David Madden takes Omaha

     (I had to make sure my Twitter followers knew what this was so they wouldn’t miss it! Did it work?)
     Yes, today was the day I’ve been waiting for – David Madden brought his National History Bee to Omaha. Happily, the event was a success! David had told me that 6 kids would be there, but there were 10. He also said that at the Bee in Colorado, there were 2 students. I had considered going to that one, so it’s probably for the best that I didn’t! Incidentally, two from this Bee were from North American Martyrs in Lincoln. I had gotten Martyrs to host, and I’m not sure what happened but they obviously didn’t host! The two from Martyrs did not advance, but they represented.
     I didn’t expect today’s competition itself to be as intriguing as it was. (Hey, I’m a Jeopardy! fan, after all.) I got to see an impressive performance by a boy who will be a contender for the title at the Finals. David said something to that effect. David also mentioned that an 8th grader in Colorado defeated 11th and 12th-graders in the high school version. (Middle school students are welcome to participate in that.) I think this kid could give them a run for their money, too.
     I got to the school just ahead of David. He shook my hand when he arrived. He, his fiancee, and apparently a woman from the school started setting up tables, so I asked if they needed help. At first David said no, then asked sheepishly if I would find some paper and make signs showing the way from the main entrance to the auditorium. Of course I’d do it but I felt doomed to fail – I didn’t even know where the main entrance was. And I wondered where I’d find paper, even though this was a school! It was about 4:30 p.m. so there weren’t many people around to ask. I felt good that I was able to help a boy who said he was looking for the Bee. After that I wound up circling the building on the outside, composing this blog post in my head as I walked. When I found the main entrance, the doors were locked. I pressed the doorbell and said something about the Bee, and the voice told me where to find it. So I told her what I was trying to do. She told me a lot of people had been looking for the Bee! She was good enough to let me in and give me paper and a Sharpie. This is my handiwork. I used words suggested by the secretary:

     I told her I’d be back for the sign, and I was a little surprised it was still there.
     There still weren’t any signs at the right entrance (I myself had to ask where to find the Bee when I first got there), so I thought I’d wait and lead people to the right place when they walked in. I was standing there less than a minute when I heard applause in the auditorium. I took that as my own cue to get in there. 😉 David was addressing the crowd from the stage. He is a born emcee, and he seems to relish it. I witnessed it last year, too. I doubt anyone could honestly accuse him of being shy! In fact, if “people person” were in the dictionary, his image would be there.
     David spoke about the origins of the Bee, and about his time in Germany (where he was living when he appeared on Jeopardy!) David talked about how he took the test with a friend who wound up being defeated by Ken Jennings. He said that by the time he got The Call, Jennings’ run had ended, and he said modestly, “I did pretty well myself.” ?!?! That has got to the understatement of the year. Later, when he asked the audience if they had questions, I was thisclose to saying, “David, tell them how many times you won on Jeopardy!” I mean if there was ever anything to brag about, that’s it.
     David went on to talk about the History Channel’s involvement with the middle school version of the Bee, and he later showed us a commercial for the Bee on his laptop. It was cool, and David looked so proud. He gave a thumbs-up when the logo for the National History Bee was shown. The crowd laughed. David said the History Channel has been “nothing short of phenomenal.”



     David had the kids say their names and who in history they’d like to have dinner with. I should’ve known then that Chandler (the eventual champion) would be good – He pulled out some weird name I could not tell you! The first name was “Carl,” and the last name was a long one that began with “L” and may have ended with “-stein.” (Pardon my ignorance!)
     As good as Chandler was, there were some clues that I simply could not believe went either unanswered or were answered deeper into the question than they should’ve been. Some of them were jaw-droppers. (Chandler may well have been able to answer some of those, but if I understand this correctly, he does not need to answer once he advanced to the next level. Which he did sooner rather than later!) Some clues had “Pavlovs” like Amherst/Dickinson, Lord Protector/Cromwell, Iron Lady/Thatcher, and Fourteen Points/Wilson. I couldn’t believe they barely got Biden, even after it was handed to them on a silver platter. They also barely got Oklahoma City bombing after it was a gimme, and they guessed Bush, Clinton, and Lincoln when asked who was president during the Iran-Contra scandal! And the boy who said Lincoln went to the semifinals! (Incidentally, this same kid said to Chandler, “That’s amazing” about Chandler’s performance. He’s a good sport!) I mean, I kinda expect these kids to be better than me at this, especially after reading clues myself at last year’s finals of the Bowl. (Those were harder.)
     To Chandler’s credit, he did pick up “Cambodia” from hearing “Kampuchea,” and he knew “Gustavus Adolphus” when no one else did but he was ineligible to ring in.
     These weird misses notwithstanding, David was visibly impressed by the talent and he said so, too. He described the kids as “very, very good” and said this region was one of the most impressive. (Hooray for the Midwest!) David also said that Chandler, who I believe comes from Rolla, Kansas, had the highest score in the preliminary round of anyone in the country. The crowd clapped, and justifiably so. Chandler’s mother was tearful when he won today’s competition. Seriously!
     So Chandler wins a trip to Washington for the finals. These are not the same finals that coincide with the unofficial Jeopardy! reunion at the end of April. That’s the high school version of the Bee and Bowl. Apparently these middle school finals are happening in June.
     I wondered if David would remember that I’m going to be on Jeopardy!, and he did! He kept saying, “Don’t tell me how you did!” He said it like 3 times. Like I would do that!
     Now it’s on to Bismarck for David and his fiancee. One regret: I still did not get a picture with David! I have such a kick-butt dress on, and I can’t find a picture online. I guess I’ll have to go to Washington now! 😉 David asked if I was going, and I probably will. You definitely should. You.