What I want to focus on instead is the attitude of the Georgia Tech poster (whose name I don't know) and why I think that attitude is problematic. Let's break it down:
The first example of a problematic attitude towards quizbowl is this idea that somehow good players write 50+ page lists of plot summaries or whatever. Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of memorization that is integral to the game, but in general, this is not how people get good at it. This is because a crucial component of learning (which is what this game is about) is the ability to situate the new information in context. Sure, I guess you can memorize the plots of Henry James novels or learn to buzz on science topics that you have no idea about, but unless you're some sort of weird quizbowl idiot savant, you're just not going to be able to get very far with this. You're going to be playing against people who have read those novels or studied that science, and their real knowledge will usually prove superior to knowledge based on buzzwords.gtechnerd wrote:Just to clarify some of my statements which I think stirred up a few people...
I do think that the COTKU questions were good, for extremely good players/teams. Clearly FSU, South Florida and others did OK on the question set, and I think Charlie did a good job of running the tournament as always. I also have played on a competitive team before, back in high school, and I know how much you can improve by spending every weekend studying, writing up 50+ page lists of plot summaries, and devoting massive blocks of time to quizbowl.
It's already been noted how the place for players to enjoy a good tournament is, in fact, at a good tournament, but it's the second part of this sentence that's really problematic. So, you don't care to learn about Inuit mythology or Turkish literature; then why are you playing a game which is essentially based around learning as much as you can? And more importantly, why don't you care about these things? I find the cavalier attitude with which these topics are dismissed to be quite disturbing, actually. I by no means wish to pick on Georgia Tech here, but I do have to note that this is an attitude towards the liberal arts that I see quite often from engineers and various science-types; in short, if it has no immediate application, it's useless. Obviously, that's not what the poster I quoted was saying, but it's a subtext in his post; in general, this kind of attitude betrays an unfortunate lack of intellectual curiosity, which is the one quality that I think is essential for quizbowl success.But I also think that there needs to be a place for players who just want to enjoy a good tournament, and don't want to have to make quizbowl a high priority, and I think that is something that quizbowl is losing, the casual player who takes a few notes, writes a packet every once in a while, but doesn't care to learn Inuit mythology, Turkish literature, or obscure experiments verifying existing EM theories.
I don't mean to be refighting the War of Northern Aggression, but it's an empirical fact that the South has generally been not as good at quizbowl as the other regions. Now, I don't believe that there is anything special about going to school in Minnesota or UC Irvine that gives one an advantage over someone attending Georgia Tech or Vanderbilt when it comes to learning stuff. It seems much more likely (and in fact I believe this is the case) that it's because the Southern circuit has for a long time been pretty insular and resistant to change. I don't know why that should be the case, unless it's from some mistaken notion of regional pride, but the relevant point here is that your geographical location no more determines your proficiency at quizbowl than it determines whether you're good at math, say.I certainly don't mean to downplay the accomplishments of EFT and ACF with their Fall and Winter tournaments, which I expect will be as high quality and as accessible as always, but in the Southeast I have noticed a slight trend to more difficult tournaments, particularly at UTC, but also elsewhere. Moon Pie last year had a median bonus conversion arround 10 points, compared to the 17 points they had at Sword Bowl.
See, I have no idea what this means. You're playing a game which, as I've already mentioned, involves learning things and knowing things. Of course, to be competitive in the higher echelons of the game you do indeed need quite a large knowledge base, but the idea that this base has to be huge in order to be a decent team is absurd. Are we really at the point where basic familiarity with American and European history and literature is considered "huge?"I haven't seen Emory as often as two years ago, Agnes Scott's team never got off the ground due, in large part, to the huge knowledge base that the players just couldn't assimilate in practice,
I'm baffled by what you think you are getting out of such an activity. Is the stimulus-response nature of spending a weekend this way really that appealing? I mean, first off, obviously Marlowe is surely not the only notable person to be killed in a bar fight; he may not even be the only notable author to die in this fashion. But even neglecting that, what do you get from buzzing on such a clue? It's an utterly trivial fact about Marlowe's life (well, death) and it requires no familiarity with his work or anything at all interesting about him to buzz on it. So I don't understand what satisfaction there could be in such an endeavor other than getting some points. Surely you can't tell me that you feel like you've learned something from that experience.In short, we are becoming so difficult and competitive that we lose some of the opportunity to just have fun answering questions, bringing up our favorite anecdotes (died in a bar figh... BUZZ! Marlowe)
And I guess that's the point of my post: I want to encourage people to view quizbowl not just as a game where you accumulate points by buzzing, but as an intellectual process. I think that the more you stay in the circuit, the more you realize that it's not about instant recall, it's about learning, and if you're willing to learn, you're going to prosper. I'm honestly glad that people who just want to buzz on anecdotes are feeling like the game is leaving them behind; it means we're doing it right, and the explosion in independent events and the increase in the quality of collegiate and high school competition shows that there's a lot of demand for this kind of approach. Of course, all other things being equal, I would prefer that the Georgia Tech team show up to tournaments rather than not. But there's no sense in undermining the learning aspect of this activity to attract teams. What I would say to anyone who feels like they are in over their head at a tournament is: come with a notebook. Write down a couple things here and there that seem interesting to you. Look them up, try to learn something about them, place them in a historical, literary, scientific, whatever context. Build a web of association around those things, and learn about how they interact with the rest of the world. Quizbowl is more than a listing of atomic facts with no connection to anything outside of themselves; it is a game-facilitated learning process that rewards intellectual curiosity.