The cliché of the washed-up former high school football star still clinging to his tattered varsity jacket still occasionally makes the rounds in print and film media, though certainly some do exist in real life. As Mr. Springsteen so eloquently stated, these folks are destined to consistently revel in their “glory days” without maturing past the age of 17. While I may not have been a star athlete back in high school, I excelled in a different form of competition.
I participated on my school’s academic challenge team for three years (think Quiz Bowl). Some of my best memories from high school are of meeting with the rest of the team after class to practice for upcoming tournaments. I wasn’t always the best player on the team, and often the number of questions I actually knew the answers to was quite limited. Nevertheless, the challenge is what made it enjoyable.
I peaked on the team during my senior year, when I was selected to be the captain. Whether or not I was truly deserving of the title is up for debate, but for a year I was honored and thrilled to be king of the nerds. At tournaments I took pride in writing a little C next to my name on my name placard. I didn’t receive a physical letter jacket, though I certainly wore one metaphorically, so to speak.
My fond memories as a member of CACTI (Croton Academic Challenge Team Intelligencia) are probably what fuel my current passion for pub trivia. Granted, I’m not sure I can call it a passion if I’ve only been a handful of times this year, but I still seek out opportunities to participate whenever I can. Just like in high school I often don’t know all of the answers, but I can never turn down the chance to wrack my brain. There’s no better feeling than searching the deepest depths of your brain to pull out the right answer at the last moment. Sure, I may never win the restaurant gift card or a round of shots after the game, but the journey from Round 1 to Round 5 makes it worth it. Getting stumped consistently is only a reminder that I still have so much to see and learn.
Is my drive to attend trivia nights the same as the old captain of the football team’s desire to play pick-up games and toss around the ol’ pigskin? It’s possible, but even if it were a 1:1 comparison, I wouldn’t mind swallowing my pride for a night. I wear my metaphorical varsity jacket with pride.