Yes, honestly, I did win the BBCs Mastermind competition, broadcast on 24th March 2008.
Winning Mastermind earlier this year has turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. At the start I had some lovely invitations after the show was broadcast - over 9 months after it was actually recorded. However since then it has also had some drawbacks.
I currently ration myself to three quizzes a week during term time, and sometimes as many as 5 during the school holidays. For the last few years my friend and mentor John and I have been living off the fat of the land, alternating on Sundays between picking up bottles of wine at the quiz in Bridgend, and a cash prize at the quiz in Groesfaen. If you're a good enough quizzer, you'll find that social pub quizzes are usually easy pickings. I often tell people that its not about the prizes, but then its easy to say that when you're the person who normally wins the prizes. This does create some bad feeling though.
My friend and sometime teammate Robert put it best when he said,
“ You can beat a man 10 – nil in a football match, during the course of which you have also insulted him and his family and inflicted physical pain upon his person, and he’ll often shake hands with you afterwards, and share a beer with you in the bar. However, if you make a man feel stupid in his own local. . . watch out ! “ This is an occupational hazard for the serious quizzer.
Theoretically any team can win a pub quiz, if the questions fall right for them on the night. However, in reality, in my experience there are usually only ever two or three teams in any pub quiz who have a chance of winning more regularly than once in the bluest of moons.
Quantity alone will not often beat quality in a quiz. It doesn’t matter if your team has eight or nine players; if that team of two sitting in the corner is made up of two pros - serious , regular quizzers, and you haven’t got any in your team, then they are probably going to beat you, as simple as that.
There is a wide , in fact massive, gulf between the average social quizzer, and a serious, dedicated all round quizzer. So much so that a serious quizzer playing in an average pub quiz is a bit like a Premier League footballer taking part in a Sunday League kickabout. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent set up to the Premier League for the serious quizzer to take part in, which is why we do take part in our local pub quizzes.
There is relatively little money to be had from pub quizzing. If you make enough money back to pay for your drinks, petrol etc., then you’re doing better than most.
Actually, this highlights my point about making people feel stupid in their own local. If you are in a team of four, and you beat all the regular teams in a pub quiz by a good margin, you’ve actually got a decent chance of getting a good round of applause, a smidgen of respect, and maybe a friendly chat at the bar. Now, lets suppose that there are only two of you in your team. You still beat all the regular teams by the same margin. Wouldn’t this more significant achievement, perhaps , entitle you to even more admiration and respect, and an even larger round of applause ? Not at all. The pair of you would as likely as not be cold – shouldered, and viewed darkly through suspicious eyes. On such an occasion there is a code of behaviour to be observed.
1) Don’t smile.
2) Don’t be tempted to engage in conversation, or even worse, banter, with the question master. Never tell him about the mistakes he has made with his questions.
3) A lap of honour is totally out of the question.
4) Try not to meet any body else’s gaze, and at no time initiate a conversation yourself.
5) If someone else traps you into conversation, remember your excuse – “ we had a lot of lucky guesses tonight “
6) The optimum time for leaving the pub is 13 minutes after the end of the quiz. Any shorter looks like panic. Any longer risks you being dragged into an awkward conversation with disgruntled losers.
Still, while other , beaten teams may mutter darkly about "quiz professionals " and "taking it all too seriously “" you can bet that every single one of them secretly longs to be picking up the bottle of wine or the fiver instead of you.
Winning "Mastermind" does seem to give some people a focus for their disappointment or discontent . It makes a difference. People who have managed to keep their frustration at our continued success on a Sunday evening under wraps are now openly saying that I shouldn't be allowed to take part in their quiz.
It came to a head after the quiz in Groesfaen a fortnight ago. Basically, the question master had promised several weeks before that the jackpot would actually be given away, and then it hadn't been, for three times running. So I asked him why, and although he never really answered the question, what he did tell us was that teams had stopped coming to the quiz because we kept winning. In particular one team had complained to the landlord that we kept winning and had stopped coming. They normally have 5 members, we only have 2. You do the maths. Rather than banning us outright, the question master and the landlord have come up with the idea of a bingo quiz. Basically this means that its not enough to have all the answers right, you have to have the right answers right in the right order. It means that you get a random winner every week.
They told us that they have made a conscious decision not to ask us to stop coming, but for all that it seemed to me to be the simplest solution. John agreed too. I just hope that they have the sense to tell all the other teams that we won't be coming back - and that this will bring a few back to them on a Sunday night. When all is said and done, I just want to take part in quizes, and hopefully win them. I don't want to kill them.
This has led to a problem , though. Where else to go tonight. Theoretically we could go to the Pheasant in Bridgend. However that would make it two weeks in a row. We deliberately try to avoid going to the same quiz 2 weeks in a row, just to avoid the situation which has happened at Groesfaen. If you only go to half the quizzes, then the most that anyone can say is that you win half the quizzes. This stands to reason - and Maths isn't even my specialist subject !
You'd think that with the information technology we have at our command it would be a simple thing to track down a list of quizzes on a Sunday evening. You might think that, but you'd be wrong. Between Swansea and Cardiff I have only been able to track down a dozen Sunday night quizzes on the internet. Of these some have only the sketchiest details, and don't even give the starting time. One of them, in Bridgend, has already unofficially banned us for winning two £100 jackpots in the same month last year.
So I guess that we'll go to the Brynoch Inn tonight. This has its down side Its quite a step for John to travel, and more importantly, its not a very good quiz. We went there once last year for a change, and the fact that we've never been back tells its own story. I was put off by the fact that they ask 2 Family Fortunes type questions.
Family Fortunes questions are the pits of the earth when it comes to a pub quiz. By Family Fortunes questions I mean the type of question that asks -
"In a recent survey, 100 people were asked to name a hairy dog. What were the top 5 answers ? "
How the hell are you suppose to know that ? The answer is, you're not. Its a randomising factor, and randomising factors mean that the wins get shared around the teams. This keeps everyone happy, except for the people who have actually been to other places, and know what a good quiz is really like.
I'll discuss the options with John tonight, and we'll make our mind up about where we're goin to try in the future. Watch this space.