Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Strange Days indeed

What an unusual day or two its been ! My last entry was a review of Monday's Grand Final of University Challenge. What a nice surprise to find an email in my inbox from Lauren Schwartzman of the victorious Corpus Christi team. She read the review, and took the time and trouble to drop me a line thanking me for my comments. Niceness as well as brilliance - that's a hell of a combination in one person !

If you're reading this blog then I'll lay odds that you either watched the Grand Final, or that you've noticed a lot of the media interest in the final, and in particular in the captain of Corpus Christi, Gail Trimble. My admiration for Gail Trimble as a quizzer is a matter of public record. Just read the blogs about the quarter finals and the semi finals and you'll see. But that's all I feel that I have any right to comment on. As for all of the other nonsense there's been in the media over the last couple of days, I would ask people to consider that the television is very much a mirror that distorts. When you watch a person competing in a show like University Challenge, or Mastermind, or Battle of the Brains, or Millionaire, or whatever, you are seeing one small part of what makes that person what he or she is, a small part that the magic box magnifies. You may see someone on the television, and think that you know them. You don't. The only people qualified to make any judgements about a contestant on a TV show, like Miss Trimble, or like me, for that matter, are people who actually know them, have met them, and spent some time with them.

I would imagine that people reading this blog are fully aware of this anyway. Still, the media have sniffed out a story. Maybe like me you tuned on BBC Breakfast News yesterday to see Gail Trimble being interviewed. The keynote to the interview wasn't - Hasn't your team done well ? - - but rather - Haven't there been some nasty things said about you personally on people's blogs ? - So I was surprised, but not totally flabbergasted, when a very nice journalist from none other than The Times rang me up yesterday, to ask me some questions about how my life has changed since winning Mastermind, as part of an article about what happens to you after you win on television. To which the answer is - it hasn't, not really, or not in any way that really matters. The feature appeared in the Times this morning, and it was lovely to see myself quoted amongst such distinctive company . Then later in the evening, I received an email and a phonecall from a journalist who works for The Sunday Telegraph ! As no article can possibly appear until this Sunday, I'm going to play my cards close to my chest on this one for the time being.


I actually watched the final in the bar of the Aberkenfig Social Club. I'd been asked to play for the club in Monday night's game, and we met up there before going on to the quiz itself. Oh dear.

The discontent started when we arrived at the opposition's pub at the same time as the opposition team did. The former chairman of the league recognised John. He has problems with his vision, so he didn't recognise me at all. However when I told him my name he remembered. Immediately the other team started to mutter amongst themselves, and we could hear comments about 'taking it all too seriously ' and 'win at all costs' being passed between them. I'm not saying that this wouldn't have happened if the fixture had just been a normal league match. However I am sure that what made it worse was the fact that this was the semi final of the cup competition.

Now, I didn't actually know that this was a cup game when I was asked to play. Probably to my discredit I am not sure that it would have made a lot of difference to me even if I had known. Still, when we were both teams seated, and the question master ready to start, the captain of the opposition decided to air his views. I didn't know this chap at the time, and I still don't, but his first words were,
"As vice-chairman of the league . . . " Oh dear. With a heavy heart I listened as he went on to say that he wanted it put on record that playing John and myself on this night went against the spirit of the league and was morally wrong, and he would be making it an issue in the committee's next meeting. Under the circumstances I didn't know whether to make a spirited defence of myself, or to withdraw gracefully from the team. In the event I did neither, which was probably the only really sensible course of action. I sat there, and didn't get involved.

We played the quiz. The outcome was a heavy win to us. I would be lying if I didn't say that I really enjoyed the quiz. That's not actually because of the animosity which John and I were shown from the other team, and its not because we won heavily. Its because it was a proper quiz competition. I've always enjoyed the quiz league format,and its been getting on for three years since I played in one. But the arguments started as soon as the quiz ended. There seems to have been some past history between John and the vice chairman, and this was all raked over again. John got quite hot under the collar, and I'm sorry to say, only one member of the opposition deigned to shake my hand.

The worst thing is I don't think anyone is going to come out of this as a winner. The Aberkenfig Social team are through to the final of the cup competition. However I can only guess that this is going to be the cause of some bad feeling between them and the other teams in the league, certainly between them and the team we defeated on Monday. The team we defeated came across as a group of sore losers, and they are out of the cup. John feels extremely annoyed, and being a man of dignity and integrity I can't see him playing for a League team again. Which is a shame, because it is an enjoyable quiz. As for me, well what I feel is this. I was surprised earlier in the year when two other good quiz friends of mine were both approached and asked to play for a team in the League. I was right there with them, and I wasn't asked. It has been said to me by someone quite close to the movers and shakers in the league that people don't want to have me playing in the league because of the Mastermind thing. After this I fear that I may never get a chance to play in the league again.

To some extent I can understand their point of view. As I have said before, Bridgend have managed to keep a quiz league going at a time when all the other local leagues seem to have been folding. Not only is the league going, it still has two divisions, which is rather wonderful in this day and age. I can accept that people wouldn't be happy if they thought that I was going to upset the balance of power within the league. I can see why the team we played on Monday night were as indignant as they were, although I don' t think that was any excuse for snubbing me afterwards as three of them did. I'm sure that many of us have had the experience of having to play against a team reinforced with 'ringers' in the past, and its not pleasant, especially since , in their eyes, it robbed them of any chance of making it through to the cup final.

Its such a shame though, because this was a good quiz, and if any team wanted me to play for them next season, I'd agree like a shot.


On a more positive note, my appeal for quiz show competitors to stand up and be recognised seems to be bearing fruit. I confidently expect to be able to post a new hero of the week within a couple of days, when two correspondents get back to me with a few details they have agreed to provide me with. Watch this space.

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