The Brandeis Quiz Bowl Team discussed why their team is anything but trivial
“No. We’re boring,” insisted team President Kent Dinlenc ’19 with a straight face when asked in an interview with the Justice to share the funniest experience he could recall from the Brandeis Quiz Bowl Team.
Quiz Bowl is a competitive trivia game between two teams. The faster a player buzzes in to answer a question, the more points his or her team receives. Unlike in Jeopardy, the questions in Quiz Bowl are longer and take the form of an inverted pyramid. That is, the proctor reveals sequentially more information about what players must guess, such as the name of an important book or historical figure.
“By the time you reach the end [of the description] it should be obvious what it is, but you get more points for [deducing] it within a certain threshold, called power, towards the top of the pyramid.
I guess it’s an inverted pyramid, [but] you get what I’m trying to do,” explained Evan Mahnken ’19, another member of the Brandeis Quiz Bowl Team. “Make sure that thing [voice recorder] picks up my hand motions,” he added playfully.
The Brandeis team started in 2014 and offers common questions about history, art, classic music, science, philosophy, literature and, as Dinlenc likes to put it, “questions known as ‘trash,’ which cover modern politics, pop music, television, movies, sports and videogames [topics people are more inclined to know, which boosts morale].”
Dinlenc joined the team in 2015. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a Quiz Bowl team, but my high school didn’t have one,” he said. He’s been the president since December 2016, enjoying the intellectual stimulation and the close group of friends he’s made in the club.
Everyone enjoys the game for their own reasons, according to Dinlenc. Some like learning new philosophical ideas or pushing their intellectual boundaries, while others like memorizing capitals on a map or just spamming the buzzer. More than anything, Dinlenc emphasizes that learning and having fun don’t have to be mutually exclusive. “People might be reluctant to join because they may anticipate snobby, pretentious students trying to best each other with their superior knowledge. On the contrary, we do this to share ideas and start conversations. … We’re just students who want to talk about ... ideas you wouldn’t normally talk about with other people.”
Dinlenc also dispels the idea that you must be a genius to play Quiz Bowl. “We’re all a fraction of one singular, knowledgeable person. We all contribute different strengths at our own capacity and that’s what keeps us at the same wavelength.” In other words, they divide themselves into teams that evenly distribute their knowledge of varying subjects so that each group has science students to answer the science questions, humanities students to answer the humanities questions and so on.
The foundation of the competition might be knowledge, but Dinlenc believes teamwork is the real heart of the game. He credits all of the team’s wins to this motivation: they never put anyone down for not knowing an answer and try to understand why someone might have answered one way. “It proves how well you and your team work together. Friends with vastly different interests can bring each other to victory.”
Despite only averaging eight to nine players per meeting, the Brandeis Quiz Bowl Team has played against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Connecticut, Harvard University and Tufts University since November 2015.
These include friendly tournaments held at Brandeis and regional tournaments organized by the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC, which was founded in 1996 by a group of former players and now provides standardized, nationwide competitions for middle schools, high schools, colleges and more.
The Quiz Bowl Team played its most recent tournament on Saturday, April 1 against Tufts, hosting them at Brandeis for the second time in a friendly, four-hour round-robin tournament. “The Quiz Bowl community in Boston is pretty connected, so it’s easy to invite other schools,” said Dinlenc. “We were originally going to invite more, but a few cancelled.”
Although it was all in good fun, Mahnken admits there were some moments of longing. “I was so mad, because it was a chemistry question [he is majoring in Chemistry] and it was asking for cyclohexane, which is just a six-membered carbon ring, right? I said it the way any chemist would actually say it, which is, ‘it’s a six-membered carbon ring.’ … Like, if you’re working in a lab and you’re talking about it, you wouldn’t call it cyclohexane. You’d just say, ‘that’s a six-membered ring.’”
Six-membered carbon rings notwithstanding, Dinlenc hopes to host Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern University at Brandeis in the future to increase the club’s membership, citing the growing pains that new clubs typically face.
“Every time I bump into someone during trivia at The Stein or just in class talking about random academia, they seem genuinely intrigued by the idea of Quiz Bowl, yet they have never heard of it on campus.”
Reflecting on what knowledge means to him, Dinlenc has realized that it is “a means of bringing people together. Those who share knowledge find common ground in what they have learned, and blossom that basis into long-lasting relationships with corresponding thought processes and understanding.”
—Editor’s Note: Kent Dinlenc is a Justice Staff Writer for the Arts Section and Evan Mahnken creates crosswords for the Justice.
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