A recent post by my friend Ivan Shreve (Thrilling Days of Yesteryear) brought back deeply repressed memories of my infamous High School Existence. Ivan, you see, was a veteran of the well-known television quiz show, College Bowl…and I, similarly, was a veteran of its junior equivalent, It’s Academic.
Yes, I was on our high school’s “It’s Academic” team.
“It’s Academic” was a local (New York area) quiz show, broadcast on Channel Four, the NBC affiliate that was, at the time, the Big Swinging Dick of East Coast television. The show itself, now 41 years old, is still being broadcast in some eastern markets: then, as now, it was a high school version of College Bowl. Schools competed not only on television but with each other, in a sort of Asshole Olympics. And my high school somehow managed to field a team.
For the most part, we competed against local schools. We would get on a bus and be schlepped to some other high school, where we would be marched into some sweaty classroom, there to face the Opposing Team in a head-to-head session that involved Answering A Whole Bunch Of Questions About Obscure Shit. We win! Whoop-de-fucking-do.
Being on the “It’s Academic” team was fun in its own perverse way, but it was remarkably like wearing a big, honkin’ sign around your neck that said, in glowing neon letters, NERD NERD NERD. Not something that would, say, impress wimmin. But even nerds get a certain amount of grudging respect, and we earned ours when we hit the Big Time.
We managed to get on TV three times: call it our ninety minutes of fame. The first two times were in the spring of my junior year, the third in the fall of senior year. One smashing victory, one squeaker loss, and one ignominious defeat. In the spring, we won our first match by a huge margin, and I suppose it made us cocky – as the picture shows. When we came back for our return match a few weeks later, we faced tougher competition…and narrowly lost. And when, that fall, we came back yet again, we got our clocks cleaned.
The Berner H.S. team kicks ass, March 1969.
Check out the douche-bag with the “V” sign. Jeez.
But strangely enough, afterwards, we were treated less as brain-boxes and more with the Honor Due Those Fallen In A Noble Cause. Yes, we were still heinous nerds – I mean, c’mon, a quiz show, fer Chrissakes? – but we were heinous nerds who’d taken one for the advancement of our school’s glory. And that’s something, I guess.