Friday, August 18, 2006

Quiz Bowl Poetry

This work, entitled "The Ballad of Bovinia State" by the little-known American poet Phil Groce, was e-mailed to me on January 25, 2000.

The Ballad of Bovinia State

Listen, my players, and you shall hear
Of the Penn Bowl semis they held last year
'Tween the champions of tourneys both far and quite near --
And a team full of newbies, shocked just to be here.

On one side sat confident dinosaur vets
Who spouted grandiloquent, bold epithets
About old finals matches and bad question sets.
And nearly as confident as confident gets.

They looked at three players, and one empty seat
And sized them up much as good butchers do meat,
For, no doubt, Bovinia State would get beat
By their cadre of quizbowl assassin elite.

Across from them, sitting there, quiet and shy
Were the kids from Bovinia State, thinking, "Why,
Why, God, have You ordained that we play these guys?
They're champs and we're newbies; we're fated to fry."

There was Raji, a math major brilliant and bright,
Who was fair overflowing with clever insights
In a field which engendered, in many, sheer fright --
But alas, he had yet to get one question right.

Maria, a walk-on philosophy grad
Had helped make what little success they had had.
And they might have done better, but it made her mad
to have knowledge this good, and reflexes this bad.

Third was Amaya, a high school player
Who'd signed up at the Activity Fair.
She had great potential, they all were aware,
But she tended to buzz when she wasn't quite there.

Their star player Ted, for the last year or two
Had been a Chem senior, and picked up a few
Minors in History, Art and Kung Fu --
But where he was now, they hadn't a clue.

And so there they waited, to get beat black and blue.

In the room walked the reader, who sat down and said,
"I'm sorry Bovinia, we can't wait for Ted.
See, we're running behind and we must get ahead
so the tourney directors can all get to bed."

Thus the carnage began, and what carnage it was,
With Bovinia edging in nary a buzz.
The poor squad scored twenty that half just because
The other team didn't know who Superfly was.

At the half, they were dumbfounded not to be swept.
But as the champs chatted and Bovinia wept,
Through the door sauntered Ted, looking wildly unkempt.
"Sorry guys," said the prodigal, "I waay overslept."

"Have a seat," said the reader, "if you want to play."
Still the champs felt ebullient, felt they owned the day.
"Tossup," he began, "_Eugenie_, his first play--"
Buzz! "Ted, what's your answer?" "Pierre Beaumarchais."

And the subsequent tossups all fell that-a-way.

The finals, alas ,were not nearly so kind.
Bovinia lost on "The Maginot Line."
But the grapes were not sour, they tasted like wine.
For they'd shown they could hang with the big boys this time.

So when you're through ten questions, and the score is a laugh,
And you feel less the prodigal, and more like the calf,
Remember that Moses can still raise his staff.
Forget all your screwups, all previous gaffes --

'Cuz the game isn't won 'til the end of both halves.


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