A quizzical pastime

Decatur Quiz bowl teams celebrate their win at the division championships on February 21.

Photos courtesy of Chris Goode

Decatur Quiz bowl teams celebrate their win at the division championships on February 21.

The room is tense as the moderator flips the packet of questions to a new page.

“Toss up number 15,” he begins.

The players reach for their buzzers and wait as the moderator reads the question, their index fingers hovering over the large button in their hands. The question is read; “This man’s troops defeated Russia at the battles of Friedland and Borodino. After returning from Elba, this Corsica-born military-“.

The reader stops mid-sentence as the loud bray of a buzzer interrupts the silence. The sound is a low note, indicating that it came from the Decatur buzzer system. The moderator acknowledges the player who buzzed and prompts him to answer. “Napoleon Bonaparte” says the player, enunciating every syllable to avoid confusion. “Correct,” says the moderator, “for ten points”.

This fast paced game of questions may seem like a TV quiz show in the vein of Jeopardy, but the rounds of this game, Quiz bowl, are staged in quiet, applause-free classrooms with the doors shut to prevent disturbances.

Quiz bowl is an academic competition that focuses on a broad range of topics, anything from African geography to hit videos on YouTube. There are two types of questions in these games.

First, there are toss-ups, which can be answered by either of the two teams. If a team answers a question correctly, that team gets three bonus questions which only they can answer the first time. If they fail to answer, or answer incorrectly, the other team has a chance to answer. The points given per question vary depending on who is hosting the game, but ten points per question is standard.

Quiz bowl may be a new addition to Decatur’s list of activities, but it’s nothing new for head coach Chris Goode. Before coming to Decatur, Goode served as head coach for the Renfroe Academic bowl team for 3 years. When the majority of the team (including Goode’s son, Evan) moved from middle school to high school, Goode moved up as well to become coach for Decatur’s Quiz bowl team.

Quiz Bowl team members relax after their first rounds at the division championships.

“Quiz bowl and Academic bowl are almost the same,” Chris said, “the only real difference is the difficulty level, which is understandably higher for the high school level. Otherwise, most of the rules and times given per question are the almost the same in most tournaments.”

On Feb. 21, Decatur’s team placed first and second in their division at the JV quiz bowl championships, many times winning rounds by leads as high as 250 points. The trophies won in this game now sit in the main office alongside their prizes from previous wins, 4 prizes in total.

“I feel that we are doing very well this year,” freshman and Decatur B team player Nathaniel Wolfe said. The B team placed first in the championships on Feb. 21. “We have a wide variety of skill sets that fit together to make a great team.”

While the large number of players requires the Decatur team to be divided into two groups, the same people almost never come together as a team in two tournaments the same year. The Decatur team, regardless of who wins first and who wins second, is a single, unified team.

“I see the team as one group of people, with the number of people on the team being the only thing that divides us,” Wolfe said. “If one team places first and the other takes second, both teams share the victory. We practice together and get better together, so that means we win together.”