Fairview’s Knowledge Bowl Team to Compete on PBS in February
Last November, the Fairview Knowledge Bowl team qualified to compete at the PBS Matchwits Tournament at CSU-Pueblo, a televised game show style competition that airs February 8th on Rocky Mountain PBS.
The team which will be competing at Matchwits consists of seniors Justus Leben and Rodrigo Guadarrama, juniors Sam Weismann and Sruthi Raguveer, and sophomore Harrison Pearl. Their coach is Susan Wang, a former Fairview Knowledge Bowl grad herself.
16 teams of 37 from around the state compete in the Matchwits competition, which is in its 30th season. Fairview was ranked third out of 37 in the pre-registration test, only preceded by their two main competitors, Fossil Ridge and Grand Junction. Last November they competed in the first round of the Matchwits tournament against Thomas Jefferson High School. If they win, they move on to the second round.
So what kinds of questions are eligible to be asked at a typical Knowledge Bowl competition?
“Everything,” said Sruthi Raguveer.
By everything, they really do mean everything. Questions range from current events to obscure facts.
“They really hit every base,” said Leben. “One time they even asked about the religion of Pastafarianism.” (Pastafarianism is also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for those who are curious.)
“Everyone has different talents they bring to the table, that’s what’s great about the Fairview Knowledge Bowl team,” said Coach Susan Wang.
Just like any other sport or activity, practice is vital in order to succeed in Knowledge Bowl. The team meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays to practice and go over what they need to work on in upcoming tournaments. Team members use varying methods to prepare; some prefer to focus on linear, easy to memorize topics, like the periodic table, presidents, and capitals. Other members of the team find it helpful to embark on “Wikipedia binges”, randomly clicking around the online encyclopedia in order to increase their breadth of knowledge.
Strategy is also essential to Knowledge Bowl competitions, and is exemplified by what's known as buzzer play.
“Buzzer play is pretty much half of Knowledge Bowl as a whole,” explains Leben. “As they read out the question, you can buzz at any time. So it’s less of a challenge of ‘do you know the answer’ and more of a challenge of ‘how quickly do you know the answer’.”
Going into the Matchwits competition, the team predicted their main challenge to be the unfamiliar format, which differs from that of the 5 regional tournaments that are being held this year, as well as the regional qualifier that sends two schools from the league to States in April.
“It’s gonna be a challenge adjusting to [the new format],” said Harrison Pearl.
Fairview has a long standing tradition of doing well in the State competition; they have qualified for the past three years in a row; last year placing fifth overall. The team agrees that their teamwork has been, and will continue to be, instrumental to their success.
“Our teamwork has been pretty good,” said Pearl. “Last year we worked well together, so I’m confident.”
Fairview’s rigorous academic environment also lends itself well to Knowledge Bowl, an advantage that the team recognizes.
“We’ve got the kind of curriculum that really gives us this information that other schools don’t have allotted to them,” said Leben.
Another subtle advantage that Fairview has is that they are not as intensely competitive as other teams.
“I think it makes it more fun, more enjoyable, rather than just playing to win,” said Raguveer.
What Coach Wang refers to as Fairview’s “loosey goosey” attitude is reflected by the Knowledge Bowl culture itself. Despite its highly competitive nature, the community surrounding it is full of jokes and running gags.
“Every single team knows that whenever they ask the question ‘what grammatical mood is this sentence?’ you don’t really need the sentence- It’s subjunctive. If it’s not subjunctive, somebody messed up making these questions,” said Leben.
“The fun part is that if you don’t know the answer, you can just say whatever you want,” added Pearl. “Some common answers are ‘avocado’, ‘banana’, ‘pineapple’, ‘subjunctive’, ‘Beyonce’, and ‘permafrost’.”
So what’s next for Fairview Knowledge Bowl after the first round of their Matchwits competition airs this February? One thing the team is always looking for is new members.
“It’s always nice to add people to the mix. It just brings out the good in our team,” said Wang.
The team also hopes to dismiss some of the stigmas surrounding Knowledge Bowl in order to encourage new students to join and “support knowledge”.
“It disappoints me when the reason why students shy away from Knowledge Bowl due to ‘not being smart enough’,” said Wang. “I hate to see people shame their potential/doubt their abilities. We want to encourage everyone who has knack/talent in an area- sports, arts, music, American literature- to share their knowledge for the good of the team.”
New members tend to “learn by osmosis”, as Leben puts it.
Knowledge Bowl meets in room 633 Tuesdays and Thursdays after school from 3:30 to 5:00.
Tune in to Rocky Mountain PBS at 6:30 pm on February 8th to see if Fairview beat the Spartans in their first round of the Matchwits tournament. Support Knowledge.