Sunday, 18 January 2009

All for One -

- And every man for himself

You remember me mentioning my friend John . Or maybe you don't. Its no big deal , really, one way or another. I only mention this because John is my best quiz mate and quiz partner, and we have been cutting a swathe through Sunday evening quizzes in a range of pubs from Morriston ( Swansea ) to Cardiff for more years now than I care to remember. John went in for a routine operation in the middle of the week, and as a result he is hors de combat tonight. So, finally getting to the point, I face the dilemma of either forgoing the quiz, or playing on my own.

If you've read this far and still haven't decided to click off to pastures new , and you've never read Marcus Berkman's book " Brain Men " ( recently given one extra chapter and retitled " A Matter of Facts "), then you should. Its the funniest and truest description of the world of quizzing you're ever likely to read. In one section he considers the question of how many people is the optimum number for a quiz team. He plumps for four, and I tend to go along with this, although I do accept that a team of five can be just as effective. One thing he is quite clear about, though, is that playing as a one person team is something you should try to avoid at all costs. I can see where he is coming from. Its better to play with team mates. You have someone to talk to during the boring bits. Hopefully your team mate or team mates will recognise one of your more ridiculous stabs in the dark, and stop you before you commit it to paper. A team mate is someone you can either share the blame with, or even offload all of the blame onto - even if you do this in your own head rather than out loud.

I will confess that I have played as a singleton before. I've won quizzes on my own in The Welcome in Morriston,The Tunnel Tavern in Neath and the Dynevor Arms in Groesfaen. These were interesting experiences. When two of you play together and win, you tend to provoke either admiration ( for the first 2 or 3 times you win ) or thinly veiled hostility ( every other time you win after that ) but winning on your own is different. As a rule it seems that people genuinely don't know how to react. With the result that they don't actually react at all. Which results in the kind of atmosphere you would get in a pub when everyone knows that the person sitting in the centre table has just grown an extra head, but being British they are all just too embarrassed to draw attention to it.

Yes, granted that I could join forces with another team. However it isn't quite as simple as that. Last week we played in the Culverhouse Hotel, and next week when John is better we shall play in the Culverhouse Hotel again. This means that I am really honour bound to give them a miss this week to make sure that we never win the quiz two weeks in a row. Perhaps that sounds arrogant. Perhaps it is arrogant. Yet the fact is that the 6 times we've been we have won everytime, and in my experience there is nothing that stops people coming out to a social quiz than the same team winning the prize - whatever it may be - every week.

So, tonight I'll play in the Haywain in Bridgend. There are a few regular teams, but here's the rub. Most of the regulars already have large teams. Playing in a team of 6 or more, who already have their own pecking order sorted out, is purgatory. So then perhaps I could offer to join forces with a smaller team. Yet even that has its consequences. When you play for a smaller team, with people you don't know, there will come a time when the team's regular members will be adamant that the answer they have is right, even when you know that its wrong. So either you do the quiz equivalent of pulling rank ( eg. - don't you know who I am and what I've won - I've started so I'll Finish etc. - followed by a hummed rendition of the Mastermind theme music ) which really will confirm everyone else's opinion that you must be the most arrogant and unpopular person in the pub , or far, far, far worse than that, you let a wrong answer slip by when you know that you could have substituted the right answer . Its a hard life.

I shall play it by ear when I get there. I'll let you know what happened later on in the week.

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