Thursday, December 1, 2011

Easy as 3.141592. . .

This is the final (and mostly true) draft of my personal narrative.

There were more pocket protectors in the room than you could count on the fingers of one hand, and there wasn't a single person in the room who couldn't give you the first 20 digits of pi. With a state championship on the line, every nerd had their pride to defend.

The Scholastic Team at my school was a gathering place for the intellectually elite. Less prestigious than debate, Scholastic Team was the invisible escape for those who wanted to share the speed with which they could return random trivia. However, the Scholastic Team would be invisible no more.

“We made it to the Finals!” exclaimed Mr. Call, the coach for Scholastic Team. He was wearing bulky glasses and a Star Wars tie, and had the largest bug collection I had ever seen. He was, in every way, the epitome of the stereotypical nerd. “We will be on Idaho Public Television for our match tomorrow morning!” True, that wasn't a very large audience, but a public appearance of any kind made us almost a sport. “Just remember that whether we win or lose this match tomorrow, our sportsmanship will be the most important thing.”

It was true. Our school, Madison, had just won a state championship in basketball, and while we didn't have a single “star” on our team that year that was particularly impressive, the coach of every team that our school had played had noted that we were their favorite team to play, because our basketball team had such great sportsmanship. It was our turn to defend this legacy.

Our opponents for the championship the following morning would be Hillcrest. They were the reason we hadn't made it to the championship last year. But this year was different. We had defeated them at the qualification tournament a few weeks ago, just to make it to where we were. We rested easily on this knowledge that night.

“Which author, in the play Our Town, defined. . .”

“Thorton Wilder.”

“Whose assassination in 1968. . .”

“Robert Kennedy.”

The bus ride to the Television studio was filled with the sound of random trivia. In ideal situations, we would be able to answer the question before it was done being asked, so the other team would have less of a chance of being able to answer the question. Haylee, our captain, was issuing commands and strategies. We reviewed hand signals, levels of aggressiveness while playing, and specialties of the front row players.

When we got there, the buzzers were lined up, and Hillcrest was waiting. The reader for the match walked in with a big cheesy grin. He was wearing a suit above the waist, but jeans below, because the camera was designed to catch him at an angle so no one else would see what pants he was wearing.

“That is so tacky,” we all whispered in turn. We took our seats and prepared for the match to start.

“Today, we will have the Idaho State INL High School Scholastic Team State Championship!” The reader had a charismatic “TV” voice. “On the left, we have Madison High School from Rexburg, and on the right, we have Hillcrest High School from Idaho Falls!” He continued to explain the rules of the event. The rolling cameras made us all nervous. We were all anxious to get started. Finally, it was time to begin: “On with the first question. Your category is 'Eye Examination.' What instrument. . .”

Buzz! Hillcrest knew the answer after 4 words. “Ophthalmoscope.”

“Correct. I'm glad you said that, so I didn't have to!”

Ophthalmoscope? I didn't even know that was a word before this point in time. That was only the first question though. We could come back. But Hillcrest got the next question. And the following one. And the one after that. It wasn't until the forth question that we got a chance to answer. And the answer was incorrect, resulting in a subtraction of 5 points.

It was hard to remain composed. Why did we miss that one? We knew what the answer was. We just didn't pronounce “Oedipus” right. And for that matter, neither did the judge. But we all thought about the many talks about sportsmanship that we had had in school, in practice, and at the end of the last round. No one likes a bad sport. Pronouncing the answer is part of the game. We all stayed competitive, and respectful.

“We are now halfway through the first half of the round, and the score is 55 to 5, Hillcrest!” announced the reader. Mr. Call in the back of the room was giving us exaggerated gestures from where he couldn't be seen by the camera. He was desperate for us to get Hillcrest off of its streak. And at that point, something with our team clicked. An obscure Russian history question was asked, and quickly answered by the history buff on our team. After that, our team was ready. We started answering every question. By the end of the first half, we tied up the score, 80 to 80.

“It is now time for the lightning round! The score is exactly tied, so we will need to toss a coin to determine who will go first!” The tension in the room was almost tangible. Madison lost the call, meaning we would compete first. Mr. Call was the most nervous of all of us. He looked like he has started to hyperventilate during the last question that tied the score. Both teams answered the lightning round questions, which brought the score to 115 to 135, in favor of Madison.

From that point forward, Madison remained ahead. We switched our game tactics from “catch-up” to “stay ahead.” Mr. Call was almost in tears as our team became 30, 40, 50, 60 points ahead. The final score was 225 to 165.

“And that's it! We have a Class A state champion! Congratulations, Madison!” As soon as the camera was off, we broke into excited cheers, and gave high fives all around. Mr. Call, looking somewhat frazzled, ran up to hug us all.

“I knew you guys would win the whole time.”

“Wait, guys,” came Haylee's voice, “Can we get 3 cheers for Hillcrest for being such great opponents?” Most of us had forgotten about Hillcrest already. We all cheered and applauded them. After all, they had just given us the best match we had had all season. It was clear that they were disappointed about the loss, but they smiled in acceptance of our appreciation of their performance. We then shook their hands individually, and, instead of congratulating, thanked each other.

Our team left the studio as State Champions. We were all content during the bus ride home in knowing that we were the biggest nerds in high school in the entire state of Idaho, but that wasn't the most rewarding part. We had defended our school's honor, and our principal, who had been secretly watching from the other room, came out and congratulated us. He told us how impressed he was of our performance, as well as our sportsmanship afterward.

The bus ride back to Rexburg would be about 6 hours long, but none of us cared. For many of us, this would be the highlight of the entire year. But instead of sitting by ourselves in the back of the bus, like we had on the way up, we sat intermingled with the Hillcrest team. Instead of awkward silence in the bus, we shared stories and smiles throughout the return trip.


  1. You did a great job of adding more details and pulling together a central message of good sportsmanship without actually saying it.
    I like your title - it goes well with your narrative. Great job!

    p.s. you might want to make the font a little bigger - the second half was a little small.

  2. I watched that tournament on the Idaho Public Television website. I'm glad Madison pulled through! Good job in finding the central message. :)