Reviewing the Independence Day Spectacular

When I woke up on Thursday, July 5, I was so excited! Why? Because the funnest competition of the year was at hand-the Independence Day SPECTACULAR! As a slight drop off from last year, This year we had only fifteen teams, but all of the contenders were back, so it was going to be a very intense competition.

Now, this event is very different than many others. For starters, there are only two people per team. Secondly, there are some weird age restrictions, but ultimately old people like David Poston, Matt West, and Lynn “Machine Gun” Warren are allowed to quiz. Finally, up until this point, noone has been able to beat the Carbonells. Also, there are only fifteen questions (not correctly answered, just questions) in a quiz. You quiz out with four answers, whether they be right or wrong. There are also no tossups, no challenges, and it doesn’t matter how many high’s or low’s you get, because it is all based on points until the very end.

There are three stages to this event. The Round Robin (or as Matt West calls it, the Regular Season); The Second Round Robin (or as Matt West calls it, the Playoffs), and then the elimination phase (or as Matt West calls it, the Finals). The first stage eliminates all teams outside the top 12. Of course, some years this is a huge step eliminating some quality teams. This year, it eliminated three teams, so it was mostly a phase of scoping out the competition. One surprising thing, however, is that the team with a string of second places (Jesse and Heather Startup, who chose the name Hey Cowboy Flapjacks!) did not make the Playoffs. They missed the playoffs by 10 points and then proceeding to outscore all other teams in the consolation combined.

Here were the teams that established themselves in the Regular Season.
The Transformers (Annabelle and Abby Carbonell)
They were dominating! They scored more than the other two teams in their quizzes combined. Individually, Annabelle tied for second, and Abby got fifth. They were the number one seed, and the competition looked to be theirs to lose.

Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me (Paige and Lynn Warren)
An aggressive team that seemingly never met a question they didn’t like, this team looked ready to quiz. Paige tied Annabelle for second, and Lynn got eighth. They were the second seed from the morning, and thus were thought to be the Carbonells strongest challengers.

Emerson Drive (Matt West and Josh Thomas)
This third seed was an interesting mix. Matt was amazing. He was the best quizzer in a tough field. He was perfect in at least seven of his ten quizzes. Josh was decent and beat such quizzers as Jesse Startup and Grace D’Amico. My suggestion to them would be to get a new name for next year. Of course, the likelihood is Matt will change teammates yet again.

Lady And The Tramp (David and Joanna Tyrrell)
The forth seed for the morning, David looked strong enough to get in the final five all by himself . Fortunately, Joanna had one of her better days, and definitely made this team a contender for the championship. They were a great team that shined in the toughest division.

Mighty Memorizers (Daniel and Samuel Tyrrell)
I believe they both have the potential to eventually be better than David. They are the youngest team in the tournament, but they quizzed with the maturity of quizzers twice their age. No team wanted to quiz them, and rightly so, because they were a legitimate threat.

We Don’t Care (Alex D’Amico and John Webster)
If Israel had quizzed with Alex, they might have been able to dominate, because Alex was excellent. But for a last minute teammate, you couldn’t get better than John. They did not scare people and did not get a lot of points, but they seemed to make everyone quiz faster and hence, they were never the “worst” team in the quiz. I suggest that they come up with a new name too.

Higher Powers (Kelsey Davies and Joshua Austin)
Kelsey is intimidating individually and she is the one that scares me the most when the competition is tough. Kelsey can seemingly always get up first. However, her accuracy is varied. Joshua is someone who actually seems to get better as the competition gets tougher, so despite the fact that they were the 7th seed, there was great hope.

THE YOUNG & the restless (Grace D’Amico and David Poston)
Grace is typically good under regular rules, but in this competition, where errors kill you, she doesn’t seem to adapt as well. Poston was mediocre and looked as if he was counting on Grace to carry him. However, their reputations alone made them contenders.

The other Four
There were two teams, Act II (Elizabeth Tyrrell & Joshua Tyrrell) and First Base or Remix (Jenny Tyrrell & Abigail Tyrrell), who were made up entirely of Tyrrells. The Tyrrells are extremely accurate and never seem to miss a question, but they are not as quick as the other Tyrrells who hover around the top 5. There was another team, Fid3n (Austin McElwain & Nathan Veyon) that barely made it in as the 12th seed, but they might be able to pull a Golden State like upset. They beat both Emerson Drive and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me (the #2 and #3 seeds) head to head, and yet lost to Hey Cowboy Flapjacks! (a team missing the playoffs) quite profoundly. The remaining 11th seed was Travelling the Romans Road (Matthew Jordan and Tiffany Jordan). Since the first year, when Tiffany’s team got 2nd place, this has been an event that has been an enigma for the Jordan family. They had their best showing in the morning, but somehow, we just felt that a very pregnant Tiffany who recently got out of the hospital would tucker out.

The first thing to understand about the afternoon quizzing is that everyone starts with their average score from the morning. So, while it is not completely level ground, the gap between the first and 12th seeds was 64 points. So, it was easy to make that up in one quiz. It is also fun to watch, when you have 3-4 approximately equal teams going for 1-2 available spots.

For those of us, who were there, we went in after every round to see who the top 5 teams were. And did you know that over the course of the 7 Rounds, NINE different teams were in a position to make the playoffs. Amazing! Lady and the Tramp and the Transformers separated themselves as the top two teams. They were the only ones who were qualifying at the end of each of the seven rounds.

After each of the first four rounds, Fid3n and Emerson Drive were in the field of 5. Higher Powers and We Don’t Care each had a round where they were in, but after the end of all the quizzes, both had fizzled out. And while Might Memorizers and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me weren’t both in until the final round, that is the one that matters. That left Emerson Drive and I Don’t Care to fight over the last spot. Emerson Drive got it by 9 points. That means that the morning quizzes meant something after all!!

Matt West has said it for years and Brant Callaway has written about it, but I really think that fortune plays a big role in the finals. For example, in the second quiz where Emerson Drive was eliminated, Matt West got up on a 50/50 on the last question and missed it. That miss took them from a high win to a low win. Not only would that question have undoubtedly earned them a bye and really allowed them to play a large role in the finals, but it kept Lady and the Tramp from getting a loss. That mattered later! And now the Matt West-led Emerson Drive was eliminated.

The Mighty Memorizers were strong all day. And most of the time, they each got up first all four times they were allowed. But something happened to them in the Final Five. They got tired! Fatigue was really the largest role in their elimination. Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me was the next team to go, but they made sure that everyone had a loss going into the final three team quiz. This means that after their elimination it was a one quiz elimination bonanza.

Here is where I really start to get frustrated. There is absolutely no way to keep all of the elements the same in a two-team quiz. Getting only four answers means that a 15-question quiz would be rather silly. Getting more answers changes the manner in which it happens. So, for the last two years, we have done some weird set of rules that changes a lot of factors. It is certainly fair for each team, but it is also difficult to change gears. There is a reason why there are no two-team quizzes in the Round Robin–they don’t work real well. Someone send Matt West a great way to finalize this tournament, which is in most other respects phenomenal. Oh yeah, the Carbonell sisters finally lost this tournament to the best set of Tyrrell siblings–Lady and the Tramp. Both teams were worthy and I was in suspense until the end.

The only other issues I can think of start with the quizmasters. This tournament is prone to weird quizmastering, because our quizmasters throughout the year–Matt West, Lynn “Machine Gun” Warren, Alex D’Amico, David Tyrrell, Jesse Startup, and many others–are quizzing. That means that in the average quiz, there is more quizmastering experience in the quizzer’s seats than in the quizmasters chair, and there really isn’t a great way to fix that. It was the first time for three of the five quizmasters. Some were unbearably slow, and I have heard that there will be a time limit on quizzes next year. We just can’t have 4 rooms finishing quizzes at 7-8 minutes and another taking 15 minutes. Over the 18 rounds you have quizzes, that is a loss of over two and a half hours. A time limit would keep that and would not alter much, other than a quizmaster’s decisiveness.

While this is the best tournament I’ve ever participated in, very few outside the state of Florida come. The last two years, we’ve had several quizzers from Georgia, but other than that, it has been a Florida-concentrate event. I know Nathan Keenan had a medical issue that kept him from coming, but that’s no excuse for everyone else. Woodside? Pvky? New York? Anyone? This competition is so fun and yet so challenging that it needs to become a must come to event for everyone. I think we Floridians would refund anyone’s traveling expenses, should they come and dislike it. We are that confident that you will enjoy.

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