Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Experience with the World's Most Obscure Competition: Bible Quizzing

Bible Quizzing as an activity floats somewhere between being a "real sport", like baseball and football, and being a "nerd sport", like spelling bees, debate team, and math quiz bowls. As an individual wedged for life in odd cracks and crevices among more defined and easily identifiable things, I doubt it's mere coincidence that I "jumped" (pun intended) into the obscurity of "church sport" (i.e. Bible Quizzing). The best quizzers always jump on instinct.

At risk of sounding phobic of nerd sports, let me explain why Bible Quizzing is not this--it's important, trust me. Bible Quizzing requires not an insignificant amount of physical activity (and dare I say prowess?)--that is, involving more than your hands pressing a button or gesturing to an audience. Actually, it involves your calves, quads, and buttocks. Very significant muscles, as we all know.

At risk of sounding superior to real sports, Bible Quizzing involves a good deal of strenuous mental activity. I don't care how many plays are in your book, you football players are definitely not on our level. Your whole playbook memorized cover to cover is still a pitiful accomplishment compared to the top quizzers' recitation of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Collossians in one sitting (or should I say, pacing).

Been there, done that.

Word of God, actually.

The "thinking stance"--Internationals 2008
Part of what makes Bible Quizzing appealing, at least to me, is this peculiar combination of physical and mental ability. To be a great quizzer, you can't have one without the other. I wanted to be a great quizzer, and by logging hundreds of hours memorizing, pacing back and forth across my cold bedroom floor with a tattered quiz book hanging from my fingers, in conjunction with weekly sets of practice questions (and some "list-making"--that really does put me into nerd territory, I'll admit)*, I became a pretty good quizzer. I can name a couple dozen other quizzers from my district who were better, but I did pretty well.

Another appeal is the ability to, well, appeal. In BQ it's called "challenging"--when a team captain believes that the quizmaster has ruled incorrectly, he simply stands up and says, "I'd like to challenge", and he presents his case based on his knowledge of the text and the rulebook.*

I made a lot of challenges, and I had a pretty low rejection rate. There's something really gratifying about instantly reacting in protest, just hopping to your feet and having an immediate and simple process for considering your objections. Rulings generally take less than five minutes, and when your challenge is accepted, it inspires a sort of thrilling satisfaction I never got from anything else--A+s didn't even come close.

Lastly, BQ was an attractive environment for someone who for most of her teenage years was rather anti-
Chilling with: 2 Canadians and 1 Texan
social, but who preferred the company she did keep to be of kids two or three years older. From my own experience, BQ has been surprisingly un-cliquish, possibly due to the wide age range of 6th to 12th grade, and the consequent variety within each church and each team. The great diversity of ages (and backgrounds, since a much higher proportion were homeschooled compared to the general population), as well as the encouragement from coaches and captains to reach out to people they wouldn't otherwise hang out with, kept me from feeling excluded, even when I didn't feel like actively "belonging" to any group in particular.*
Loitering Quizzer-style

I believe part of what keeps the social particles from agglutinating and congealing is the even playing field. It doesn't matter if you're 12 or 18, you all play together, against each other, and have an equal opportunity to succeed and win. There's no Little League or Varsity team. Just you, your team, and your ability. It was for me a precious simplicity and fairness I didn't, and still don't, see in any other activity. It seems so simple and right that you should be judged solely on your talent, skills, and reasoning, yet the phenomena is surprisingly rare. As someone near the end of a lengthy stint of employment as a job hunter, I feel I know this all too well.

In short, Bible Quizzing presented a world that I fit into, and it into me, incredibly well. Now that I'm 20 and a college grad, looking back on high-school and middle-school, I see that most of my best and clearest memories were from Quizzing. I like being stuck in the mismatched middle ground, and Quizzing was just quirky enough and just serious enough to become a passion of mine for almost five years of my teenage life.

*Once you've memorized something pretty well, but you want to recall it word-for-word in the most intimate fashion, you must recruit an unfortunate younger sibling to read through your scribbles and high-lighting and crinkled pages as you recite the material for a general maximum of 30 minutes. This practice became known in my family as "quiz-30". It went as such:
 "Hey Poofy, guess what time it is?"
"No! No, it is not quiz-30!"
"It definitely is."
 *There was one quizzer, from way back in the day, that is still humorously remembered for addressing the quizmaster as "Your Honor".
*Qualifying and attending select meets like Great West Invitationals and Internationals basically douses you in social lubricant. Squished between a junior and a senior in the middle row of a crowded van, you kind of get to know people. And you make lasting memories, whether you wanted to or not.

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