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Northwestern Mailbag, Pt. II: Other Nerd Shit

Quiz bowl, Malort, tailgating at Northwestern games, and places to go in Evanston. We’re so sorry.

I know that you read this morning’s Mailbag, Pt. 1 (all on football, gross) and asked yourself, “Wait, a Northwestern article and NO mention of Malort?!”

Well, friend, for fun the love of the blog SBNation productivity quotas, we’ve broken out those off-the-field answers into a separate article.

Today we’ve got quiz bowl, Malort, things to do in Evanston, and more!

Nerd Shit

Oxford comma or no Oxford comma? —nothsa

LPW: I don’t care about this at all.

MNW: Oxford comma. This shouldn’t even be a debate.


Oxford comma?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    (100 votes)
  • 20%
    No. I prefer it when we invite the strippers, JFK and Stalin.
    (25 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now

OK, you had me at Quiz Bowl. What is, in your experience and opinion, the best and worst formats you’ve played for Quiz Bowl or Bar Trivia? Also, how strict are you about cell phones during these events? —KetteringLex

LPW: I haven’t played Bar Trivia in a while, but I’ve always had fun with it. Reminds me of my days on Scholastic Bowl in High School.You gotta keep your cell phones stowed in your pocket, or else that’s cheating.

MNW: I host bar trivia for a place in the Twin Cities (or used to, now that I’m starting a new job next week), but I don’t have many preferences here. House-written is more fun, to my mind, because there’s a little personality in the questions, but too often that can descend into “Hey! It’s a whole theme night on Harry Potter!” and that sucks.

Nearer and dearer to my heart, though, I’ve competed in and now read for a couple of the various Quiz Bowl formats out there.

Basically, quiz bowl can comprise the kind of “Scholastic Bowl” or “Academic Bowl” or whatever you had in high school. I’ll be describing what we refer to, nationally, as “Quiz Bowl”—and will explain the difference between “Good” quiz bowl and the “Bad” kinds of scholastic bowl stuff you’re maybe familiar with.

Quiz Bowl is a team-vs-team competition: academically-inclined questions (with pop culture here and there) asked to two teams, generally up to four people, competing against each other. A reader (“moderator”) reads questions from a packet, usually 20 tossups and 20 bonuses. The moderator begins by reading a tossup and can be interrupted at any time when a player buzzes. Players get one chance per team to buzz in and answer a tossup at any point it’s being read—no conferring with teammates on this part. Get it right, you get 10 points. In some formats, get it right before a certain point in the question (during the harder clues) and you get 15 points (a “power”). Get it wrong before the question’s totally read, though, and in most formats you lose 5 points (a “neg”) and give the other team a free shot to hear the whole question, then buzz in.

If you get a question right, your team alone gets a chance to answer an unrelated three-part bonus worth 30 points. Here’s where you can work together as a team, conferring to come up with the right answer.

A packet of the kinds of questions you’d see at the introductory college level is here; I recommend zooming in so you can’t see the answer until you scroll down if you want to actually try and play along.

You’ll notice each question gets easier the longer you read. That’s what called “pyramidality”, a hallmark of Good Quiz Bowl (as opposed to Bad Quiz Bowl) that’s not found in some high school formats like Knowledge Bowl in Minnesota and Iowa or the Illinois High School Association circuit. Pyramidality rewards someone with “deeper” knowledge on a subject and tends to involve more in-depth, critical thinking than the one-line questions you see on Peyton Manning’s College Bowl.

There are two major formats of Good Quiz Bowl, particularly at the college level:

  • National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT): Much bigger at the middle- and high-school levels, a format that involves more pop culture and current events. Hosts big national tournaments in hotels in Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas, along with smaller state-level circuits or tournaments in places like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota.
  • Academic Competition Federation (ACF): An organization for college quiz bowl that tends not to use “powers” or include as many questions on pop culture or current events. This is the format that, last weekend, comprised the ACF Nationals 2021 event hosted at Northwestern and won by Florida.

I was very bad at both formats, but they allowed me to compete in it at Northwestern anyway. You may ask more questions about Quiz Bowl in the comments or read this good piece from Old Deadsp*n by a friend from the Minnesota Quiz Bowl circuit.


Goose Island beer tent? Coming back...? And if not why not create your own with a sponsorship with OTE providing free (or slightly free) libations to the masses. Be the change you want to see in the world. —Doc1028

LPW: I miss the free beer tent. I don’t think it’s coming back, probably due Evanston’s no fun rules…

MNW: Man, fuck Liz Tisdahl. Even if that wasn’t her fault, I am not over The Keg closing.

After Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch ten years ago, though, there was no way—and it likely wouldn’t have been sustainable to keep it anyway—the free beer tent was sticking around.

Today at Northwestern games you have to bring your own party, but there’s more than enough space on campus or around the stadium to make that happen. If you’ve not been to a Northwestern game before:

  1. You can park for free and tailgate in plenty of lots on campus, then ride a free shuttle to Ryan Field. Just bring a case of beer and set up shop in a parking lot, if you’re a non-driver.
  2. Pass parking is available at lots like the Evanston Golf Course, on the way to the stadium.
  3. Plenty of home and away fans alike find their way into the West Lot, where I have enjoyed many a tailgate in the past with the NUMBAlums. It’s a fun spot. Bring beer or booze, don’t be a dick, and no one gives you a hard time.
  4. If you’re looking for “other” entertainment, you can try Mustard’s Last Stand (next to the West Lot) for a hot dog or three. Northwestern also puts on “Wildcat Alley” behind Welsh-Ryan Arena, a more family-friendly atmosphere that includes a pregame performance by the Wildcat Marching Band.

In that vein, an OTE tailgate is, hypothetically, something we’d love to do someday! But the beer won’t be free. Bring your own. SBNation doesn’t pay me enough.

[2 for 1] How would you describe the flavor of Malort? —nothsa
What’s the best way to drink Malort? And why is it to throw the bottle in the trash and pour a shot of Don Julio Reposado? —buckyor

LPW: It’s a wormwood-flavored drink that loudly announces its presence in your mouth and throat. It will not be forgotten. It will definitely clear out your sinuses. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s a treasured rite of passage. Let’s put it this way, I’d rather drink Malort than Tequila…

MNW: Malort is great. Stop having bad opinions.

Nothsa, I did a shot today just to see what kind of a flavor palate I could help you with.

(I got my mom, who had COVID in May 2020 and has not fully regained taste or smell, to try it—apparently Malort can cure COVID or something* because she wrote me out of her will.)
*It can’t, please don’t sue me or get this marked as disinformation on Facebook.

Here’s a guide:

  1. Take a brief whiff. Don’t linger, but know what you’re getting into. You’re clearly drinking something bitter, even from the scent, but it’s good to open up the nasal passages. You might get some light citrus scent, too.
  2. Throw it back. Don’t worry about swishing it in your mouth, ruminating on it, anything. The taste will still be there. Spiritually, it will never leave.
  3. Don’t chase it with anything. Fight the urge. Let it wash over you and become part of you.

It tastes like really bitter kale and some grapefruit peels were steeped in absinthe. You might get some licorice notes in there; who’s to say? (This shot was fruitier than I remember it being—score one for the grapefruit brigade.)

What’s most important, ultimately, is that you have partaken of Malort. You are welcome.


Malort is...

This poll is closed

  • 100%
    The nectar of life and all that is pure and holy.
    (35 votes)
35 votes total Vote Now

What’s the most Northwestern-y place in downtown Evanston? Could be an eating or drinking establishment, or maybe something else? —nothsa

LPW: I fully expect one of you wiseasses in the comments to say the Evanston Public Library. MNW can answer this better than I can, since I didn’t go to school at NU, but whenever I’m up there I like going to Tommy Nevin’s and the World of Beer. I think they both might’ve closed. I wish I would’ve gone to the Keg before Mayor Tisdahl invoked her inner Frances Willard and closed it. BOOOOOO. I would love to see how it compared to going to Kellys or McGees, two of my college mainstays at DePaul.

MNW: Most “Northwestern-y” place is a tough one, since I don’t think our idea of a good time jives with what the average, lazy outsider would call “Northwestern-y”.

The place for students used to be the 24-hour BK Lounge until it just closed, and other student favorites like Rollin’ to Go, a sandwich shop, are now gone, too. The Coffee Lab that’s there at Noyes and the Purple Line isn’t bad, but whatever. Today...I guess maybe Hecky’s or Buffalo Joe’s for wings and BBQ. The real answer that the majority of NU students go to, though, is “Le Peep”, the boring bougie brunch place everyone takes their parents.

In the comments of the Mailbag call, vaud also mentioned Bookman’s Alley—now Bookends and Beginnings—which is a good little indie bookstore if that’s the kind of “Northwestern-y” vibe we’re going for.

There are some newer places where you’d have a good time—Smylie Bros. Brewing isn’t bad, and their BBQ is pretty damn good, though for my money in Evanston it’s Sketchbook Brewing down on the Main Street stop on the Purple Line. There’s a pie place next door that’s supposed to be bangin’, too. For holdouts of Old Evanston—read: before the downtown went full growth-focused and got rid of the OK old places like Nevin’s—you can now find Prairie Moon (or Prairie Moob, depending on your level of maturity) at Chicago and Church.

I’ve also never had a bad time with a Bat 17 beer tower, I guess.

Or just take the train into Chicago and forget you were ever in Evanston.