With this being Christian’s last year of Bible Bowl, I wanted to do a few posts of random thoughts I’ve had over the years about the game, among other things. To give a bit of background, he was an emotional wreck and a big game choker when he first started playing. He flamed out in 4th and 5th grade at Nationals finishing 7th and 8th, respectively. He was a GREAT round robin player – seriously, he went 77-0 in Round Robin games his fourth grade year but he was in no way ready for any kind of double elim – which was my fault because I was his coach. I can remember expressing my frustration to Lisa Rolston about why he couldn’t win any big games and in her calm and always optimistic way she would always say that he would be fine and “You never know…”. This phrase became quite a mantra for April and I as we would talk to Lisa over the years.
In sixth grade, the Lord really began to doubly bless his efforts. Having never won any kind of DE tournament, he beat a very strong Mt. Pleasant team in the junior division at KCU in the summer. I can still remember Mark Young coming in and picking him up and hugging him – what an exciting day that was BUT he was still such an emotional player that could get five questions in a row – the other team get three – and he would literally be crying at the table.
In sixth grade, my wife and I can remember gathering around the bracket in Cincinnati listening to folks talk about how to beat him – not realizing that we were his parents! 🙂 There were some things that stick with you as well, from a parental standpoint. Christian matured in the game well beyond his years very, very early but he was still emotionally and physically a sixth grader. There was a team that had several girls on it that would laugh at him when he would cry – things like that always tug on your heart as a parent and leave a bad taste in your mouth for that program. He finished up pretty well as a sixth grader, getting third at the National Tournament. That was the first year for the quote bee as well and he took home third place. Perhaps an even greater accomplishment than both of those is that he finished 19th on the test that year out of some 500 players would be my guess.
In seventh grade, our family broke off with two other families and formed what we called Covenant Christian Fellowship. What a blast that year was! I knew that he might be pretty good when he won the test at February KCU scoring a 199/200 (as I recall), edging out Courtney Hosp – one of his favorite players from Austin ;-), and also one of his biggest encouragers (planning to do a post later on some of the great folks from BB that we have met). We spent A LOT of time working on his mental game (thanks Ed!) doing various drills…for example, I’d make him quote late at night (10:30 or so) holding a whiny baby (Elijah) so that he would have to focus on what he was doing. He hated those drills…Ed Stivers, the coach of his 7th grade team would do things just to mess with him…tell he was wrong, when he right, not let him contest, make him sit out the first several questions of games – all to press him and pressure him. Well, he had a great summer that year. We played him up at all of the tournaments (except Johnson) – as best I recall he finished Top 8 at Milligan (I think he was knocked by a future National Champ in Curtis Gibson). At KCU that year he beat Jon Derry (a BB great and one of the players that Christian looked up to) twice in the DE and a future National Champ in Josiah Gorman. That was the first time I met Bill Thomas who was another one of Christian’s biggest encouragers. We finished third in the DE – being knocked out by the Harlow boys (more on them later). At Johnson that year we won the JR Division RR and went on to finish sixth in the DE (Christian’s highest finish ever at Johnson)…as best I recall, we took Jon Derry to a tie breaker that Christian bounced but really, we were just happy to be there. One of the games that I recall (i’m pretty sure this is right) is a game that he played against Austin. He got the first 14 on Courtney who was a very good player and Tracey Chamberlain (Christian’s future coach) just shook his head after the game and said, “There’s nothing you can do about that!”
At Nationals that year, Christian went undefeated in the RR but there were a couple of teams that scared us to death. MP with Chase Coy, VV with Richie Clubine and ICC with Jessica Henry. They were all 8th graders and very good players…thankfully we didn’t have to play MP or VV in the double elim but we did have to play Jessica in Rd 6 (i think). The game was fairly close but Christian began to bounce and Jessica was lightning quick and we dug ourselves a pretty deep hole. He needed to get the last four to win…something he had never done. Well, as always, the Lord was kind in that he got 17, 18 & 19 and Jessica buzzed on 20 and missed giving us the game. That game was a turning point in his career in many ways. He went on to beat Macomb that year who proved to be a very tough challenge, we didn’t win until question 18. That gave him his first National Title, albeit a junior title, but ask any player who’s won one, a lot of hard work went into those titles. There were some very good teams in those days who would’ve caused a bracket nightmare had they played up at the national tournament. That year he also finished 18th on the test and won the quote bee beating Daniel Moorehead.
I guess that’s it for now – those were his formative years in the game before he moved up to play against the big boys. The thing that made Christian excel in the game at such an early age is first and foremost, the blessing of God. If God does not bless your efforts, you will not win. Period. It doesn’t matter how hard you work. Now, I’m not saying that Christian was more deserving and THAT brought the blessing of God, MAY IT NEVER BE – in fact, we were less deserving than many teams and why God was so kind to us, I really honestly have no idea.
Secondly, from a human standpoint, the reason why he excelled so early is because he would very rarely misquote – even as a sixth and seventh grader (he left his biggest misquote for question 1 of the Championship game this year, but I digress ;-)) if he hit the word, he would get it. Third, the Lord gave him an uncanny ability for general toss ups. When we would play up, there were players that were just flat out faster but where we would make up points is in generals – and generals come by text knowledge. His seventh grade year is the first year that he began buzzing on references and getting them within the three second time (this was before black dotted verses)…again, where does that come from? Well, humanly speaking hard work and April’s genetics but more important, MOST important – that is a gift from God. All for now, if you’ve read all of this, you must really be a BB junkie or family, either way, thanks to all three of you for letting me share a few thoughts.