CHS slowly building a brainy dynasty.

Whatever happened to Trivial Pursuit? Family get-togethers in the 1980s and early 1990s inevitably included rousing rounds of played by various configurations of teams and individuals. Not to brag or anything, but yours truly was quite the accomplished player back then and highly coveted as a team member.

    OK, so the geography, science and most questions of an academic nature stumped me more often than not. I was, however, a whiz at pop culture and anything that might be deemed more trivial in nature, although my belief is that no piece of knowledge is ever trivial. Therefore, the name is a misnomer, kind of like "reality" is for the overly-staged, far-from-genuine fictitious drivel that dominates today's television waves.

    My thirst for knowledge has apparently passed on to at least one of my offspring, although she falls more on the academic side of the spectrum. Her third-grade teacher got such a kick out of her favorite reading material, saying Cyrina was the only kid she knew who'd read a big Scholastic kid's dictionary from cover to cover and remember most of it.

    So it was only natural for this girl join Knowledge Bowl as soon as she entered high school. For two years, she worked hard and bided her time to make the top team, which more often than not goes to state. This year was no exception.

    The State Knowledge Bowl competition is held at Cragun's Resort, a far cry from a large school you have to drive back and forth to from your hotel, as in most other state contests. Although it was too soon to take advantage of the many outdoor offerings there, just relaxing in our spacious room with the fireplace going and a balcony overlooking the lake was enough for me, especially when 200-plus teenagers crammed into the massive pool area (with a hot tub that could fit no more than six people comfortably) for a little recreation before hitting the hay to prepare for their intense next day.

    And intense it was – at least for us spectators. While the kids seated at the three tables at the front of the room surely had butterflies fluttering inside, most of them actually appeared to be pretty calm. In the spectator area, though, I spotted more than a handful of parents sitting at the edge of their seats with legs wobbling back and forth, hands poised in claw-like positions as if ready to pounce, and jaws quivering while forcing themselves not to blurt out the answer as their team contemplated the question.

    Admittedly, I was one of them.

    Cheers when teams answered correctly and groans when they didn't were typically heard around the room follow each question/answer set, but every once in a while a chorus of dumbfounded huhs echoed, making it apparent the answer was not the one spectators so confidently had in mind. Questions varied greatly in subject and difficulty, focusing primarily on academic and cultural subjects like math, science, language, art, music and history. Each team member has his/her area of expertise, which means teammates generally give higher regard to that person's answers in those areas.

    I don't consider myself unintelligent, but after carefully listening to 180 questions and getting at most 25 right, I'm feeling a little dumb about now, especially when these were geared toward people more than 30 years younger than me. Granted, the kids only got so many right too, but their success rate was still much better than mine.   

    In talking with some of the other students' family members, we found it interesting that many of the answers we thought were a piece of cake, the kids were clueless to. We chalked this up to a glaring generation gap that shows our age. For example, when none of the teams knew what a milliner makes, the audience's tension emanated throughout the room and so immediately after the final wrong answer was given, the reader deferred to us spectators, to which we blurted out a resounding "hats." Most of us had probably never been to a millinery or ever met a milliner, but this is just one of those things people over the age of 40 seem to know and anyone younger doesn't. On the other hand, ask us what another name for a double replacement chemical reaction between two salts in which cations exchange partners is and most of us would shake our heads and roll our eyes. (Metathesis is the answer, something I know absolutely nothing about but my daughter and probably 95 percent of her KB cronies do.)

    Much like Jeopardy, knowing just when to buzz in is vital at KB. Hit the strip too early, there might not be enough of the question read to determine the answer. Wait too long, you risk other teams buzzing in before you and getting it right. We were amazed at just how well teams did know the answer when 3/4 of the question was cut off. Now that's teamwork at its finest.

    My only complaint with KB is the lack of female representation. Only a handful of Pirate girls have been on the top teams through the years. Cyrina was the only girl – again – on the team this year and also the only female among our region's 25 team members qualifying for state. It's a similar story at the state level, girls being greatly outnumbered by boys, although a handful of teams actually had two females. Ironically, the vast majority of KB coaches are women.

    Given the school's winning record of state appearances and this particular team's experience and teamwork skills, I'm confident the CHS team will bring us to Cragun's again next year.