2018 Carper Award: congratulations Mike Bentley!
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 12:31 pm
I'm very pleased to announce that Mike Bentley has won the 2018 Carper Award. Congratulations, Mike!
Sponsored by the Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence@PACENSC
I hope you don't mind that I prepared some notes for accepting this award. If you know one thing about me, it's that I write a lot. There's a lot here so I hope you don't mind if I read things at my one and only reading speed: quizbowl speed.
First off, thanks ACF for this honor. ACF is a great organization and I hope that everyone appreciates how much hard work goes into producing an entire season of high quality quizbowl.
I've been involved in quizbowl for 16 years now. This is half the time I've been alive. I think it's fair to say that quizbowl is the activity in my life that I've been most dedicated to.
It wasn't necessarily always this way. Sure, I did get hooked early on. My 3rd grade teacher would put us head to head to do multiplication problems with the winner receiving a Jolly Rancher. Naturally, I made flashcards to study at home. And I took to what we called Academic Team under my coach Ben Chapelle in high school in suburban Philadelphia after finally realizing that this was an activity I should be involved in.
But quizbowl was just one of my interests and going into college I didn't even really have an awareness that it was something I could continue at that level. I think it may have been my dad who turned me on to the fact that the college game existed when he found a website for the Pitt team run by a young Matt Weiner in a failed effort to get me to go to that school over Maryland. In any event, I did discover the MAQT team. But I can't say it was a smooth transition. I think someone said something degrading about the Chip Beale-run NAC they saw on a shirt I wore to an early practice or tournament. I was also just not very good at college quizbowl, at least compared to the guess-heavy, not-much-studying-involved local leagues I came from. I came reasonably close to quitting after my first tournament at Cornell where I got about 6 questions (among them my first ever college question, Napoleon Dynamite) and again after a fall tournament my sophomore year when I felt that I studied a lot (I hadn't) but just hadn't made much progress from the year before.
There were a couple of things that kept me going. The first of these was the Maryland team's rich tradition of producing what were (for their time) high quality high school tournaments. I'm not sure that any other team in the country at that point was producing two house writes a year. Very quickly everyone on the team was expected to write and edit questions for these. By my sophomore year I was the co-editor of one of the sets. This alerted me to an aspect of college quizbowl that to this day I still find more enjoyable than playing--writing questions. Fourteen years later I've probably written 5,000 questions. I don't know that I'd have ever discovered this without people like Casey Retterer pushing me towards it.
Another push that moved me from casual quizbowl writer to engaged member of the community was my Maryland teammate Jonathan Magin. I don't think Jonathan's here today but let me say some kind words about him. Jonathan, who by my senior year was a roommate, pushed me beyond my limited academic interests to start getting interested in knowledge for knowledge's sake. He turned me on to art history, literature and much more. I could be misremembering it, but I think it was Jonathan who later nominated me to PACE, an organization that has become very important to me. I owe him a tremendous gratitude.
There are so many other people that have been important in my quizbowl career, but this speech is already getting quite long-winded. Real quickly, let me call out two people: After Chicago Open in 2007, I ran into Jerry Vinokurov in the airport. After a weekend of getting beaten down by the questions and competition, it was great to be recognized by someone I considered a quizbowl luminary at that point. In an era where there are lots of questions about the "future of quizbowl", small things like this can still go a long way. And I'd like to call out Matt Weiner, who in addition to providing me some of my greatest quizbowl memories on car trips to Chicago, tapped me to work on the College History Bowl sets which were probably my proudest writing moments (although in retrospect I don't know how I had the energy as a 22 year old to write a 20 round trash set mostly by myself).
As most of you probably know, after college I moved out to Seattle for the second and longer phase of my quizbowl career. It's been challenging developing a circuit here. (If there's one thing I'm selfishly most proud of is normalizing online Skype Tournaments (or I guess Discord among the young kids these days) that give me and others in isolated regions the ability to keep playing tournaments.) Anyway, as anyone here who has been involved in team building and circuit building, you are constantly dealing with disappointment and rejection as your 40-person practices in the fall devolved into "we had to cancel practice because only 2 people showed up" in the spring. One person who kept this from being terminally demoralizing was Joelle Smart, now at Rutgers, and probably the most dedicated player to come out of the Pacific Northwest since Kyle Haddad-Fonda. Thanks Joelle!
I'm also thankful for that most Millennial of trends of not ceasing to do things even though previous generations might have outgrown them.
Ok, I really need to bring this speech to an end. The last and most important person I want to thank is my wife Brittany. Brittany's not here right now because, as some of you probably know, we had our first child last year and she's doing the tough work of looking after Leo this weekend. I'm so grateful that she still gives me the opportunities to play and engage with quizbowl as a dad. But Brittany's support in my quizbowl career goes way back. Our second ever date, if you want to call it that, was at a Maryland quizbowl practice. Our romantic spring break getaway to the Jersey Shore in 2005 was interrupted by me purchasing an AOL CD and us using dial-up to write a half-packet for some long forgotten packet submission tournament. And starting a team at UW and staffing tournaments was so much easier as a pair than on my own.
Anyway, thanks again to ACF for this honor. If you haven't figured out by now, it really means a lot to me. Here's to another 16 years--even if maybe there won't be another 5,000 questions.