Friday, 15 April 2011

Just because another team does it, that doesn't make it right.

I give you fair warning that there is every good chance that this post will develop into a full size rant.

Up until very recently I did think that the scourge of internet phones was a nuisance and an annoyance in quizzes, but not something that would come to seriously threaten their very existence. Well, I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve been to four pub quizzes this week. As far as I know, the Sunday night quiz in the Dyffryn Arms in Rhos was totally clean and kosher, and there was no phone cheating going on. With regards to the other three, though, there was definitely cheating going on in two of them, and I believe there was in another, although I can’t be certain.

To put it into perspective, on Monday night I played in the £100 quiz in Cardiff. There’s always trouble parking, and we were running late, so I sent my son Mike in first, to sign up and get us started while I parked the car. When I walked in the quiz had already started, and I walked past three teams who were already on their phones. As it happened the picture round did for all the cheats again, and the only team I can guarantee were 100% clean – namely mine – won. Well and good.

I can’t prove anything about the Tuesday night quiz, so please taken my comments in this light. However the only other team who ever win on the Tuesday night have three ladies in their team who always disappear out the back for a ‘smoke’ at half time. OK – fair enough , smoking’s not a crime. However when they come back in, they always provide a flurry of answers to their captain. Now, when Andrew, from our League team and a smoker himself accompanied us one Tuesday a couple of months ago, he went out at the same time himself, and actually saw them flagrantly using their internet phones, and jotting down answers. So as I say, I can’t actually prove that they were at it again this Tuesday just gone. But they won all the same.

And do you know what ? None of this would normally bother me that much. Its probably sad to say it, but I tend to accept that it goes on in those places. But last night was different.

The Thursday night quiz in Aberavon Rugby club is very precious to me. I’ve been participating by playing or setting the quiz for almost 16 years now, and there are very few Thursdays that I’ve missed in all that time. How important is this quiz to me ? Well there were times when it was the only quiz I was doing, and it would be the highlight of the week. I’ve had offers and invitations to play in other places on a Thursday night, and I’ve always turned them down because Thursday night is the rugby club night. There have been times when things haven’t been going well, and I’ve always been able to console myself with the thought – never mind, it’s the quiz in the rugby club on Thursday. A couple of us regulars have our own saying – it’s a bad Thursday when there’s no quiz at the rugby club. Its been a weekly treat for a long, long time.

Now, in all the time I’ve been going down on a Thursday there’s never been any entry fee, and there’s never been any prizes. Among certain teams there’s always been a certain level of cheating going on. For instance, there are two women , in different teams, who sit there thumbing through their reference books, as bold as brass , during the quiz. OK, I don’t say I’ve ever liked this, or condoned it, but it’s never made a material difference to the outcome of the quiz as far as I can see.

If you’re a regular, then you’ll probably remember how angry I got over what happened with the New Year quiz. I’ll say a bit more about that in a moment. Well, last night Clive was setting the quiz, and he did another good’un. Its probably fair to say that it was a little more testing than his normal quizzes. Actually, very much the sort of thing I like. I was actually very pleased with myself, and with the team and the way that we played. But we couldn’t quite get away from one of the other teams, the largest in the place. We scored 9, so did they. We scored 10, so did they. Then on one round I was absolutely delighted to score 10 out of a possible 11, considering that I thought that three of the questions were so difficult no other team was likely to get them right. The other team got 11 out of 11. Alright, granted that they usually cheat with books, but even so that never normally makes a difference.

I had a quick look over now and again to see if they were using phones, but I couldn’t really see. Then after the quiz Brian, who was scoring confirmed that yes, they were definitely using phones. Cue a rant from me - I expect you can guess the sort of things coming out of my mouth – tainted win – what’s the point – morally bankrupt etc. etc. Now, while this was going on we were joined by another of our semi regular question masters. Who just so happens to play for one of the two teams who phone cheated through the New Year quiz. And when he heard what I was ranting about, he mildly offered the opinion –
“Well, everybody uses their phones here some of the time. “
Well, that was it. We don’t use our phones – ever. Neither does Rob and Terry’s team, the Lemurs. I told him this, and also told him that while we were on the subject, his team and one other team had made a mockery of the New Year’s quiz by cheating on the 4 point gambles . I wasn’t shouting, but I was serious, and it could have all got quite nasty.
To be fair he didn’t raise his voice , but he did come back with
“What are you taking it all so seriously for anyway? It doesn’t matter who wins , or what score you get. “ In which case, why use the phones at all when you don’t know the answer ?

Right, sorry, I know how petty and pathetic this makes me sound. But the fact is that even though its not that serious a quiz, and even though it doesn’t really matter at all who wins, or how many points you score, it DOES matter if teams are so blatantly cheating, and worse than that, think its OK to do so. In my opinion it makes the whole thing pointless. Its disrespectful to the question master who has put time and effort into putting the quiz together, and its disrespectful to the other teams who are taking part. I don’t believe that the team who were cheating last night, most of whom I’ve known and played against for many years, don’t know this. The fact, then, that it doesn’t seem to matter to them saddens and sickens me. What makes it worse is that some of the other teams seem to feel the same way about it.

I’ve asked myself – is it me ? Am I the one in the wrong ? Am I being terribly na├»ve in thinking that regardless whether there’s a prize or not, you play by pitting your team’s knowledge against that of the other teams ? The joy is in dredging up those answers from heaven knows where – or in being beaten by a question you KNOW you know the answer to, but you just can’t dredge it up out of your memory. That’s what it is for me, anyway.

As I’ve said, this quiz has been important to me for a very long time now, and in my time I would estimate I’ve set well over a hundred quizzes there myself. Last night, at the end of the evening, I came very close to telling Brian, the de facto organiser, and the other regular question master, that I don’t want to set any more there , not if the majority of teams there think that its OK to ruin it by cheating. I didn’t actually say anything then and there, mainly because I know from experience that I do have a tendency to say things when I’m angry, and then think better of them later on. But sitting here a day later, I still feel like this. And I’ve never felt like this before. About 18 months ago Brian was thinking of jacking in setting the quizzes himself, because of the apathy of some of the teams, and the fact that there even was one ignorant team who were deliberately staying away when it was his turn to set the quiz. I was really sorry for him at the time, but I knew that even if Brian stopped doing it, I was going to keep setting the quiz as long as any two teams wanted to turn up and play on a Thursday evening, and that I’d do it every week if necessary. I couldn’t foresee any circumstances under which I ever wouldn’t want to set the quiz for the club. Well, that’s exactly how I feel now. But I’m going to give myself some more time to think it over. I’m going to be question master a week on Thursday, and I’ll let you know how I feel about the whole thing after that.

Sorry to rant on over such a trivial thing, and thanks for listening.


Aaron said...

You are, of course, right to be angry about it.

What I would suggest is that the QM prints off a few sheets of answers for the whole quiz, and if he is pretty sure that a team are cheating, he gives them the sheet, along with an appropriately cutting remark ("If you're so desperate to check your answers...")

They can of course continue to quiz but any score they get will have to be qualified by "...but of course, they had all the answers."

Londinius said...

Hi Aaron

I've come very close to doing this myself - when I've seen teams cheating I have pointedly asked one of them to come up so that I can tell them the answers - but it hasn't really seemed to make any difference.

Its just that its happening in the club - its OUR quiz, and its been so good for such a long time I think that we should cherish it a little more. Because I think that if the majjority of teams start doing this all the time it will render the whole quiz pointless, and it will kill it. And it saddens me that other people just can't see it this way.

Thanks for leaving a comment


Will Jones said...

I like the idea of handing out the answers... at my local, part of the quiz is a buzzer round (at least it is when I set it) so that bit at least is difficult to cheat on. Spoken answers for money and short delays between ending a round and marking the answers can help.

I think little can be done to dissuade cheating as the one-liners you mention will always be trotted out when the culprits are confronted.

Gruff said...

When I QM, I always make a point of telling the teams that no use of phones or any other form of cheating is permitted. And once the point has been made I lighten the mood a tad by saying something like: anyone found cheating will be stripped naked and tied to the nearest lampost, with pictures placed on facebook. I think it has the desired effect. Leadership on this matter has to come from the QM.

The quiz I go to on a Monday holds a similar place in my heart to the quiz you are talking about. The QM reminds us each week not to use phones. He also does the answers pretty soon after asking the questions (and certainly never goes to a break with questions left unmarked). I've been going to the quiz for 11 years and although there has undoubtedly been the odd bit of cheating over the years I am pretty confident that the teams that win do so fairly. But again, the QM sets the tone, and he deals with people who step out of line. I'm afraid if teams are allowed to use reference books openly then it indicates a lack of leadership. No wonder people push it as far as they can.

Londinius said...

Hi Will and Gareth,

I take what you're saying. The problem I have - or should I say we have - is that there has been this laissez faire attitude in the club of just letting it go, since it is only 'a bit of fun'. I have had polite arguments with Brian over this. And up to now, I have not really wanted to upset the apple cart by making a huge scene over it. But I do think that unless we get hold of it now, and stand up and be counted and actually say - look, this is just not on - then we might as just wind up the quiz and call it a day. I honestly don't know if its something I'm going to want to be part of unless we do something about it.

God alone knows what I'll do with my Thursday evenings instead, though.

Thanks for your comments,


rayofsunshine said...

In my experience teams that cheat are normally lousy anyway. At my regular pub quiz there's a trend of teams very quickly producing evidence that answers read out are wrong via mobiles that does at times make you wonder a little.

What do you think of knowingly taking a mark for an obviously wrong answer? To me it's wrong, plain and simple but at my last pub quiz a team who did well, took a point for a "comedy" wrong answer that the clueless team marking them had given them. They were amused and thought my team would be, we weren't, especially as we've taken points off our score when they've overmarked us in the past.

Londinius said...

Hi rayofsunshine, and welcome to LAM. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment.

"In my experience teams that cheat are normally lousy anyway. "
I don't know if I'd express it in quite so forthright terms, but yes, I don't see the best teams in any quiz cheating like this, certainly.

"What do you think of knowingly taking a mark for an obviously wrong answer? To me it's wrong, plain and simple but at my last pub quiz a team who did well, took a point for a "comedy" wrong answer that the clueless team marking them had given them. They were amused and thought my team would be, we weren't, especially as we've taken points off our score when they've overmarked us in the past."

I'm not 100% clear what you mean here. If you mean that the answer they gave was wrong, and it was different from what the QM said, the other team having marked it right by mistake, then no, that's absolutely wrong ! They obvioulsy knew that it was a mistake, and they were honour bound to report it to the QM, and deduct the point.

If on the other hand they put down their comedy answer, and the QM had the same answer down, wrongly , then its just one of those things. I've taken up arms against ' the question master is ALWAYS right' in the past , in this very blog, but if he gives an answer, once you've made your point and he sticks to his guns, then what he says has to go, even if you know its not right.

"At my regular pub quiz there's a trend of teams very quickly producing evidence that answers read out are wrong via mobiles that does at times make you wonder a little."

Yes, that's a prime example of why I am pessimistic that phones will kill pub/social quizzes. These people obviously have no shame about using their phones, and are even blatant about it. That's a prime example of the attitude which seems to be taking hold, that its alright to cheat because 'everyone' does it. In such a place , I really don't know what the answer is.

I'm back to the Rugby club tonight, and I hope that I can contain myself without making a scene tonight . . . I'm saving it for next week when I'm question master myself.

Thanks for dropping by


rayofsunshine said...

Sorry I was unclear. What happened was the team in question had no idea and put an answer so wrong,(a fictional character from the wrong century,rather than a real person), that I assumed it was a joke answer. The QM then read out the right answer, but those marking decided it was near enough and without checking marked it correct, and having noticed they laughed and accepted the mark.

I was pretty sure you'd be against such a thing, but very few people seem to care so nice to see we're not alone. Good luck tonight, you can't do worse than I did once. Have you ever been told not to return to a quiz for reasons other than success?

On one occasion my team were undermarked by 20 points at a quiz and as the QM also got our team name wrong didn't realise until the last score was read out,followed immediately by the prize being handed out. Someone else on the team went to complain and seeing he was getting irate I went to calm matters. The QM refused to show us our sheet to prove the "error"(that coincidentally benefitted more regular customers over us) and my diplomatic skills helped the little twerp to get so riled up he slammed a glass down on the bar and in best Peggy Mitchell style shouted up "Get out of my pub".

Sorry for the length of post.

Londinius said...

Hi rayofsunshine

Never feel the need to apologise for length of posts - long ones, short ones, medium sized ones, we love 'em all.

Since you're asking, yes, I have been banned from a quiz for reasons other than success before. Two years ago I made a very injudicious comment about a local quiz in this very blog. I don't want to rehash the details and thus upset any of the protagonists who might be reading it. However the response was basically that I am arrogant, smug, a bad loser and a bad winner - ( not for me to comment, its all in the eye of the beholder ) and that the Landlord said that I would not be welcome at the quiz any more. Live and learn.

All this happened across the net, though. I'm glad to say that I've never had a scene like the one that you described. Hopefully you've found better places to go since.

Thanks for your comments