Quizbowler in the New York Times

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Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by Sir Thopas »

THERE comes a time when the last game has been played, the last victory won, when every high school star has to hang them up. That time has come for Nate Mattison, the M.V.P. of his national championship team, a Hall of Famer, a legend in his own time.

"I am quite aware of how much I aggravate other teams," he said Thursday, two days after graduating from Byram Hills High School in Westchester. "The only thing is I don't know how to not aggravate them. When I walk in the room, the karma changes."

That's what happens, it turns out, when you know more geography than Rand McNally, when you can answer both parts of a question about Bach's St. John Passion before they're asked, when you've been reading encyclopedias for fun since third grade and leave high school as one of the greatest Academic Quiz Bowl players of all time.

"Just like Michael Jordan couldn't have won without the rest of the Bulls playing with him, Nate couldn't have won this by himself, but there's no way we would have gone nearly as far without him," said T. K. Kramer, a fellow senior on the Byram Hills team, which won the 24th annual National Academic Challenge Tournament in Chicago this month. (Think of it as Jeopardy without the cash prize.) "He's pretty much set every record in the league. I really don't know how he knows some of the stuff he knows."

Young Mr. Mattison has pale blue eyes peering behind wire-rim glasses, a wiry frame and a penchant in competition for buzzing in answers before a question has been completed. You can see how that could add up to something of an annoying brainiac vibe.

But nursing a cappuccino at a coffee bar in Armonk, he seems quite refreshing and even charming for a kid whose idea of fun reading is "Salt: A World History" or "Schott's Original Miscellany," whose musical tastes start with Gustav Mahler and whose idea of relaxation is playing the bassoon.

"I've been told I drive like a grandmother," he shrugged. "I know nothing about rap. It all sounds the same to me. I guess I'm 17 going on 70."

Nate's journey into the world of facts unlimited began as a toddler with videos of Big Bird visiting Japan and China and a favorite children's book "Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman," that he had his mother read him over and over again.

Soon there were countless trips to the Metropolitan Museum and incessant reading — almost all nonfiction. In sixth and eighth grade he finished first in the state and eighth in the nation in the National Geographic Geography Bee. While only in seventh grade he started playing on the high school Academic Challenge squad.

"He has more knowledge than any person I've ever known," said his coach, Martin Gilbert, a social studies teacher at Byram Hills. "When he dies they should do an autopsy on his brain. He's a real Renaissance kid. He's really passionate about learning."

Unlike some players, Matt says he never studies lists of facts to prepare. "I never read for the competition; I only read for myself," he said. He's strongest in geography, history, music and art and less good in math and computational sciences.

But the idea is to know something about everything, whether it's that Equatorial Guinea is the only African nation whose official language is Spanish, or the following, which he first balked at repeating, deeming it a tad racy but then relented. "Shakespeare said brevity is the soul of wit. Dorothy Parker said brevity is the soul of what?" (Answer: lingerie.)

For his troubles this year he was awarded tournament M.V.P. and became the 16th student in 24 years inducted into its Hall of Fame. He's been described as one of the three best players during that period.

Still, as impressive as he is, Nate doesn't know everything. Asked to name two Britney Spears songs he could only come up with one. ("Toxic. They played it at the prom.")

Asked to name the shortstop for the Yankees he drew a blank. ("I have no idea.")

When asked his cellphone number he had to look. ("Let me check. I can never remember it.")

And asked what all this knowledge adds up to, he has no buzzable answer. "It's like asking what's the meaning of life," he said.

AFTER graduating as one of his school's three valedictorians, Nate will be off for Yale, where his parents, both doctors (he a dermatologist, she a psychiatrist), both went. He's not sure what he'll study but figures he'll begin with history as his "default position."

So the good news for Byram Hills' opponents next year is that for the first time in six years, Matt won't be around. The bad news is that his twin sisters Julia and Elizabeth begin high school. They plan to join the team.

------

There's also a picture of him with the following caption, which I found quite amusing: "Nate Mattison, who just graduated from a Westchester high school, was feared in quiz bowl competitions, often buzzing to answer before the whole question was asked."

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Post by Strongside »

Interesting article but I think they accidentally called him Matt a couple of times and I wish they would have described the format more and how buzzing in before the question is over and answering correctly is more common that the caption makes it sounds like it is. I am impressed that a player of that caliber could go without studying lists.
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Post by Sir Thopas »

When you play exclusively with Chip questions, you can do anything. . . .

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Post by solonqb »

I seriously am contemplating writing a letter to the New York Times just to inform them of the veracity of NAC, without taking away from this kid's obvious intelligence. I doubt it will get published but I think they at least need to know how many of us in the quizbowl community feel about this "tournament" and its contributions to academic integrity.
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Post by Sir Thopas »

Go ahead, and post a copy here as well. XD

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Post by DumbJaques »

I kind of want to beat this kid in the face with a lead pipe

Just sayin . . .
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Post by Chris Frankel »

Just as the numerous other major media articles we've had regarding quiz bowl, this column's a cute little human interest piece, but woefully short on facts and context. Journalists tend to do that, since these "facts" tend to get in the way of a "story." Personally, I think it's best to just ignore these ill-researched efforts and accept that no mainstream source is going to grasp or care enough to try to grasp the nuances of the game, which is why it's not necessarily a bad thing that QB doesn't receive a lot of broad publicity and that the people who play it are left to their own devices.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by jdd2007 »

DumbJaques wrote:I kind of want to beat this kid in the face with a lead pipe

Just sayin . . .
What has he done to warrant execution?

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Post by Leo Wolpert »

Wow, I can't wait for him to go to Yale and put up 10 ppg on ACF regionals questions (assuming he gets to that level before he finds that college qb is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH TOO HARD AND NOT RIGGED ENOUGH and quits).

Edit: prove me wrong, kid.

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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by fancynancy »

metsfan001 wrote: "I am quite aware of how much I aggravate other teams," he said Thursday, two days after graduating from Byram Hills High School in Westchester. "The only thing is I don't know how to not aggravate them. When I walk in the room, the karma changes."
Wow, not arrogant at all.
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by The Time Keeper »

metsfan001 wrote: Still, as impressive as he is, Nate doesn't know everything. Asked to name two Britney Spears songs he could only come up with one. ("Toxic. They played it at the prom.")

Asked to name the shortstop for the Yankees he drew a blank. ("I have no idea.")

When asked his cellphone number he had to look. ("Let me check. I can never remember it.")

And asked what all this knowledge adds up to, he has no buzzable answer. "It's like asking what's the meaning of life," he said.
I like how this article tries to reinforce the notion that qb players are nerdy, cloistered douches filled with random academic knowledge but absolutely no awareness of the outside world.

We need to improve quizbowl's image by writing an article about that one time Leo Wolpert put up 170 PPG while snorting lines of coke off of Judd Nelson's ass and receiving fellatio from Thai prostitutes of unknown age and gender.

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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by The Time Keeper »

fancynancy wrote:
metsfan001 wrote: "I am quite aware of how much I aggravate other teams," he said Thursday, two days after graduating from Byram Hills High School in Westchester. "The only thing is I don't know how to not aggravate them. When I walk in the room, the karma changes."
Wow, not arrogant at all.
Seriously. If this kid plays in any college tournaments someone in the Northeast needs to first blow him out in a match and then kick him in the face repeatedly while yelling "Who's aggravated now, you whore?!"

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Post by wwellington »

He did at least go to the prom; they're branching out a little bit from the stereotype.

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Post by Chris Frankel »

Does anyone have an e-mail contact for the columnist (Peter Applebome)? I've been trying to get one through the NYTimes website, but they seem to expect to pay for some silly subscription just to be able to get in touch with the author. If someone here has said subscription, posting an e-mail link would be much appreciated.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by vig180 »

Thanks to the wonders of LexisNexis... peappl at nytimes.com

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Post by solonqb »

http://www.peterapplebome.com/Peter%20A ... 20Info.htm

It was on his personal website and took all of five seconds via googling his name to find.
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by DrakeRQB »

fancynancy wrote:
metsfan001 wrote: "I am quite aware of how much I aggravate other teams," he said Thursday, two days after graduating from Byram Hills High School in Westchester. "The only thing is I don't know how to not aggravate them. When I walk in the room, the karma changes."
Wow, not arrogant at all.
Yeah, he's pretty much in love with himself. But, playing with Chip questions, he probably ends up getting bombed in college games.
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by conker »

Dolemite wrote:
I like how this article tries to reinforce the notion that qb players are nerdy, cloistered douches filled with random academic knowledge but absolutely no awareness of the outside world.
I have to say that there's not much the newspaper can do if he really can't name two Britney Spears songs or Derek Jeter. Maybe he gets interviewed because he fits right into the stereotype.
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by conker »

Dolemite wrote:
Seriously. If this kid plays in any college tournaments someone in the Northeast needs to first blow him out in a match and then kick him in the face repeatedly while yelling "Who's aggravated now, you whore?!"
I watched him play. He has a broad knowledge base, and he's fast with the buzzer. He thinks quickly. I'm not sure he'll be utterly demolished in the college game, but you don't need very deep knowledge of a subject to answer Chip's questions.
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by The Time Keeper »

conker wrote:
Dolemite wrote:
I like how this article tries to reinforce the notion that qb players are nerdy, cloistered douches filled with random academic knowledge but absolutely no awareness of the outside world.
I have to say that there's not much the newspaper can do if he really can't name two Britney Spears songs or Derek Jeter. Maybe he gets interviewed because he fits right into the stereotype.
That may be true but it feels to me like that part of the article has a vibe like "He may know a lot of things, but he doesn't know the stuff that 'normal' people know!"

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Post by First Chairman »

I'm sure THIS is the type of image we want to perpetuate in quiz bowl, eh... sigh. :neutral: :sad:
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by thepowerofche »

Dolemite wrote: I like how this article tries to reinforce the notion that qb players are nerdy, cloistered douches filled with random academic knowledge but absolutely no awareness of the outside world.
I like how this entire board does that.

ICE BURN :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:

The New York Freaking Times wrote: He's strongest in geography, history, music and art and less good in math and computational sciences.

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Post by thepowerofche »

^^ I want the fracking edit button back so I can fix bad quote code after I cavalierly hit "Submit."

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Post by wereplayingbasketball »

I think many of us are ignoring the fact that the kid can't even remember his own cell phone number...

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Post by AKKOLADE »

I can't say much beyond what everyone else has said, other than laffo.
thepowerofche wrote:^^ I want the fracking edit button back so I can fix bad quote code after I cavalierly hit "Submit."
I got your back, yo.

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Post by Golden Tiger 86 »

Damn...just damn. This kid's more arrogant than I was in high school, and I made Terrell Owens look like a monk in terms of modesty.
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Post by insaneindian »

You should have heard his french. It was amazing.

(I dont know what the official sarcasm font here is...so I used italics)
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Post by bigtrain »

This may be the first time one hundred quizbowlers and George W. Bush ever agree on something: the New York Times blows.
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Post by NotBhan »

Well, this article does ... it's not as good in accurately reflecting the game as are some other quizbowl-related articles, which is a bit disappointing for an NYT article, and it has some simple screw-ups like the name error. This one reads more like a human interest story in a local paper. And I wouldn't put much stock in the way the kid (whom I've never met) is presented -- the reporter screwed up enough other things that Nate's seemingly arrogant first comments could have been a polite, innocent reply.

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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by ericblair »

Dolemite wrote: We need to improve quizbowl's image by writing an article about that one time Leo Wolpert put up 170 PPG while snorting lines of coke off of Judd Nelson's ass and receiving fellatio from Thai prostitutes of unknown age and gender.
Wow. I don't even know you and I totally want to go down on you.

It is sad that the stereotype has to be perpetuated by the Times. They should definitely do an article on rogue players who still throw down decent PPG. The ones who make out with girls at the Kentucky State Governor's Cup competition and who tackle their assistant coach while he's trying to arm wrestle a student. OR the one who hazes a freshman at the Vanderbilt ABC and has the kid offering the other kid money to stop.

Not that I've ever seen any of these go down or taken part in some or all of them. Just sayin' it'd be cool if they ran an article on something like this. It's much more interesting.
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Re: Quizbowler in the New York Times

Post by quizme »

ericblair wrote: It is sad that the stereotype has to be perpetuated by the Times. They should definitely do an article on rogue players who still throw down decent PPG. The ones who make out with girls at the Kentucky State Governor's Cup competition and who tackle their assistant coach while he's trying to arm wrestle a student. OR the one who hazes a freshman at the Vanderbilt ABC and has the kid offering the other kid money to stop.

Not that I've ever seen any of these go down or taken part in some or all of them. Just sayin' it'd be cool if they ran an article on something like this. It's much more interesting.
That sounds fun. :grin:
I have seen the first one, and heard about the third on a team in my town... People think we're nerds because they don't take the time to see what we do with the REST of our time. (Like harass our team members.) It is sad that the Times couldn't also talk about the NORMAL aspects of this kid's life.

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Post by wd4gdz »

Looks like the author of the article is a jerk too.

I sent a quick email mentioning that there are some other tournaments out there that are actually real national championships. I also threw out the fact that buzzing half-way through a question is not that remarkable.

So do you think I get a reply acknowleding these slight oversights? Nope. As a reply, I get some rant complaining about a couple of typos in my email. Essentially, my "quiz bowl mastery didn't extend to learning how to write sentences." Roffle. (I guess I'm glad I didn't do Academic Decathalon.)

This, coming from a guy who can't even get the kid's name right.

Sigh

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Post by Chris Frankel »

I'm finishing my e-mail with the intent of sending it tomorrow. If he really does that shit, I'll respond with a usual super-offensive Frankel diatribe and let you know how it goes.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by AKKOLADE »

wd4gdz wrote:Sigh
It is your American duty to post this reply and post it now.

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Post by zwtipp »

leftsaidfred wrote:
wd4gdz wrote:Sigh
It is your American duty to post this reply and post it now.
Agreed. I think I'll write one as well just for amusement of seeing his reply.
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Post by Rothlover »

Share it Beyer, we need to see how the arrogant half lives.
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NYT QB article

Post by colonial »

So I take it the "Grey Lady" is now 2-for-2 in mediocre quiz bowl articles, following its somewhat-detailed 1999 tome that focused on the likes of Andrew Yaphe, Eric Hilleman and Mike Zarren?

IIRC, the 1999 article was riddled with errors as well.

I would also be curious to read the response Mr. Beyer received from Mr. Applebome as well. Speaking as someone who has worked in the "4th estate," Mr. Applebome's comments to Mr. Beyer could warrant personnel action from his bosses (I have had co-workers suspended and dismissed from their jobs for publicly belittling their work).

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Post by wd4gdz »

Here's the reply, for your amusement.
[email protected] wrote: William:

Thanks for the thoughtful email.
And here's a quick quiz for you. Go back and read it and see how many grammatical errors and tone-deaf word choices you can find. Too bad your quiz bowl mastery didn't extend to learning how to write sentences that sound like English is your native tongue.


Have a nice life,

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Post by Strongside »

wd4gdz wrote:Here's the reply, for your amusement.
[email protected] wrote: William:

Thanks for the thoughtful email.
And here's a quick quiz for you. Go back and read it and see how many grammatical errors and tone-deaf word choices you can find. Too bad your quiz bowl mastery didn't extend to learning how to write sentences that sound like English is your native tongue.


Have a nice life,

Peter Applebome
That's pretty funny.
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Post by Matthew D »

Wonder what he would be saying if you forwarded that on to his editor..
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Post by Sir Thopas »

Out of curiosity, what was the original e-mail?


I also may write something up; I am, after all, a high school student myself. Too bad Gmail doesn't do differentiated apostrophes/quotation marks. . . .

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Post by NotBhan »

wd4gdz wrote:Here's the reply, for your amusement.
[email protected] wrote: William:

Thanks for the thoughtful email.
And here's a quick quiz for you. Go back and read it and see how many grammatical errors and tone-deaf word choices you can find. Too bad your quiz bowl mastery didn't extend to learning how to write sentences that sound like English is your native tongue.


Have a nice life,

Peter Applebome
Ouch! You've been Beyer-Slapped! Something tells me Billy used "quizbowl diplomacy" in the original message. If only Mr. Applebome's article had been half as good as this reply.
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Post by Rothlover »

It doesn't matter how little tact he displayed, as I understand it, if the writer replied from his nytimes e-mail (as it is clear he did,) than he can be held accountable for this reply, which I don't particularly find to be funny anyway (if you are going to insult someone, might as well not coat it with mock civility, unless you throw in some good swears.) Hopefully he will reply in a similar manner to some other replies, said replies can be forwarded somewhere, and this no-talent ass-clown can end up out on his ass (I don't actually believe people should be fired for personal correspondances, but, this guy should be fired for an inability to write, so I figure it evens out.)
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Post by Chris Frankel »

I just e-mailed him my letter, a 7 page long tome with footnotes and an appendix (providing examples of quality questions to contrast with those of NAC). I will keep you all updated on responses, and I certainly agree now that it would be better to forward any rude replies to his superiors rather than take it up with him.

For those of you considering writing, I hope you do so, because it will show that his mistakes and sloppy writing were noticed by a wide range of people who do take the game seriously. If it's just me and Billy writing, he'll be more likely to dismiss us as random nerds with an axe to grind. Additionally, if any of you do write letters and get nasty responses like the one Billy got, we can organize a way to complain to his editors and have him held accountable.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by DVader »

I remember meeting him at the Geography Bee in 8th grade. He stood in front of me when they did the group sign off, and during the rehearsal I think I accidentally bumped into him. Back then, he seemed smart, and his appearance did fit the nerd stereotype pretty well. He was a nice guy too.
David John Gagne,
University of Oklahoma

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Sir Thopas
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Post by Sir Thopas »

I guess as soon as he loses his high horse, he recedes into laziness. Oh well, at least I got a nice, civil reply from him.
thanks for the note. more civil than some i got. my son played quiz bowl. i think it's a great thing. i know not everyone who does it is a nerd. the
profile of nate was a portrait of one kid, written, i hope with a sense of
humor. some of you guys need to lighten up. that said, thanks for writing
and best of luck in your quiz bowl career.

peter

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Chris Frankel
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Post by Chris Frankel »

I got a reply from him just now. It's not noteworthy enough to post (damn!), but he basically says two things.

First, he defends his article on the claim that he intended his hyperbole to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I can see that to an extent, but I think the parts he cites as such could be interpreted either that way or as proud remarks by the typical overeager local color writer. I personally think it's a little bit of a copout, but I'll leave it at that.

Second, he seems to be annoyed with the responses he's been getting, citing a lot of them as representative of the nerd stereotype he mentions. Again, maybe some the people here who responded didn't do the best job of diplomacy (me offering advice on being diplomatic, isn't that a riot?), but that claim also strikes me as his being defensive to be called out on some of his mistakes.

He was perfectly civil and polite to me, even complimenting my letter. In that sense, there was no drama, and I don't have any reason to continue the correspondance or complain to his editors. My final impression is that I don't necessarily think he's an ass, but I still think he was hasty and careless in the writing of his column and is more prone to being defensive about his mistakes than to regretting them genuinely.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Howard
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Post by Howard »

wd4gdz wrote:Here's the reply, for your amusement.
[email protected] wrote: William:

Thanks for the thoughtful email.
And here's a quick quiz for you. Go back and read it and see how many grammatical errors and tone-deaf word choices you can find. Too bad your quiz bowl mastery didn't extend to learning how to write sentences that sound like English is your native tongue.


Have a nice life,

Peter Applebome
Any chance we can see the e-mail you sent? It's a bit hasty to be judging anything on this reply until we see what he was responding to in the first place.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

"John Gilbert is a quiz bowl god" -- leftsaidfred

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