She puts the 'Ack' in Academic


Nov. 8, 2002, midnight | By Sally Colwell | 18 years, 2 months ago

One reporter tests her mental mettle among Blair's resident smarty-pants club


Herein, the columnist is offered a coveted space in a practice session for Blair's highly esteemed It's Academic! team, tries to prove the superiority of her mental strength and learns the futility of such an endeavor.

I'm shaking with anticipation as I await the next question. Blair's It's Academic! team surrounds me in their practice room, and I know I can't let them down. The words form in my mouth and I let them spill out. I just hope I don't embarrass myself.

"Who invented lightning?" I ask, and look expectantly at the faces surrounding me.

Yes, I've been given the esteemed privilege of testing the knowledge of some of Blair's brightest and, uh, most bright students. I'm sitting in on one of their mind-bending practice sessions, and before the real practice starts, I have the chance to warm up our big-brained Blazers with some questions of my own.

"What's hair for?" I ask.

After a frenzy of whispering and conferring, they come up with "to put under your hat." Okay, that was pretty good. But I'm not satisfied.

"What is the value of pi?" I ask next. Sophomore Saul Kinter, who is next to me, buzzes in immediately. "3.141592––"

"Sorry, time's up," I say. Another point for me, I think smugly.

"Who invented the shoe?" I throw them an easy one.

After the hubbub quiets down (I swear I heard "Julius Caesar" somewhere in there), someone buzzes in with "the little elves in the story." I stare blankly ahead as they convulse with laughter. Apparently I am the only person who's never heard of a folk tale involving elves and shoes. My ignorance aside, they still got the answer wrong: It was Robin Hood.

They seem to be getting a little antsy for the "official," more "legitimate" questions, so I decide to let them start their practice. I make the switch from judge to contestant by doodling furiously in my notebook as the group sponsor, David Swaney, prepares to ask the questions. I've even been given a buzzer. I've never felt smarter in my life.

Immediately I am lost in a sea of intelligence. Swaney starts to list names, and suddenly someone buzzes in with the answer "ESPN." A follow-up question asks us to identify the world headquarters of this organization. After a few false answers, I decide it's safe to yell the obvious location.

"Alaska!" I say after buzzing in. Kinter leans over and patiently explains that we get only one chance to buzz in per question, so my answer wouldn't have counted even if it were right. This makes no sense to me. Who is this "we" he is talking about? Eventually it dawns on me.

"Is this three teams?" I ask.

He sighs. "Yes," he says, looking pointedly at the three teams with tallies written on the whiteboard in front of us, which until now I had never noticed. Apparently I've been letting my team down with my antics. But nobody seems to mind.

I'm a little embarrassed by my obviously inferior intellect, so for the next few questions I hold myself back and stay quiet. But when a question mentions a 15th-century artist, I can't help but yell out, "Charlie Sheen!"

"Be quieter when you answer and we haven't buzzed," suggests Kinter, in case I might one day have a correct answer but ruin it by not buzzing.

Soon after a question involving George Clinton—who, it turns out, was not only the king of funk but also the only vice-president who died in office––the game is over and everyone starts to get up and leave.

I panic. I never finished testing their knowledge with my questions. I didn't even get to the algebra question ("What color is math?"), and without a complete questionnaire my study will be useless.

"Do you think Miss Piggy is fat?" I yell. "Yes!" they say, exasperated, as they file out of the room.

"Do you think I'm psychic?" I ask, and someone yells, "No!"

"I knew you were going to say that," I tell an empty room.

No matter how wise these condensed versions of the Library of Congress are, I still get the last word in. And believe me, nothing could be more satisfying.



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Sally Colwell. Sally Colwell is co-centerspread editor and is tremendously excited to be on paper this year. In her free time she enjoys reading novels, drawing, not practicing the violin and attending demolition derbies. During the summer she is a counselor at Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies … More »

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