So, over the summers, I work for an overnight camp up in Michigan. It just so happens that the Camp Director at this camp is none other than Rob Grierson. This connection is, of course, how I got involved here at Echo. It’s a traditional summer camp, with fishing and canoeing and archery, but as of late, it’s also had a bit of quiz bowl.

At the beginning of every summer, during staff training, Rob gets out his buzzer system that his father built for him way back in 1968. It’s made out of a doorbell and a lot of different Radioshack project kits. We use it to run “Manual Jeopardy!” where we get quizzed on different things from our staff manual. This is always one of the staff’s favorite rotations, since they “get to use the buzzers.”

It started as a joke: people knew about my and Grierson’s relationship to quiz bowl, and they started requesting “Quiz Bowl with Grierson” and “Quiz Bowl with Laird” on their Cabin Group request forms. Well, someone with a sense of humor decided to give a cabin “Quiz Bowl with Laird” and we ran with it. I set up a podium, took a bunch of pop culture questions that I thought middle schoolers might know from Aegis packets and the NPMTs. The kids loved it, and we even got a write up in the camper published daily newspaper.

It was really interesting to see these kids, who had never had any experience playing or watching Quiz Bowl, interact with the buzzers and each other. Since cabins are usually twelve campers in number, we split into 3 teams of four, and gave them creative team monikers like ‘Team Urinal Cake’ and ‘Team DooDoo Sandwiches.’ Mostly bodily function related. We’re that kind of camp. They savored the opportunity to make personal nametags with completely ridiculous names.

The noteworthy thing to say about the actual play that these kids exhibited is that they had much greater success with pyramidal questions than they did with one liners that I had from an old Patrick’s Press book. This was an experimental control group: one who had pristine opinions about quiz bowl; untarnished by a coach’s bias, by the internet’s bias, by experience. They understood within twenty minutes of playing that “those longer questions let us think harder about them, and if we know more, we can get it faster.”

The Pyramidal debate: settled by twelve year olds.