DIXON – Perhaps the only bigger victory for Jim Campbell would be one for Bernie Sanders in November.
Despite his fervent support of the Democratic candidate for president, he conferred with his Miller-Lancaster teammates before giving four correct answers to close the lid on a 200-175 victory over the Harrison Family and a second consecutive Stupor Bowl championship.
“I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter,” Campbell said, “but I was sitting next to a bunch of guys who are into politics. So I had to do my due diligence.”
Then he rattled off the answers; A) Independent (What was his political affiliation from 1979 to 2015?), B) Vermont (Which state is he from?), C) 74 (How old is he?), and D) Burlington (He served as mayor of what city from 1981 to 1989?). And the crowd, partially made up of teams that didn't make the finale, applauded the victors.
"The Harrison Family was looking for some vengeance today," announced emcee Tom Wadsworth as he presented the team, which also made the title match last year, with its fifth runner-up trophy.
Stupor Bowl 2016, marking the cerebral throwdown’s 20-year anniversary (it was on hiatus from 2007 to 2009) in the Reagan Middle School cafeteria, raised more than $12,000 for the Dixon Schools Foundation – the biggest tally in 10 years.
Andy McFarlane, executive director of the Dixon Family YMCA, won the 50/50 raffle, the first to guarantee a $2,500 payout to its winner, and gave $500 back to the foundation. He said he’s "thinking about his options," but said he plans to share some of the rest of his winnings with other local charities.
Campbell, Kim Crandall and Donovan Robertson joined Mike Lancaster and John Miller of the Rock Falls law firm to fill out the winning team, which outlasted Sterling Church of the Nazarene in the first semifinal, 200-170. The Harrison Family, which hails from Amboy, pulled away late from Kiwanis Club of Dixon, 205-165, in the other semifinal.
The single-elimination bracket’s format is 28 questions in each semifinal and the championship, in the Masonic format: six toss-up questions worth 10 points apiece, then eight four-part bonus questions, with correct responses at five points a pop. Then six more toss-ups, then eight more bonus questions.
The championship match was tied 100 apiece entering the last three toss-up questions. But Miller-Lancaster took the last three such inquiries, capped by this one: Which 1983 TV series finale is the only one of the top eight most-watched TV broadcasts that was not a Super Bowl? Campbell, a chemistry teacher at Riverdale High School in Port Byron, responded correctly with "M*A*S*H", giving his team a 130-100 advantage.
But after the Harrison family swept a quartet of classical musical questions, Campbell felt an opportunity to spring when his knowledge of the periodic table was pressed into service.
Carbon dioxide, sodium chloride, glucose and sulfuric acid. Easy pickings for a chemistry teacher.
The sweep gave Miller-Lancaster a 150-120 advantage and, except for a batch of Billy Joel lyrics, no question would trip them up the rest of the way. And that blemish didn’t affect the team’s lead, as it came right after the Harrison Family could place only two songs with their corresponding Disney films.
“I’m not really sad about that,” Jackie Harrison said. “That’s OK. It was the toss-ups that killed us.”
Several times, Miller-Lancaster buzzed in after Wadsworth had uttered just a few words of his question – and responded correctly.
The buzz-in aspect in the single-elimination matchups sets the Stupor Bowl apart from the trivia contests the Miller-Lancaster gang takes part in every weekend.
“This is the best,” Campbell said. “The buzzer part just adds a second dimension.”
So does stiff competition, and the adrenaline was pumping to the competitors’ brains as the teams went back and forth, sweeping four-part bonus questions in the finale.
“That’s fun; it’s not fun to have a boring match,” Campbell said. “Last year was nice winning for the first time, but it’s a lot more fun to beat a team that’s at your level. That gives you the extra jolt of adrenaline.”
Perhaps sometimes there was too much blood flow to the brain. Campbell couldn’t get “Fahrenheit 451" off the tip of his tongue at one point, and was just relieved none of the Scholastic Bowl members he coaches were in attendance.
“If my kids were here, they’d be throwing things at me,” he said. “Thank goodness they weren’t here to watch that debacle.”
But that gaffe came early in the title bout. Good thing, Crandall said, with the Harrison Family vying for a second Stupor Bowl title and their first since 2012, although they've now been in six championship matches.
“It puts on a lot of pressure, because you know that’s a very good team,” Crandall said. “If you nail four of them, chances are they would also. We knew we couldn’t stumble and give them a chance to pick up points.”
Wadsworth agreed. But he was a bit in awe of the first back-to-back champion since the event returned in 2010.
“These are two really good teams,” he said. “That Miller-Lancaster team has a great balance of talent with all five players. Usually with a great team, you’ll see one person who’s really sharp, and they dominate. They’re really balanced. That’s a tough team to beat.”
The final four
Miller-Lancaster, 200 – Sterling Church of the Nazarene, 170
Harrison Family, 205 – Kiwanis Club of Dixon, 165
Miller-Lancaster, 200 – Harrison Family, 175
* – Preliminary total