Right, let me state here and now that this is not a criticism of Oscar Powell, of the Peterhouse team who won Monday evening’s UC semi-final. No, it’s simply that something a friend said to me about the show, and Mr. Powell in particular, that raised an interesting discussion.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve been watching the current series. I have, even though I haven’t been writing about it. I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a certain amount of comment about Oscar Powell every time that Peterhouse have played. No doubt about it, Mr. Powell is a very good UC player. I doubt, somehow, that he is a brilliant poker player. I say this – tongue in cheek and no offence intended – because he does tend to give away how he is feeling, particularly every time he, or one of his team mates, gives a wrong answer to a starter. For a UC contestant he is very expressive, with both facial expressions and gestures.
Personally I don’t have the least problem with this. In fact, let me be honest, I like the fact that, while the game is going on, it matters so much to him. And so, it seems do quite a large number of viewers, judging by Twitter comments, for example. But there is also a body of opinion – my quiz mate included – who take exception to it. There’s a sizeable body of opinion which says that it’s wrong to react like this. I can’t say for certain, but I can imagine this goes back to the outmoded concept of the effortless amateur, the idea that winning is nothing, but winning without overly exerting oneself, and without showing any emotional response to it, is everything. The idea to show that one is emotionally involved in the contest, to show that winning matters to you, is somehow vulgar and to be frowned upon and criticized.
I do have an ulterior motive in bringing this subject up. You see, I could often be accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve when I’m quizzing. I honestly can’t really help it. I know that whether I win or lose a pub quiz, or a league match isn’t important. I do know that. But just because something isn’t important does not mean that it doesn’t matter. I’m afraid that I subscribe to the oft-quoted Vince Lombardi view – If winning isn’t important, why do they bother keeping score? – Well, quite. If I come back to my own example, I do try to stop myself from saying ’Yeessss!’ or ‘Good answer David!’ on the occasions when I do dredge up an answer which I didn’t know that I knew – but they do come out from time to time, and there’s no point me trying to say that they don’t.
Now, this is all directed at myself. I’m honestly not trying to wind up anybody in another team, but still some people make no attempt to hide the fact that they find it irritating. I’m not saying that they should attempt to hide it either – but I do find the attitude difficult to understand. I mean, if I was taunting the other team, calling them dumb, or their answers stupid, then yes, this would be absolutely out of order. If I crowed over beating another team, or taunted them after the match, then yes, this would be absolutely out of order. But showing a little pleasure in playing well? Getting yourself totally involved in a match/quiz? Where’s the problem?
I’ll give you another case in point. We were playing in a league match before Christmas, away. Never mind the opposition, no names, no pack drill. Now, I’ve learned through bitter experience that anything said in passing to that particular team during the quiz will not be received well – for example, I don’t say anything like ‘good answer’ to them because they seem to think I’m being sarcastic. I’m not. So, I had tried very hard to keep my mouth shut apart from answers, throughout the quiz. Then on one question I blurted out the answer before the question master had finished. It was a close match, and I was getting very involved in it. The question master reacted as if I’d slapped him in the face. He called me a smartarse – and this wasn’t said as a bit of banter either. Thankfully I shan’t be playing in a match with him as question master again until next season.
If you’re not demonstrative, then that’s fine. But if you are, take it from me, there’s nothing wrong about showing enjoyment in a good personal performance. I don’t deliberately go out of my way to antagonize other people, but there comes a point where you have to say, well, look, if you think showing a little enjoyment and engagement is wrong, then it’s your problem, not mine. So, Oscar, if by any chance you’re reading this, good luck in the final, and you carry on reacting, my friend. Stuff the begrudgers.