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March 18th, 2008

Nothing much has been happening here, other than trying to get Sons 1-2 to do their homework. And the successful performance of last week’s big, foam dam. A last minute edition of a child’s wading pool made it possible to run a fountain on a hardwood floor without spilling more than a drop or two.

The team will advance to state competition, due to an excellent performance (and total lack of competition). They also got a Da Vinci Award for outstanding creativity.

As usual, my house has been destroyed by creative teenagers, but in a good cause.

To the best of my knowledge, we didn’t have anything like Destination Imagination, or Odyssey of the Mind, back when I was a teenager. But we did have something else:

High School Quiz Bowl.

This was a locally produced TV show, rather like Jeopardy, only with teams of four High Schoolers (and one alternate, standing by in case we strained a gray cell in practice). Two schools would be pitted, head to head, in a half-hour trivia battle, with a chance to advance to the semi-finals, and possibly the big final match, where we could get little trophies, small scholarships to a college we didn’t particularly want to attend, and the knowledge that our intellectual kung fu was the best in several countries.

Since I was an uber-geek, back in high school, I made the team. One year, we played multiple rounds and took first place in the region. (The next year we got royally stomped in the first round and went home with our tails between our legs. But I’m not going to talk about that).

I have many fond memories from Quiz Bowl. The way they took us to the same cheesy steak house before the game, and gave us a free (cheap) dinner. The announcer’s dubious grasp of the English language, and equally dubious cue card reading ability. Without Quiz Bowl, I would not be insisting to this day, that the Musketeers are Athos, Porthos, A-rahm-es, and Dee-Art-ig-nan.

Or that Marie Antoinette once said,
“Let ME eat cake.”

But the absolute zenith of my high school career was probably someone else’s nadir.

To set the scene, my high school was on the top deck of a flimsy plywood set. We were lined up in folding chairs, our buzzers in front of us (just like a real game show), enjoying a psychological advantage over our opponents beneath us on ground level. The coaches and alternates were standing on either side of the other team, as the announcer introduced us all.

And pronounced the name of the other school incorrectly.

As he was reading off team member names, and the camera was panning slowly past our eager young faces, something dropped from the ceiling of the studio, 30 feet above us. It looked like a few pieces of straw, or perhaps excelsior.

And the biggest beetle I had ever seen landed in the hair of the opposing coach. It was well over an inch long. In Wisconsin, we call them June bugs. Perhaps you might think of them as a scarab.

Mostly, they are just disgusting.

We were on camera, with frozen smiles, unsure whether to laugh or scream. But either choice had to wait for the commercial break, since the cameras stopped for nothing. When break finally came, the opposing coach turned around and gave us her best I-have-had-enough-of-you-kids glare and said “Somebody threw something.”

The guy next to me, Bob, gave a helpless shrug and said, “Lady, there’s a bug in your hair.”

The other team’s alternate saw the thing, and started to scream.
(Cue hysterical dancing around, that was settled before the end of the commercial, since tape was still rolling).

Play began.
We annihilated them. If it had been football, we might have understood the concept of bringing in the second string for the fourth quarter. But when nerds are in their element, they show no mercy.

The final score was 360 to negative 10.

The opposing coach turned to our coach and said, “Well, WE play for fun.”

To this day, she probably still thinks we threw that bug.