What do they know of quizzing who only quizzing know?
Fans of both cricket and quizzing might recognise that I am paraphrasing a famous quote by Trinidadian academic CLR James in the great cricket book ‘Beyond a Boundary’ – “What knows he of cricket who only cricket knows?”
[Fans of cricket, quizzing and poetry might recognise that James was himself answering Rudyard Kipling in ‘English Flag’ – “What do they know of England who only England know?”]
It’s a phrase that can be re-applied pretty universally, just as so much of cricketing jargon and folklore has spread throughout English culture – “playing with a straight bat”, “sticky wicket”, “it’s just not cricket”, “stumped”, “going into bat for …” etc.
Which leads me to a couple of cricketing analogies which can be applied to quizzing.
Firstly … let us call this one the Wicketkeeper Rule, or, if you wish, The Slip Rule.
If you are a wicketkeeper, you can guarantee that the one ball you decide will absolutely certainly not come to you – but will go off the middle of the bat, so you take your eye off it for a second – will be the one that takes an edge, and you drop. Disaster.
So it is that when you hear the start of a quiz question which appears to have nothing to do with you, is on a subject you have no interest in, it will come round to be right in your sphere of knowledge, and you will curse yourself that you didn’t concentrate.
As with wicketkeeping or fielding at slip, you cannot let your concentration waver for a second at a quiz.
Secondly … let us call this the Broadgate rule. So, in the first Ashes test of the summer, England all-rounder (there’s another one!) Stuart Broad edged a ball, which then deflected off the keeper and was caught by first slip. He was given not out, Australia had used up their reviews, and he stood their insouciantly and continued with his innings, making several more crucial runs.
Australians, and various pompous parts of the cricketing world, were outraged. How dare he not walk? “Blatant cheating”, Darren Lehmann, the Aussie coach called it. Darren Lehmann, a man who, as far as anyone knows, has never walked in his life. The only Aussie cricketer in living memory who was a full-time walker was the great Adam Gilchrist (no doubt he learnt it playing for Old Actonians Under-17s in the Middlesex Colts League!) and, by all accounts, this led to great resentment from his more hard-nosed colleagues.
So, why such outrage when Broad didn’t walk? Well, because, retrospectively, it was pretty obvious he’d got a big nick, but more because it was absolutely crucial to the outcome of the game.
So, what’s my point? He should have walked. Sure. That’s what I think. I walk. To be fair, the number of times it’s actually relevant, that you get a thin nick, you know you’re out but the umpire doesn’t spot it, is miniscule. I played a lot of cricket when I was younger and can only think of one time I walked when the umpire didn’t think I was out. And let’s just say that was not at a level with quite as much pressure as the first Ashes test, and I think I already had a few runs to my name. I was happy to stroll off merry and self-righteous.
And I have been outraged when an opponent didn’t walk for a blatant nick, of course. But have I been outraged when a team mate, or when an England player, didn’t walk for a blatant nick, like Michael Atherton versus Allan Donald in 1998, or Stuart Broad on this occasion? No, of course not. It’s all part of the game, we say to ourselves. He should have walked, but I’m glad he didn’t.
So it is with quizzes. If you are mismarked on a round, you complain vociferously if you’ve a mark too few but do you make your way to the front to demand a correction if you’ve been given a point or two too many. Do you?
And though outrage is reasonable enough when you catch an opposing team looking something up on their iPhone, make sure your outrage is accompanied by the knowledge that can you say hand on heart you’ve never seen or suspected a team mate of yours of doing the same. You’d rather they didn’t, of course, it’s not exactly cricket, but I bet everyone else is doing it …
This is no apologia for cheating, far from it. We hate cheating at our quizzes, and we do our level best to prevent it, pretty successfully. Accurate marking is also absolutely vital to us, and if ever any kind of mistake creeps in, we are shamefaced and remedy it at once. Fewer and fewer mistakes happen as we’ve taken more and more steps to make sure all our markers perform the right checks through out the quiz.
And we will very happily hear an enquiry about whether the marking is spot on, whether a question is accurate (it will be!), or what we will do about QuizTeam Aguilera using an iPhone. But we do hope that the enquiry is made politely and reasonably, without outrage or too much blame attached to anyone.
If Michael Clarke gets a massive nick and doesn’t walk at a crucial stage of the first test of the return Ashes this winter, let us hope we are able to shrug and take it on the chin and remember that when the good luck comes our own way, we readily accept it.