The Queenses, both Smyrna natives, met and fell in love while they were in high school at Osborne. Since that first meeting, Keith has always been interested in football and followed local college and professional games, while Marti has never shown an interest in the sport.
However, she has never turned down the opportunity to compete in a contest, she said. When she heard the MDJ would be giving away iPads each week, she was willing to learn a little bit about football.
So, this August, Keith signed Marti and himself up to compete in the football UPICKEM contest, and Marti said she suddenly became a football fanatic.
The couple, the system
The Queenses are adept to working as a team. They are co-owners of an ink and toner store in Powder Springs, and often work in the shop together, helping customers and refilling cartridges.
Keith, a graduate of Georgia Tech with a degree in electrical engineering, has always followed his alma mater’s team, he said, with season tickets. While Keith doesn’t work as an engineer, he used many of the analytical tools he learned while in college to approach picking this year’s teams.
He had a system, and a routine, which he believes helped him remain consistently successful in picking teams each week.
On Thursday morning, he would collect the paper from his front yard and read the sports section. Using information he saved from the MDJ’s football preview edition from the summer, as well as the list of teams and games in the Thursday’s preview section, Keith Queen would lay out a game plan and spend the day picking his teams.
He would then give his wife all of the information he had gathered, including how each team had played the previous year, how they had played so far that season, and who the MDJ and other contestants favored. He would highlight what teams were favored for each game in Thursday’s paper, and pass it on to his wife.
‘The War Zone’
By 6 a.m. Friday morning, the Queens would meet at what they called “The War Zone,” their round kitchen table in their Smyrna home. Armed with newspapers, lists of teams and games, and cups of coffee, the two would pick each week’s winning teams.
“It was so out of character for me to be up looking at football so early in the morning,” Marti Queen said.
The first week was rough, she said. Having never followed football, she didn’t score very well. But, by October, mid-season, she had greatly improved her skills.
“She knew more about how these teams were playing than anybody I know,” Keith Queen said.
Friday nights were devoted to checking Twitter feeds of how the games were going, and instead of avoiding crowded places like Taco Mac Sports Grill, they would make a point to try to eat there so they could follow the games.
As the season wore on, and the Queens became better at picking winners, they became obsessed with football games around the country they would have never cared about before, they said.
“It became progressively more addictive,” Keith said.
After the scores came in on Friday night, the couple would make a point to monitor the media to stay plugged into the television and to Twitter, as the scores from college games came in.
The stress continued into Sunday and Monday, as the professional teams’ scores were set.
The Queens wouldn’t know until at least Tuesday how they scored for the week. Neither ever won one of the weekly rounds, although they came close, but they continued to submit picks each week.
It was hard to keep their personal loyalties apart from their numbers, both said.
When Hillgrove High School played North Cobb High School, for example, Marti Queen said she picked Hillgrove because their son, Sam, was a freshman at the school, and she wanted to be supportive, even though she knew in her heart that North Cobb had a better team.
When North Cobb won, Marti Queen saw her chance of winning an iPad disappear for the week, she said.
“I wanted that iPad,” she said.
As the last week of games approached, the Queens put their game faces on. Keith developed a chart which ranked the other top-scoring contestants, and calculated what scores the others needed to get in order for them to beat him that final week.
Marti knew by that point that she didn’t have a chance to win overall, but was happy to settle for third place, she said.
When the two got the call from the MDJ that they had snagged first and third place overall, they were ecstatic, they said. Finally, Marti would get her hands on an iPad.
While technically, Keith won the first-place prize, an iPad, he said he thinks Marti might get a bit more use out of it.
“I don’t think I have a chance,” he said.
Other winners, sponsors
The Cobb Football Friday Superior Plumbing UPICKEM Contest ran for 14 weeks throughout the high school football season, from August through the end of November.
More than 700 MDJ readers and local residents registered for free to submit predictions each week as to what teams would win at the high school, college and professional football levels.
Dr. Stan Dysart, of Pinnacle Orthopaedics in Marietta, was the top sponsor picker for the season.
Keith Queen won first place overall, James Rolloff, also of Smyrna, won second place and Marti Queen won third place overall this year.
The weekly first place winners received new iPads, and the overall winner won an iPad and a prize bag, which includes Atlanta Falcons tickets.
Looking ahead to next season
The Queenses said they were looking forward to calmer Friday nights around the house, using their iPad and decompressing from the busy football season. They will be geared up and ready to go this summer, though, for the start of next year’s football contest.
MDJ’s vice president of sales, Wade Stephens, expressed his sincere appreciation to all who participated in the first-ever contest.
“The Marietta Daily Journal and Cobb Football Friday would like to thank everyone for playing in the 2013 Cobb Football Friday UPICKEM over these past 14 weeks,” said Stephens.
He also thanked the contest’s sponsors: Superior Plumbing, Ed Voyles Automotive Group, Pinnacle Orthopaedics, Crist Roofing, Williamson Brothers BBQ, Marietta Pizza Co., Otter’s Chicken, Resurgens Orthopaedics, J.R. Electrical, Loud Security and the Georgia Trade School.