Attitudes towards quizbowl

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Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by grapesmoker »

In light of the recent thread on the UTC mirror of MO, I thought I'd start this discussion of quizbowl and one's attitudes towards the same. One of the things that I think is most regrettable is the return, in that thread, of the pernicious stereotype that quality quizbowl can only be enjoyed by super-advanced grad students or whatever. It's boring for me to rehash the arguments against this nonsense, so I won't bother amassing the evidence necessary to refute it; suffice to say that it's well-understood by most quizbowl players that this is completely false.

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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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,
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?"
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)
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.

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.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Cheynem »

In regards to the "having fun answering our favorite questions," I'm not really sure why this is a good thing for quiz bowl. While my views on quiz bowl have obviously changed since high school, what I primarily like about it now is that it rewards good, deep knowledge about topics. So, when I get a question on the Tydings-McDuffie Act because I just studied it for my American history course or I a power on the Gospel of Luke because I have deep familiarity with it, those are far better than remembering a series of trivia buzzing points about various famous people or events.

I played MO and didn't do very well at it. I admit it. But the more I feel like I play against a high level competition with high quality questions, I feel like I become a better player.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

I've been following this discussion with some interest, as I have some strong feelings on the ways in which the canon has expanded and the game has changed in the last five to seven years. I look forward to sharing some of my ideas on those changes, but I want to do so in an organized fashion, so for now, I just want to address one of Jerry's points.

I suppose it is an "empirical fact" that the schools from the South have not been represented at the highest levels of the collegiate game of late; this can be seen just by looking at finishes from ICT and ACF Nats. However, though some of that indeed is due to regional insularity, I think much more of it is likely due to less pre-college QB participation here than in other areas. The two times I moderated at PACE I was amazed at how many kids who were playing were in 9th or 10th grade (or, in very few but stunning cases, even middle school) and at how good they were. These kids were already handling material that was pretty close to the level of my Delta Burke tournament for CCs. Presumably, many of them are talented novices at various colleges now. I think that's great, obviously, but such players are not the norm down here for some reason.

Many people on this board know a whole lot more about HS teams in the South, and I'm aware that Florida, Georgia, SC, and Alabama (among others) seem to have some really outstanding individual HS teams and maybe even state-wide programs, but somehow the majority of these folks don't seem to transition into colleges in these states. I know there are recent counter-examples, which is great, but I'm referring to a general trend (or at least my perception of it). UF, USF, FSU, etc., don't seem to get a whole bunch of experienced HS players that often. Hence, the new players have to start from well behind where (I think) a lot of the players at Chicago, Maryland, Illinois, etc., start. This likely affects their perceptions of the difficulty of questions. However, I'm also certain that there's no general desire here for speedcheck bowl or anything; though that may be attractive to some, it's not, as emphasized in the other thread, anywhere close to the feelings of most teams/players down here.

I want to say right now that I may be completely full of it on this one, as again I'm no expert on freshmen at any of those schools or on HS programs. But this is how it appears to be to me. It just seems that novice players at schools in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Midwest come in better than novices here. This is not meant as an excuse, as anyone can choose to get better in all the ways discussed in the other thread. But I think it plays as big a part as the insularity.

Anyway, this thread is a good idea, Jerry, and I'm glad you started it with such a good post.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Matt Weiner »

I'n not sure that point about high schoolers is true. I think you're more likely, in the South, to get someone who has played at at all in high school, even if you are less likely to get someone who was a top player. There are an immense number of high school programs in Georgia and Florida. It's also been well-observed that a substantial majority of the top collegiate players were not elite high school players. If you look at the people who played for Chicago A&B at MO, I see 2 people who were widely known in high school and 6 who were not, some of whom I'm not even sure played at all.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

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ValenciaQBowl wrote:I suppose it is an "empirical fact" that the schools from the South have not been represented at the highest levels of the collegiate game of late; this can be seen just by looking at finishes from ICT and ACF Nats. However, though some of that indeed is due to regional insularity, I think much more of it is likely due to less pre-college QB participation here than in other areas. The two times I moderated at PACE I was amazed at how many kids who were playing were in 9th or 10th grade (or, in very few but stunning cases, even middle school) and at how good they were. These kids were already handling material that was pretty close to the level of my Delta Burke tournament for CCs. Presumably, many of them are talented novices at various colleges now. I think that's great, obviously, but such players are not the norm down here for some reason.
Sure, good high schoolers are fairly amazing, this has been commented on previously. But a solid high school background doesn't necessarily translate into an excellent college career, and I think that's the false premise that a lot of people make about this game. The fundamental problem is human nature - people want to win no matter what situation they're in, and working for it makes that much harder. While Jonathan Magin will always talk about how learning is the most important thing about this game (and he's probably right), that's just not cutting it for some people. People want the satisfaction of winning, and when its not easy for them to get they'll translate that dissatisfaction into either calling for formats that give them a better chance of winning (bad), or into studying (good).
ValenciaQBowl wrote:Many people on this board know a whole lot more about HS teams in the South, and I'm aware that Florida, Georgia, SC, and Alabama (among others) seem to have some really outstanding individual HS teams and maybe even state-wide programs, but somehow the majority of these folks don't seem to transition into colleges in these states. I know there are recent counter-examples, which is great, but I'm referring to a general trend (or at least my perception of it). UF, USF, FSU, etc., don't seem to get a whole bunch of experienced HS players that often. Hence, the new players have to start from well behind where (I think) a lot of the players at Chicago, Maryland, Illinois, etc., start. This likely affects their perceptions of the difficulty of questions.
Sure, I'll buy the brain drain argument. For whatever reason, so-called "prestigious" universities attract good students, a lot of the best quizbowlers are good students, and said universities are, more often than not, found outside of the south. But collegiate quizbowl is an excellent equalizer, and the perception that players in the south have to start significantly behind other regions is a false one. The great part about the canon is that it is globally unbounded but locally compact (or something. I haven't taken analysis); in other words, mastering a handful of sub-categories at any difficulty is very doable, even for a freshman with no previous quizbowl experience, while mastering the entire canon is impossible for everyone. That's the nature of this game, no one is going to know every clue, and once inexperienced freshmen realize this is true for every player, from people like Matt Weiner to random freshman X from random college Y, quizbowl becomes that much more exciting and worthwhile. Many of the best players today started by learning how to staunchly defend one category, and if more people started playing quizbowl with this mindset, the circuit would be much better off for it.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Jerry does a pretty good job of summarizing all of the wrong-headed ideas implied by those silly COTKU posts and refuting them, just in case anyone might be benefitted. I won't bother further refuting a post which seriously calls for qb to consist of hideous anecdotal clues, presumably so that a group of morons can have fun pressing a buzzer and then congratulating each other on how awesome that is.


But, I'll use myself as an example to back up one of the points Jerry makes - among the upper-echelon players in the game right now, I'm certainly one who's notably done a great deal of outright clue memorization. But, that memorization alone doesn't make you very good at the game - the willingness to learn isolated clues has to be paired with an ability to situate those clues within some sort of context. The way you do that is by being intellectually curious - by looking things up and merging new information with what you already know, so that you have a semi-coherent body of knowledge.

Jerry recommends taking a notebook to a tournament and writing a few things down. If that works for you, by all means do it, but I've never found it terribly useful. Thankfully, we live in an age where good quizbowl tournaments get posted online almost immediately after the event - so you can just go read through the packets. When you find something you're interested in knowing, write down the clues for it...and then go look it up elsewhere, even if it's just on Wikipedia, to get some background information about it. Maybe write a question on it, since you're in the process of looking it up anyway. I you follow a process like this for a little while, you'll find yourself slowly accumulating a worthwhile body of knowledge - one that doesn't just reduce to "stimulus-response" or a few meaningless anecdotes.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

Matt wrote:
I'n not sure that point about high schoolers is true. I think you're more likely, in the South, to get someone who has played at at all in high school, even if you are less likely to get someone who was a top player.
Fair enough. I don't know enough about Georgia's or UTC's or Vandy's or other Southern schools' rosters to know if they get more kids with HS experience (though I haven't seen many lately at Florida colleges), and I agree that HS experience is no guarantor of college success. But I guess I look at it like this: a kid who has played a few years of HS QB, even if he was mediocre or worse, is much more likely to be able to answer "Durkheim" or "esters" or "Kenzaburo Oe," if only at the end of a toss-up, than most of those who didn't (and no, I'm not trying to start a sidetrack about whether these particular random examples are common in HS curricula). Further, as Jerry wrote above, such kids have a more developed "web of knowledge" into which to connect further clues and new information.

I'm going to bore folks with CC examples again. As I've often said, 90% of my players have never seen a buzzer or heard of the game. When I read a toss-up on Durkheim, they don't know who he is or about anomie or Mauss or "division of labor" or any of that stuff. But at least here they're part of a competitive group and see that the guys from last year know all that stuff, and I can help them create a web of associations for him. However, if I'm not able to do that for them, it's much harder for them to connect that information to anything; it's as if someone said to one of us, "You have to know Schmerdle, he wrote "Hysteria and Oligarchy," which produced the concept of sgnifica, the state of portentousness." For some of us that might stick with effort, but having nothing to connect it to makes it pretty random.

But Matt and I completely agree on one thing: anyone can overcome this, and not having HS experience doesn't have to be a handicap. But I think you all can see how some folks could lose interest if they sit through numerous questions to which they don't know the answer. I'm not defending such discouragement, I'm just saying I can see how it would develop. I often have to tell new players after their first practice to sit tight, that it takes a year for most people to be able to answer much. But some don't want to, not necessarily because they want to win, but because they feel like they're not good enough and couldn't (or, more precisely, wouldn't) master the clues they're hearing.

Okay, so I'm getting pretty far afield. I'm not for dumbing down the game or changing to make it speedbowl or anything like that. And I look forward to reading other folks' ideas (and/or more reasons why I'm wrong).
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

Also, the fact remains that you don't have to be an amazing player like those who have posted in this thread to enjoy the game. I am not a good player, and I most likely never will be. This does not, however, make me want to avoid difficult tournaments, and it doesn't even preclude me enjoying myself at hard tournaments. Obviously, knowing answers is more fun than sitting there impotently with buzzer in hand, but I think it's worth some frustration even for a non-star player when that intellectual web that you've built by reading or studying for classes or even memorizing results in a satisfying buzz. Rather than being upset by a their ignorance Turkish novelists or Inuit deities, these complaining players should either put in the effort and intellectual exploration to gain more quizbowl knowledge, or they should content themselves with knowledge gained through taking classes and through osmosis.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by vandyhawk »

Matt Weiner wrote:I'm not sure that point about high schoolers is true. I think you're more likely, in the South, to get someone who has played at at all in high school, even if you are less likely to get someone who was a top player.
For me personally, I didn't get serious about quizbowl till my 2nd year of grad school, but then, I didn't have the option of being a big HS player. For the rest of people who have been in Vandy's program the last 6-7 years, I think Matt's assessment is quite true. Most people we get played some sort of quizbowl in HS and weren't superstars but were ok to good, and most people came from the southeast - notable exceptions being the brothers Gauthier (the oldest brother apparently came to a few practices his freshman year but didn't stick). It seems like historically, a lot of the players from the best southeastern teams (Dorman, Brookwood, Irmo back in the day, etc.) don't stick with it in college for whatever reason. This makes the DII/novice fields weaker, and creates a lower starting point for building a team into a DI competitor.

This year, many of the HS stars from last year do seem to be playing at college though. I wonder if the greater interaction between HS and college teams has anything to do with that, esp. as far as HS teams going to college tournaments, not just HS tournaments at colleges. It also seems that in other regions, this has been happening longer, or at least the interaction was taking place, compared with the southeast, where most of the largest tournaments are hosted by high schools.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

vandyhawk wrote: It seems like historically, a lot of the players from the best southeastern teams (Dorman, Brookwood, Irmo back in the day, etc.) don't stick with it in college for whatever reason. This makes the DII/novice fields weaker, and creates a lower starting point for building a team into a DI competitor.

This year, many of the HS stars from last year do seem to be playing at college though. I wonder if the greater interaction between HS and college teams has anything to do with that, esp. as far as HS teams going to college tournaments, not just HS tournaments at colleges. It also seems that in other regions, this has been happening longer, or at least the interaction was taking place, compared with the southeast, where most of the largest tournaments are hosted by high schools.
I think you hit a lot of good points there, Matt. Chris and Eric cited brain drain as a reason for the South being behind in quizbowl, but at least in my experience at USC, that largely wasn't the case. At USC, I can remember dozens of good Dorman, Irmo, James Island, etc. players go to school here and just give up playing quizbowl despite the USC team's best efforts. I'm know plenty of good high schoolers from the South go to prestigious schools elsewhere, but there are also plenty of elite high schoolers who have stayed in the South and just quit playing at a seemingly higher rate than their counterparts from other regions. That said, this is the first year in memory that Dorman players are playing in college, and there seem to be other good high school players from the South continuing to play, so perhaps the trend is indeed changing.

As far as reasons the South is behind, there's probably a bunch of reasons for different schools, but despite what I've heard in the chatroom, the South hasn't always been bad and won't always be bad. Certainly other regions have had ups and downs, the South has had a few decent years, and some of the powerhouse schools today (Minnesota immediately comes to mind) weren't always elite or in existence. With good freshmen and younger players playing at schools like Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Vandy, etc., I think it's entirely possible for the South to have some good years ahead. Georgia Tech hosting Penn Bowl is a good sign as well, as I've always thought that having good quizbowl in Atlanta is a key to growth in the region. So I'm optimistic.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by cvdwightw »

This is just something I've been wondering.

In a lot of places, colleges and universities host a number of significant, well-attended events. This allows high school students to interact with their potential college teammates and ask questions about what the program's like, what's expected, etc. Also, some freelance moderators help out and spread recognition about the university.

In the South, it seems like a lot more "major" tournaments are hosted by high schools (the obvious exceptions being ABC and the UTC stuff). Is this true, and if so, is it possible that a lack of "early" recognition about the university's quizbowl club is hurting retention?

Also, a lot of high school teams, not just in the South, seem to be entirely coach-run, especially by coaches who are unaware of the college game and/or good quizbowl. Could the lack of student involvement in high school programs drive kids away when they realize they're expected to help run everything on their own in college?
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Matthew D »

Well I know around my neck of the South
Alabama, Vandy, Georgia, Shorter, Berry, UTC, Ole Miss, Mississippi State all host plus local CC's like Snead State and Northeast also host
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

Just to clarify, I don't know of any specific "brain drain," at least inasmuch as that term refers to good players going outside the South to college. I've been referring to something closer to what Eric from SC describes, which is that HS players either give up the game in college or don't come. Whatever happens to them, we just don't seem to have as many incoming players with QB experience, at least in Florida. But that dead horse ain't getting any deader.

The institutional coaching issue Dwight brings up might also be a factor, actually. Despite Valencia being very good in the CC game down here for many years, we've had very few players go on to play when they've gone to four-year schools, and more embarrassingly I've had no success getting them to get a program going at UCF here in town (where a ton of them have gone), and I'm certain it's because they're used to having a faculty member handle all the unfun details of our game: budget, travel, organizing tournaments, nagging people about practice, etc.

PS--I almost wrote it in my first post, but thought better of it, but since Eric mentioned the cyclical nature of these things, it's worth reminding people that the idea of "good quizbowl" started in the South with Georgia Tech, Berry, and Tennessee folks in the late 80s and early 90s. Granted, looking back at some of the ancient texts like the early Southeastern Invitationals would not put any current players in mind of good QB, but it was folks from those places who were among the first to give up on CBI and try for a more pyramidal and academic format. The SEI was the forerunner of what's now ACF.

PPS--I fully expect and welcome any corrections to the sketch above.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by vandyhawk »

Matthew D wrote:Well I know around my neck of the South
Alabama, Vandy, Georgia, Shorter, Berry, UTC, Ole Miss, Mississippi State all host plus local CC's like Snead State and Northeast also host
The thing is, though, with the exception of our fall ABC and sometimes the UTC fields, these college tournaments don't have large, geographically diverse, ultra-competitive fields like those at places like UVA, UMD, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, etc. in mid-atlantic and northeast. Maybe this whole subject is for naught, but at least it's an idea.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by cchiego »

I don't think it's a lack of interest in the Southeast necessarily. To get a new player, you need to first have a competent program with friendly enough people that has the ability to advertise and attract new players. Once those players arrive in practice, they usually won't stay there unless they either enjoy the camaraderie or enjoy learning to some extent. Out of those who do want to learn more, only a select few are willing to put in the hours to expand those knowledge webs (great term by the way) enough to become good players.

Organizations provide the first crucial step- without a good organization, your team won't last long (see Furman) and won't be able to build up a solid organizational structure to provide funding. Any school can build up a strong organization- UTC is a prime example. There are certainly enough players and programs in the Southeast that enjoy their teammates and enjoy playing enough that they'll show up to events: witness the large number of CCs and programs that never win tournaments, but enjoy traveling and playing in them. The final step is the hardest it seems and only a few people in the Southeast seem to have made that commitment; thus those players enjoy a huge advantage and sweep up the other teams every time they play. But the number of those players is extremely small (which might be the brain-drain theory at work), especially proportionally to the numbers on the circuit, and they rarely have a chance to play against top-notch competition outside of nationals. I don't know how much an effect the latter has, but I know that I get inspired to learn more after suffering a beatdown rather than after winning relatively easily.

Next year will be interesting for us since UGA's graduating 5 of our top 6 players and though we've left a good organization so far we haven't seen too many people make the kind of commitment to learning enough on their own to become elite players. There's some randomness involved in getting good players and finding ways to convince newer players to learn more. Sure lightning can strike and you get a top player or two to come to your program, but the odds are if you want to take a middling program and turn it into a national contender, you need to have players willing to put in the long hours doing the long hours of work (i.e. Minnesota) and that, I don't think, can be taught very easily, although it might be possible to create a culture of excellence within a program that has a lasting influence on new players.

I would actually be very curious to hear what the Minnesota team thinks about this topic as well as what some of the younger players at the other Southeastern programs think.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

cvdwightw wrote:This is just something I've been wondering.

In a lot of places, colleges and universities host a number of significant, well-attended events. This allows high school students to interact with their potential college teammates and ask questions about what the program's like, what's expected, etc. Also, some freelance moderators help out and spread recognition about the university.

In the South, it seems like a lot more "major" tournaments are hosted by high schools (the obvious exceptions being ABC and the UTC stuff). Is this true, and if so, is it possible that a lack of "early" recognition about the university's quizbowl club is hurting retention?
I think that is something that has hurt South Carolina, as we haven't hosted a high school event in a while due to lack of consistency, manpower, etc. It's a Catch-22; the best way to recruit is to host a tournament, but we can't host a tournament if we can't recruit. There is an annual, well attended event put on by an honor society in December that generally has pretty bad questions, but it may do more harm than good. That said, we've slowly built up a decent number of competent people to the point that we are planning on hosting a HSAPQ event in the spring.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by barnacles »

Alright, I'll bite. Let me say that I agree with most everything that Jerry said in his post, but I think there's an aspect of truth in what Taylor was saying, which has been talked about in COTKU thread, but I'd rather not contribute to that abortion of a thread.

First, I think the most important thing to glean from COTKU is that the set was much too hard for the field, especially for Div. II where I read. I don't think that would have been the case had the editors stuck closer to their advertised difficulty. I don't think it's a huge deal, but should be a learning experience for the entire community at large. And I think everyone realizes that, so that's not what I want to talk about, necessarily. I want to propose something else: for a significant amount of players there is a level of difficulty, specific to the individual, beyond which a quizbowl tournament's answer space becomes so unfamiliar and unrecognizable that enjoyment of said tournament drops off, sometimes greatly. If you've never experienced this, then congrats. But, I know I have, and it seemed like a lot of players at COTKU reached that point. If neither you or your opponents are answering half the questions, and those questions you do answer mainly come from clues after "for ten points," matches can get pretty dull.

It just seems to me that most of the posters on this board seem to find this discouragement to be endemic to people who shouldn't be playing quizbowl, but I think that's rather short-sighted. I'll use myself as an example. I'm in my fifth year of playing, and I think most players around the Southeast would vouch for me being pretty active in the regional circuit, attending most all of the quality tournaments that were in reasonable distance the past few years (though perhaps not this year). I've become pretty proficient at the lower level canon through studying old packets, researching things that came up in practice and tournaments, etc. I also consider myself partial to ACF's style of long, clue-dense questions, with ACF Fall, EFT, and independent tournaments like Ragnarok being my favorite.

But, I also realized pretty early on that I didn't have the drive or natural talent to be proficient beyond the lower level canon, and though I have played in plenty of tough tournaments (and taken plenty of lumps), I think it's unreasonable that everyone should be expected to enjoy quizbowl at the level of difficulty of the MO. In fact, I was happy to be reading this set rather than playing on it. The majority of questions were beyond my webs of knowledge, and I'm not planning on improving my game enough to be proficient on questions of this difficulty.

I guess my question is this: is there room for someone as dumb and lazy as myself in the game?

P.S. While the South might not have a lot of great teams currently, I don't know if we're doing that much worse than other regions of the country, such as the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, etc. Though of course the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest are stronger, I feel like quizbowl in the South is still pretty vibrant compared to a lot of places, if not terribly externally competitive.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

barnacles wrote:I guess my question is this: is there room for someone as dumb and lazy as myself in the game?
The important thing is to recognize precisely what I guess you have: that it's not that the evil imperialist editors are forcing you out of the game, but rather that your decision not to get better is preventing you from enjoying hard tournaments as much as you would otherwise. Since there are more easy tournaments and more regular tournaments than there were in the past, though, those editors are actually giving you more opportunities to play, not fewer.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I personally am down with anyone on the circuit who may not be that great a player but writes some questions for the stuff they go to, patronizes plenty of good tournaments in their region, and can at least appreciate what good questions are. There are plenty of other things people can do to be good for quizbowl than actually be good at quizbowl. Probably the foremost in my head here is Mike Bentley (although he actually has improved a lot as a player over the last year compared to when I saw him at CO or listened to some of his old podcasts, perhaps as a related function of being so involved) because Mike patronizes good quizbowl, and uses his computer talents to create programs that make things much simpler, and directs as many tournaments as he can possibly do, seemingly. Even after graduating college, he's still doing this stuff to help out at Washington. Like, this is pretty exemplary in my book. Mike's kind of an extreme, but there are all kinds of good things someone who isn't a great player can still do to help out the circuit - volunteering to moderate, perhaps write a freelance packet every now and then, assist a new team in your area with their practices to try and turn them on to good quizbowl and perhaps cultivate a talent there - there are all kinds of good things you can do to help keep the circuit healthy no matter what your skill level is.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by theMoMA »

uga_chris wrote:Sure lightning can strike and you get a top player or two to come to your program, but the odds are if you want to take a middling program and turn it into a national contender, you need to have players willing to put in the long hours doing the long hours of work (i.e. Minnesota) and that, I don't think, can be taught very easily, although it might be possible to create a culture of excellence within a program that has a lasting influence on new players.

I would actually be very curious to hear what the Minnesota team thinks about this topic as well as what some of the younger players at the other Southeastern programs think.
I don't know if there's much to say. A lot of the success we've had here comes from the way we've been able to get along as a group. Rob, Gautam, Brendan, Bernadette, and I all knew each other before playing on the same teams together. We also know a lot of the high schoolers who make up the promising future of UMNQB. Of course, our situation as a large land-grant university with a fairly good academic reputation in the urban center of one of the most centralized and vibrant high school quizbowl communities is, as far as I know, a unique situation.

Minnesota is certainly better now than we were last year and the year before, but I don't know if we are currently a "national contender" (or, for that matter, if we've really put in "long hours of work"). If you want to become a pretty good player, my suggestion is mainly to read a ton of packets, and find teammates who really like hearing a ton of packets. But don't consider it "work;" just have fun playing packets and learning stuff, just like always.

Some stuff that may be unique to Minnesota: On all of our extensive quizbowl car trips, we play packets about 95% of the time in the car. We also practice twice a week, for six total hours. In the past two years, I've heard pretty much every well-written packet quizbowl has to offer, from ACF Fall to Artaud. This can make you a decent player, but I don't think that, for example, Jerry or Sorice are shaking in their boots fearing that I will answer any given tossup. There is a lot to be said for primary knowledge and writing tournaments, and reading and writing questions will give you an edge that merely playing packets cannot.

At the end of the day, there's no magic formula for being a good quizbowl player. It's just like anything else; anything that sounds too good to be true is, and the best way to get better is to do wholesome, common-sense things. The only thing I can advocate are enjoying quizbowl, even when it's over your head in difficulty, never closing up when a tossup outside your strong areas comes up, playing lots of packets, reading lots of books, and writing for tournaments (ideally, editing your own, because that helps the most).
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by cvdwightw »

barnacles wrote:is there room for someone as dumb and lazy as myself in the game?
I'm going to echo a lot of what Charlie said, but the short answer is, "Yes!" We need lots of different kinds of people in quizbowl. First and foremost, we need players - without someone to consume our product, it means nothing. Second, we need writers and editors - the people who produce the product. This is what comes to mind when people think of "functions in quizbowl society," but there's so much more than that.

We need people to spread the gospel of good quizbowl to new schools, both those that have never played quizbowl before and those who have only played bad quizbowl.

We need people to moderate, scorekeep, run the statroom and post stats, and all sorts of other functions necessary to the smooth running of a quality tournament.

We need people to create and maintain packet databases and to create new programs that pseudo-randomize packets, keep stats, create password-protected .zip files of packets, etc.

We need people to hold together clubs, who can be counted on to show up at every practice and recruiting drive even if they don't answer a question the entire time they're there.

We need people to help playtest and copy edit questions before they're played at a real tournament.

We need people to maintain this board, the Maize Pages, regional mailing lists, and all other forms of quizbowl-based communication.

We need people to help coach high school teams, both bringing new ones into the fold and retaining old ones that might die out once a group of players or a coach leaves.

We need people to bring their (outside of quizbowl) knowledge and expertise into discussions about the relationship between quizbowl and academia and other quizbowl-related topics.

We need people to constructively contribute to the QBWiki by creating well-written, informative and interesting articles on quizbowl-relevant topics.

We need people to promote awareness of quizbowl, and good quizbowl in particular, among university officials, media, and the general public.

And that's just all I can think of off the top of my head. The point is, the quizbowl community needs a lot of diverse skills and commitments, and if the playing/writing/editing thing isn't for you, then there's several other ways to make a positive contribution to the community.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Yeah, Jacob, it's important that you realize that what you saw at MO was the exception and not the rule. There are a far greater number of accessible tournaments which stick mainly to the "lower-level canon" than there are tournaments like MO. And, everyone agrees that it's important to make it clear to people up front what the difficulty level is going to be, so that they're prepared.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by grapesmoker »

Maybe this isn't the place for it, but now that it's been mentioned, I'd just like to express my belief that there isn't enough praise for Mike Bentley on this forum. Not only has he done many things to improve the game from the technical side, but he's also a terrific writer. Anyone who played the last several tournaments that he's been part of can testify to this.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Auroni »

grapesmoker wrote:Maybe this isn't the place for it, but now that it's been mentioned, I'd just like to express my belief that there isn't enough praise for Mike Bentley on this forum. Not only has he done many things to improve the game from the technical side, but he's also a terrific writer. Anyone who played the last several tournaments that he's been part of can testify to this.
all of this.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by fleurdelivre »

grapesmoker wrote:Maybe this isn't the place for it, but now that it's been mentioned, I'd just like to express my belief that there isn't enough praise for Mike Bentley on this forum. Not only has he done many things to improve the game from the technical side, but he's also a terrific writer. Anyone who played the last several tournaments that he's been part of can testify to this.
Amen. Moderators - can we pass the "quizbowl superhero" rank on to a new designee?
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

fleurdelivre wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Maybe this isn't the place for it, but now that it's been mentioned, I'd just like to express my belief that there isn't enough praise for Mike Bentley on this forum. Not only has he done many things to improve the game from the technical side, but he's also a terrific writer. Anyone who played the last several tournaments that he's been part of can testify to this.
Amen. Moderators - can we pass the "quizbowl superhero" rank on to a new designee?
I think he deserves the rank of Quiz Bowl God.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Auroni »

quiz bowl dagda seems more apropos
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

You couldn't be more right, Jerry...this isn't the place for it.

I'm kidding, of course.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by magin »

It appears as though one of the deities of quizbowl has rewarded Mike Bentley's many contributions to the game with a Phillies World Series victory.
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Re: Attitudes towards quizbowl

Post by Frater Taciturnus »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:It appears as though one of the deities of quizbowl has rewarded Mike Bentley's many contributions to the game with a Phillies World Series victory.
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