Sunday, April 17, 2005

So, you'd have to be a crazy person, or you'd have to have a damn good reason to go out of town for a three day weekend a week and a half before law school finals. I'd like to think in my case, it's the latter, but I'll let you judge. First, though, I need to go into Sophia mode for a bit...

Picture it, Pittsburgh, April 1993. Nirvana and Boyz II Men are on the air, the Toronto Blue Jays are just starting a successful World Series title defense, and I'm an 18-year-old college freshman in the thralls of a technology called "newsgroups." (It will be two more years before I see the World Wide Web.) The last time I check and et al before going home for the summer, I see a listing pop up for on the list of newly available group. Having competed in high school and without distinction at College Bowl Regionals that spring, I took note and saved the group to read in the fall.

When I got back to school in the fall I started reading, and discovered that there were colleges out there playing college bowl variants throughout the school year at universities around the country. I was intrigued, and I looked into getting some school funding; the Pitt Program Council agreed to send us to one tournament, as Regionals practice. Then I found out about the Nittany Lion Invitational Tournament at Penn State a few weeks later. I arranged with some friends who had been on the Regionals team (or close to it) to travel up there, and we crashed on the floor of Doug O'Neal's apartment.

The week of the tournament I told my adviser at the Honors College, Deborah Layne, about the tournament, and she said, "This sounds like something we should be funding." I can tell you that it was somewhere around October 20, 1993, although I can't tell you the exact date. However, there's no doubt in my mind that that's the moment to which you can pinpoint the founding of Pitt Quiz Bowl.

Flashforward to 1997. Popular culture ("trash") tournaments had become all the rage by this point, but they were happening here, there and everywhere with no central organization. Trashmasters was undoubtedly the Granddaddy of Them All, but it was largely a Southern affair. There was no true national championship. Several of us had kicked around for a couple of months the idea of trying to have something central in Pittsburgh; it was a nice location between the Midwest, South, and Northeast, we had some good players and organizational types around, and we thought we could pull it off. At some point in the discussion, I even coined a term for it: "Trashionals."

That April, I drove out by myself to a trash tournament at Swarthmore, where I stayed on Fred Bush's floor in the dorms. That night, Fred and I got to talking and it turns out that he had been thinking about a national trash tournament too, but something bigger as well, with a Regionals and Nationals structure, and something that could be done annually. It just so happened that I had the tournament of my life that weekend, which perhaps made an impression; that summer when Fred sent out emails to several very good trash players about starting a trash organization, I got one of the emails. We called the organization TRASH ("Testing Recall About Strange Happenings"), and the following April in College Park, Maryland, we held the first TRASHionals.

Flashforward to this weekend: This weekend was TRASHionals 8: The Fish That 8 Pittsburgh. One organization that I founded finally co-hosted (with Carnegie-Mellon) its first national tournament of any kind. The organization it hosted was an organization I helped co-found. My participation in quiz-bowl has diminished drastically in the past couple of years, and my role in TRASH has been vanishingly small the last two years beyond helping out at TRASHionals. But I went this weekend, I helped out, I made a contribution.

Ultimately, I don't know what was more gratifying--the fact that I could still contribute, or the fact that things would have gone just fine even if I hadn't contributed at all.

So that's the scoop. Now I go into my finals cocoon, from which I will emerge at 12 noon promptly on May 5th. In other words, if you're hanging around in Ann Arbor on Cinco de Mayo and want some lunchtime margaritas, give me a holla'.

Finally, we don't get registration results until May 6th (not coincidentally), but if I got my first choices, I'll be taking Secured Transactions, First Amendment, and Enterprise Organizations--class from 8:45 to 12:15 Monday to Wednesday, 10-11 on Thursday, and that's it. We'll see how that works out...

No comments: