So, the tournament. It was as well run as I've seen, with the only major hang-up (a Sunday protest that took a while to be resolved) finished in a reasonable amount of time with no major consequences for travel plans. The hotel was a great venue: the rooms were easily accessible, the locations presented no major obstacles, and if there were limited food options on site, the shuttle provided almost anything you could want in 15 minutes. The moderators were professional, efficient, and reasonable, if a bit shaky on when to prompt and what to accept. All in all, I can't complain about the logistics and execution of the tournament.
Even the aforementioned delay turned out fortuitously, since it afforded my team an opportunity to talk to Jason Russell about the general structure of QU and the NAC. From what he told me, QU's writing structure goes something like this: a wide variety of writers, whom no one (except presumably Chip) knows who they all are, submit questions to Jason Russell, who edits them (he told me approximately 95% of them will have his stamp on them), then submits the questions to Chip for final revision. Chip has the power to reverse any edit and leave the question as is, which he'll do occasionally. In a writing process such as this, it's not hard to see how Plagiarizing Writer X could slip a question in, especially if this was when Chip took sole responsibility for editing questions. What is disheartening is that the writer was not publicly fired.
Two things I gleaned from this. First, not everyone in QU is a
clone. There seems to be two distinct groups of people inside QU: the old guard (Chip, Chip's friends, most of the writers), who treat the NAC like a game show, playing to the audience rather than the players. They're the ones who insist that no one wants to hear questions over three sentences, that don't edit for hoses, and who think, you know, one-sentence "why?" questions are "fun". On the other hand, there's another group inside QU. The new guard (Jason Russell, the younger moderators, whatever influence David Madden has) realizes the heyday of televised quiz bowl is over. Instead of playing to the--rapidly shrinking--audience, they're writing longer, more pyramidal questions, eliminating hoses and buzzer races, and moving QU closer (albeit slowly) to respectability. Secondly, Jason Russell is doing stuff. He said that his first goal had been to eliminate hoses, and that he felt that they were successful with that at this NAC--he hadn't received any complaints about it all tournament (I noticed one, but over the span of the 15 or so rounds I witnessed it's insignificant). His next goal is to stretch out the questions--making the fourth quarter pyramidal, with as few buzzer races as possible. Again, I noted improvement in this aspect at the tournament.
It's getting better. I played two packets at practice today: one from 1998, one from 2009. The increase in question quality from 2009 to present was greater than that from 1998 to 2009.
I think the assumption is that since the write-ups are an attempt at legitimacy, the questions that are posted on the website are examples of the best questions at the tournament. I suppose there are reasons this could actually not be the case.
Chip does the write-ups. Chip does not give a (four-letter word) what anyone on these boards defines as "legitimacy". He's posting the questions that he personally likes, with maybe a token "pyramidal" question thrown in as a bone. The actual questions throughout the tournament are much better, or I wouldn't have survived last weekend. The write-ups are useful, however, as an example of what really needs to change. Chip is still the head of QU, and it's still his tournament. For all the progress that's been made, until Chip retires or realizes he can't favor his cronies over the players, the NAC will still be inferior to the other national tournaments.