3 or 4 of the match, Ilan, then a sophomore at Santa Monica, decided to light up a cigarette in what was later discovered to be a clear violation of the building code (among other violations). Santa Monica B ultimately won the game. It is unclear who actually lodged the protest (whether it was the Arcadia team or venerable moderator Charles Meigs, maybe Neiman remembers?), but while I was waiting for preliminary stats to be compiled so I could announce playoff assignments, Charles came to me with the protest. After much discussion, Ilan claimed that then-freshman moderator Cliff Galiher (better known as the 2007 College Jeopardy! champion) had told him it was okay to light up. It is unclear why Cliff would have said this, or even if he did (my recollection is that Cliff vehemently denied any such thing). As a completely befuddled tournament director, I had absolutely no idea what to do. I ultimately threw out the results of the original game and suspended Ilan for the "official" Arcadia-Santa Monica B game, and the first playoff game. Arcadia won the rematch, leading Ilan to claim something along the lines of that his teammates were going to beat him up on the way back. It is unclear whether they actually did so.

Top 2 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:41 pm
by cvdwightw
2. Academic League (pre-2000-present)
The San Diego Academic League has long been a stalwart of bad quizbowl. It readily admits to question recycling, contains "academic" questions on newspapers, has interesting ideas on what makes a good moderator (Entertaining the audience? A must-have! Being able to read the words on the page? Not necessary.), and has told at least one Southern California quizbowler that "if it were any different, it wouldn't be Academic League" (I may have the quote wrong; hopefully Zhao still has a copy of that e-mail). However, Academic League made news in the blogosphere (sorry, Sorice) when the La Jolla-Scripps Ranch playoff match went into overtime. A one-line question about the first country to be established with the help of the United Nations was asked. Scripps Ranch buzzed in with "Israel," which was ruled incorrect. In Academic League rules, a wrong answer costs you one point, so Scripps Ranch lost the game. Or so they thought. Since the match would not be aired until several days later, Scripps Ranch took advantage of the Academic League Rules to find evidence that their answer was correct. They found evidence from the CIA World Factbook and the UN Resolution dealing with the founding of Israel. The Academic League officials countered with Debbie's Super Trivia Encyclopedia and a source they claimed was Encyclopedia Britannica (the actual Britannica section says, "in November 1949, the UN General Assembly voted that Libya should become a united and independent kingdom no later than Jan. 1, 1952.") but which was not at all clear. In any case, the whole fiasco was brought to Ken Jennings' attention by a member of the losing side; Ken noted that "You don’t need any particularly vast experience in quiz bowl to see that this question sucks" and went on to describe Academic League as a "monolithic and complacent organization," comparing it to CBI. That blog post, and the fact that I'm sure there are many more Academic League travesties of the past decade that I haven't heard about, puts them at #2.

1. UCLA Wins 2004 ICT Division II (April 2004)
In 2003, due to the questionable decision to put the ICT in Los Angeles (a feat that, if I actually knew more about how it was ostensibly mishandled by the hosting teams, would have at least made honorable mention), NAQT failed to fill the Division II field, even after accounting for all standby teams (that tournament marks the one and only known ICT appearance of UC Riverside). In an e-mail that was sent to various West Coast club presidents (but apparently not to anyone else), R. Hentzel begged for a 32nd team to replace a team that had dropped out within a week of the tournament, claiming that the team that filled this slot would not lose their D2 eligibility unless they won. Charles Meigs and Matthew Sherman had not participated in that year's SCT, anticipating being needed to staff ICT. However, they ended up being the leaders of the 2003 team that finished fifth. In 2004, I joined that nucleus and we put on one of the most dominating D2 SCT performances of all time. Needless to say, people who had not gotten word of the 2003 deal were quite angry, claiming that Charles and Matthew were cheaters. Internal discussions, facilitated by "I am not your lawyer" Steve Kaplan, resulted in a club policy of "don't post anything and let the Internet flamewar boil over." Meanwhile, NAQT tried to get out of their "devil's bargain." NAQT proposed that UCLA transfer its bid to Division I, and offered various incentives to do so (I believe it involved no entry fees and some amount of free questions, but I lost that e-mail too). UCLA refused, and played ICT in Division II. UCLA was only challenged in two games at ICT: a loss to Harvard, after which Charles bathed the WUSTL campus in profanity, and a last-question win against Carleton. The rest of the top bracket beat up on itself, and UCLA won an advantaged final over Illinois to claim the championship. That prompted yet another wave of anti-NAQT and anti-UCLA acrimony all over the Yahoo! group, which reached levels of ridiculousness that cannot be adequately summarized in one long paragraph (you can find the start of the ICT thread here). Anyway, there you have it. A secret backroom deal that both sides thought was public knowledge led to a national championship many still regard as illegitimate. I don't know how anything else can be considered the biggest Southern California quizbowl scandal of the decade.

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:54 pm
by Down and out in Quintana Roo
Absolutely fascinating stuff. Nice write-up, Dwight.

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:52 am
by ak47
The Ilan Ben-Meir and Basileus incident bring back fond memories of SoCal hs quizbowl. Thanks for this trio of posts, Dwight.

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:57 am
by Joe Romersa
Wow, that was amazing.

Thanks Dwight

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:14 pm
by ntan
Arcadia didnt lodge any protest for #3. we were beaten pretty badly, and our coach felt it wasnt a big deal complaining about it. weird how it worked out in our favor though

Re: Top 2 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 7:06 pm
by Maxwell Sniffingwell
cvdwightw wrote:In 2004, I joined that nucleus and we put on one of the most dominating D2 SCT performances of all time.
I looked it up: here are the stats. In an eight-team tournament, Dwight finished 9th in individual scoring despite not finishing in the top two spots on his own team; UCLA finished with an average margin of +403.5; UCLA's 47 powers ties the number put up by the next two teams combined, which ties the number put up by the rest of the field combined; Matthew Sherman puts up a scary-efficient 14-51-3 line; UCLA never does worse than 20 PPB in a game.

That's some impressive stuff.

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:09 pm
by worldrallyblue
If this isn't on the QB Wiki it should definitely be linked or reposted there (assuming Dwight doesn't mind.) A great piece of QB history.

Re: Top 5 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:40 pm
by Down and out in Quintana Roo
cvdwightw wrote:4. Basileus (December 2005)
If it means anything, I've been going back and forth a bunch of times on what order these top 4 are in, mostly because all of them are so ridiculously unbelievable. Anyway, Basileus was a player that scored 232 points per game on an NAQT IS-A set, with an amazing 71:2 power:neg ratio (both negs came in a single game; outside of the Santa Monica B game, he had an impossible 60:0 ratio for the prelim games). His team, an "Amelia" High School that did not exist in the Southern California area, beat such talented teams as Arcadia, Edison, and Santa Monica by unheard-of margins. Furthermore, his team finished 12th out of 17 in bonus conversion, behind the last-place finisher in the other prelim bracket! Charles Meigs (who else!?) brought the attention of the national community to this aberration, and the scandal took on a life of its own, much like L'Affaire Cam four years previously. It started when a new poster "dafirenze" claimed to be a Southern California quizbowler in awe of Basileus' mighty tossup-getting power. Pat Freeburn combined "mediocre internet detective work" with his "special email address viewing abilities" to reveal that "dafirenze" was Paul Harold, a quizbowl player at Amelia High School in Ohio. Having been caught lying once, Paul then decided to backtrack, claiming that he was the teammate of the mighty Basileus and that he "heard all about it on the flight back." This argument was sandblasted by a "character witness," the mother of one of Paul's friends, who put to bed any doubt that Paul Harold was not Basileus. In any case, you can read it all here.
I still wonder if there was ever any resolution to this or any other information. It's such a great read.

Re: Top 5 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:38 pm
by cvdwightw
Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS wrote:
cvdwightw wrote:4. Basileus (December 2005)
If it means anything, I've been going back and forth a bunch of times on what order these top 4 are in, mostly because all of them are so ridiculously unbelievable. Anyway, Basileus was a player that scored 232 points per game on an NAQT IS-A set, with an amazing 71:2 power:neg ratio (both negs came in a single game; outside of the Santa Monica B game, he had an impossible 60:0 ratio for the prelim games). His team, an "Amelia" High School that did not exist in the Southern California area, beat such talented teams as Arcadia, Edison, and Santa Monica by unheard-of margins. Furthermore, his team finished 12th out of 17 in bonus conversion, behind the last-place finisher in the other prelim bracket! Charles Meigs (who else!?) brought the attention of the national community to this aberration, and the scandal took on a life of its own, much like L'Affaire Cam four years previously. It started when a new poster "dafirenze" claimed to be a Southern California quizbowler in awe of Basileus' mighty tossup-getting power. Pat Freeburn combined "mediocre internet detective work" with his "special email address viewing abilities" to reveal that "dafirenze" was Paul Harold, a quizbowl player at Amelia High School in Ohio. Having been caught lying once, Paul then decided to backtrack, claiming that he was the teammate of the mighty Basileus and that he "heard all about it on the flight back." This argument was sandblasted by a "character witness," the mother of one of Paul's friends, who put to bed any doubt that Paul Harold was not Basileus. In any case, you can read it all here.
I still wonder if there was ever any resolution to this or any other information. It's such a great read.
I forgot the best part of this. Further internet detective work by Charles showed that Paul Harold had forgone his senior year to attend USC, and thus was not even eligible to play at the tournament.

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:45 pm
by Down and out in Quintana Roo
Ha, glorious.

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:47 pm
by Matt Weiner
I believe that is why the UCLA lexicon defines USC as "the only college that can unwittingly conspire to win its own high school tournament."

Re: Top 10 Scandals in Southern California Quizbowl 2000-2009

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:14 am
by Joe Romersa
I'm from Arcadia, and I'd like to know more (or actually read) the Hose Bowl packet from QuESADILLA. If anyone still has a copy of it, can you email it to ([email protected])? Thanks