Battle of the brains

Danielle Kincs

The average person probably wouldn’t know the atomic symbol for antimony, nor the name of Medea’s husband in Greek mythology, but at a Quiz Bowl meet, the contestants (and the questions) are far from average. Quiz Bowl requires the elite few of the trivia junkies and all-around brainiacs, many of whom do not even know the meaning of a “brain fart.”

In reality, the Quiz Bowl team is a part of BSM’s Knowledge Bowl team which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays to practice in the winter season. “It’s fun and flexible,” said Mr. Tom Backen, BSM’s Knowledge Bowl adviser. But despite the more relaxed nature of this activity, the contestants are still extremely intelligent.

BSM’s Knowledge Bowl team, easily recognized by its entertaining posters and affectionately referred to as “NB” (a sarcastically false spelling error), trains for two different events: Quiz Bowl meets and Knowledge Bowl meets. However, both have an emphasis on trivia. “It’s a competitive, intellectual exercise,” said Mr. Backen, “asking trivia questions from twelve different fields.” Topics of questions asked cover a broad spectrum, ranging from literature to math, from history to art. There are questions about the periodic table and even questions about Taylor Swift and Harry Potter.

At both Quiz Bowl and Knowledge Bowl meets, contestants from schools all around the metro compete by answering questions worthy of being asked on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” However, in Quiz Bowl, students answer questions individually, while in Knowledge Bowl, contestants are able to collaborate as a team to answer questions. “Knowledge Bowl teams of four work together,” said Mr. Backen.

Students not only answer questions at these meets, but they also have fun participating in “team bonding.” Before BSM students even sat down against the competition to answer questions at their first meet of the year, they ran right to the Burnsville High School’s staircase. There was no cramming, no reading encyclopedias before the meet, there were just races up and down the stairway, watched and cheered on by the entire team.

Among the other teams–composed of several students wearing Drew Carrey style glasses–it was apparent that BSM’s team is something unique. Even the bus ride to the competition was out of the ordinary, the air filled with witty quips about random topics and students singing the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” rap.

It is at the much anticipated Student v. Faculty competition when this witty fun is able to be shared with the entire school. Like a typical Knowledge Bowl meet, there are two opposing teams: students and teachers. There is one competition in the fall and one in the spring. “The faculty won the last one,” said Mr. Backen. However, it is still possible that the students may win this spring. “It’s [about] getting back at each other,” said Mr. Backen.

With a season lasting through February, with multiple meets and Saturday tournaments, all of the members of Knowledge Bowl have a chance to show off their knowledge. “There are three Quiz Bowl teams and four Knowledge Bowl teams,” said Mr. Backen, “[We] fluctuate the people on each team.”

This year, with students from every grade level and a new assistant coach, Mr. Ted Reiff, BSM’s Knowledge and Quiz Bowl teams are off to a good start. “There are strong seniors [who are] very bright,” said Mr. Backen. “There are [also] strong new people,” said Mr. Backen, a comforting notion considering that the heart of the team––the seniors––will be gone next year. “The spirit of the bright young students is fun to be around,” said Mr. Backen, who has high hopes for all of his Knowledge Bowl students. “We’re training future “Jeopardy” winners.”