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Of Tittles and Falas, Katzens and Kardashians: Faculty and Students Spar in First Knowledge Bowl

By Katie Vloet

None of the Michigan Law faculty competing in the Student Funded Fellowships Knowledge Bowl Thursday night knew Tom Brady's college jersey number (10) but they did know who Kris Humphries was married to (Kim Kardashian) and the first female Michigan Law Review editor (Sally Katzen). They struggled to come up with the name of FDR's dog—in spite of Gil Seinfeld's jab that Bill Miller should know it because "you were alive when FDR was president." Alas, poor Fala, it seems you've been forgotten.

Current and prospective students packed Rick's American Café—a place strangely devoid of chairs but rich with the smell of spilled beer—for the chance to see professors face off against each other, and against the winning student group. We won't name names of who enjoyed beers and shots, and we certainly wouldn't suggest that any of the faculty intentionally poured drinks on their colleagues' pants. That would be wrong.

So, sticking with the competition: The night began with two student teams competing for the right to face the winning faculty group. They stumbled on the team the United States faced in the gold-medal round of the 1980 Olympics. One side guessed the Soviet Union, but that was the team's penultimate matchup, famous as the "Miracle on Ice" and known for the announcer's call, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!" The correct answer: the U.S. squad defeated Finland for the gold.

But forgive the students. That was 1980, and none of them were born. They had more success with legal questions, and they knew answers ranging from Haphaestus and Prince Edward Island. They successfully identified baby photos of Dean Evan Caminker and the moderators for the evening, professors Eve Brensike Primus and Richard Primus ("The Primii"). In the end, the Mr. Wolverine team won.

Then it was time for the two faculty teams to square off. Joining Caminker and Seinfeld on the "Not Yet Losing It" side were professors John Pottow and Sonja Starr, as well as Alyson Robbins, the public interest director in the Office of Career Planning and a powerful force on pop-culture questions. They faced "Miller Time," featuring, appropriately, Bill Miller, as well as professors Nick Bagley, Julian Davis Mortenson, J.J. Prescott, and Vivek Sankaran.

Miller knew that the dot on an i is called a tittle. Questions submitted by students routinely stumped the faculty on both teams. Nobody guessed the rank that Professor J.J. White achieved in the Air Force (lieutenant colonel). They knew Perry Mason and Britney Spears and the answer to a question about Michele Norris from NPR.

Miller Time ended after that round, losing out to Losing It, 1,100 to 400.

As Mr. Wolverine and Not Yet Losing It started the final round, things were not looking good for the faculty. Not at all. Students answered that Rick Santorum is the presidential candidate with a "Google problem," and they correctly answered most of the questions in a category about cases that 1Ls learn. They incorrectly answered one of the 1L-case questions, giving the faculty a shot. As they struggled to come up with the answer, 3L Brian Chang—Mr. Wolverine himself—goaded them: "That's what happens when you go to Yale Law School, like the folks over there."

The faculty rallied, with correct answers about the country of Mitt Romney's Mormon Mission (France) and Snooki's real name (Nicole Polizzi). They went back and forth with correct answers about whether a clue was an organic food company or a cult. The final score, thanks in no small part to the strong performance by 2L Terrill Wilkins: Mr. Wolverine 2,600, Losing it 1,300.

Chang continued his taunting: "My math may be wrong—but it's not, because I'm Asian—but I think we have twice as many points as you do."

In some version of Final Jeopardy!, the teams had to make wagers and decide whether Crowninshield was a Cabinet secretary or a piece of furniture. The faculty correctly guessed the former, and bet everything. The students incorrectly guessed the latter, but risked nothing. The result was a tie score.

The trivia contest quickly turned to a spontaneous dance-off, which the students easily won, but the Primii decided to ask a final, sudden-death trivia question and not factor in the quality of anyone's dance moves. Here it is: Who was the last president to argue a case before the Supreme Court?

The audience hummed the Final Jeopardy! theme music. After trailing for the entire match, the faculty had one last shot, and they rang in. Dean Caminker, for the win? In a hoarse voice, he said, though unsure of the answer, "Richard Milhous Nixon."

That is correct! The faculty were the winners of the first-ever SFF Knowledge Bowl.

Dean Caminker, do you believe in miracles? Yes!!

 

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