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TV’s “GE College Bowl,” which ran from 1959 to 1970. Photo credit: www.collegebowl.com.

Every year, my high school had a kind of “knowledge bowl” contest, modeled on TV’s popular “College Bowl” quiz show, between teams from the junior and senior classes. I was widely reputed to be one of the smartest in my class, so my classmates and I were stunned when I didn’t make the junior class team. Too many pop-culture trivia items on the qualifying test, I guess. I had to sit in the auditorium stewing as my class team was decimated by the haughty seniors, listening to question after question and cursing, “I know that.”

Then came a series of questions about rock music, meant, I'm sure, to be my downfall.

Senior year, I made the team—team captain, actually—and led our conquest of that year’s crop of outclassed juniors. Spelling, math, science, geography, history, literature, art—armed with our additional year of classwork, we clearly had the advantage. As captain, I was responsible for giving our “final answers,” and I made sure to confer with the team, even when I thought I knew them.

Then came a series of questions about rock music, meant, I’m sure, to be my downfall. In high school I was an unapologetic classical music nerd, and my disdain for popular music was well known. Unbeknownst to my classmates (and the committee that wrote the questions), that attitude was also outdated, as I had actually fallen for rock and roll a couple of years before, and listened regularly to WKNR, WXYZ, and CKLW, our three Top Forty radio stations. Imagine their surprise as I plowed through the questions—What group sang “My Girl?” (The Temptations) Who’s the lead singer of The Doors? (Jim Morrison)—as if on a power mower, without even consulting my teammates.

In the end we were victorious, leaving the juniors humiliated (as they would no doubt do as seniors in a year’s time). When my classmates surrounded me and clapped me on the back, all they could talk about was the rock and roll questions. In addition to sweet revenge, I think they learned something that day: Don’t underestimate the nerd.


John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.


Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Revenge of the nerds! Definitely been there! I, too, came late to Top 40, but it was infectious and great to dance to. Loved it, and loved watching you wup the Juniors!

  2. Mike Repucci says:

    I have a brother-in-law, who you may know, that is the family’s musical Wikapedia!

  3. Lutz Braum says:

    Not a ‘come from behind’ story, but more like a ‘come out of nowhere’ story! Loved it!

  4. rosie says:

    Delighted by the story and proof that “nerds” can be cool too.

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