There are very few people my age that cannot quote parts and pieces from Mean Girls. The film is a cult classic and is chocked full of memorable quotes:
“Four for you Glenn Coco, you go Glenn Coco!”,
“I’m kind of psychic, I have a fifth sense.”
“If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”,
“...and on the third day, God created the Remington bull action rifle, so that man could fight the dinosaurs…and the ho-mo-sex-uals. AMEN!”
The film’s focus is the socialization, cliques and girl on girl victimization in high school, with Lindsay Lohan playing new girl Cady Heron. The movie came out nearly 10 years ago and though I’ve seen it over seven times, it never grows old. One part of the movie that I can relate to is the claim that Cady joining the Matheletes would be “social suicide” in the eyes of both Damian and Regina.
There was never a competitive math team at my high school (and frankly I was never a stellar math student), but there was a trivia team. I have always loved (and been pretty good at) trivia game shows: Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Are You Smarter that a 5th Grader?,etc. My long term memory has always been good, which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I breezed through school and found studying for tests and exams pretty easy. On the other, it is very hard for me to forget painful memories or irrelevant information. My brain is like a sponge, it is constantly absorbing things. I read all the time, so I’m constantly learning things without even really trying.
In Canadian high schools, the principal academic competition circuit is called Reach for the Top. I played for my high school all four years. We never did particularly well as a team, but it was fun and my teammates were all friends of mine. I even got to go on TV three times because of these trivia competitions. The team really didn’t have a coach, so none of us took it very seriously or even practiced to be honest. Our teacher supervisor was incredibly lax about the whole scenario, simply encouraging us to watch Jeopardy every night, and that would count as studying. I loved trivia because it was social, it was a place where I could hang out with my friends and share a pile of laughs over some of the ridiculous things people would answer to the questions. I wasn’t particularly competitive or serious about it, trivia was simply another extracurricular that I did in high school.
When I went to university, I wanted to keep playing trivia. As it turned out, there is no Reach for the Top at that level. There is however NAQT (National Academic Quizbowl Tournaments), often shorted as Quizbowl. I was pretty confident going to my first university trivia practice, after having nearly 4 years of experience playing in high school. I didn’t answer a single question. The structure and difficulty of the questions was substantially different that what I was used to and was pretty overwhelming. I debated whether even or not to go back, but decided that I needed an excuse to meet people outside of my residence and that maybe with time I would get better. This was the case, and once I adjusted to the new system of playing I enjoyed myself a lot more. I wasn’t a particularly strong player that being said. My area of expertise in school (French) is so specific that the opportunity to answer a lot of questions wasn’t there. I guess I consider myself like that athlete in the Olympics who finishes 23rd. Compared to the average population, I’m pretty darn good, but if you throw me into the ring with a bunch of other Quizbowl players, I’m not even a blip on the radar.
I quickly realized my strengths lay in the administrative end of trivia. There are people needed to organize tournaments, moderate the games, score keep, purchase the trophies and prizes, book the rooms, write the questions, and make the schedule for all the teams attending. I was president of my university club for two years. I worked my tail off, ordering team jerseys, hosting and writing questions for 3 fundraiser tournaments to help cover the costs of going to tournaments, staffing the clubs tables to attract new members, and a whole pile of networking with other clubs on campus and the local high schools to promote trivia within the university and the city. It was all voluntary but I did it because I loved it. I was important in the success of the club and the team, and ultimately as president, was in charge of a lot of aspects.
I have also moderated (read and score kept games) at Reach for the Top Nationals for the last two years and plan to do it again in 2012. I fully support any sort of academic competition and to see the best teams in the country is very humbling (I was certainly not that good at their age). I got an official press pass each year, a free t-shirt, a couple of lanyards, as well as an entire weekend in Toronto free of charge (the organization covers the cost of hotel and meals for all moderators). Currently I am also on the executive for the Ontario Quizbowl Association, which promotes Quizbowl to high schools across the province; so that when they encounter NAQT in university it isn’t such a shock. It is interesting to note that Reach for the Top does not like people involved with NAQT. They see Quizbowl as stiff competition in the academic world and don’t want to get pushed out. Reach is a purely Canadian thing, whereas Quizbowl circuits are established all over the United States, Canada and parts of the United Kingdom. All the Ivy League schools in the US play Quizbowl (and Harvard has won Nationals for gosh only knows how many of the last few years.)
There is a large trivia circuit out there, but unless you are involved in it, it remains very much underground. I love learning, which is why I suppose I love trivia. My brain is stuffed full of useless information that no one cares about. But no matter how much I know, there will always be things that I don’t. It is a continual learning process. Like life.