Mr. Homer Fairbain is the deputy superintendant in charge of instruction in the school district, but for a man with such a lofty position, he is not very learned. Mr. Fairbain had been the master of ceremonies for the district playoffs of the Academic Bowl the previous year, and had made quite a mess of things, showing his ignorance by his inability to read the questions correctly, and embarrassing the school district in the process. This year, since the competing team is from the sixth grade instead of the eighth grade as expected, it is anticipated that the audience for the event will be larger than usual. By letting Mr. Fairbain be the master of ceremonies again, Dr. Rohmer is taking a chance that the district will again be embarrassed by Mr. Fairbain's gaffes in front of even more observers than last year.
Dr. Rohmer actually has little choice but to let Mr. Fairbain do the job again, however, because it is "his one chance to show the community that he (has) learned a thing or two." Mr. Fairbain is a good-hearted, humble man, albeit inept, and he offers to consult some of the remedial reading teachers on staff to help him read the questions correctly, but Dr. Rohmer reminds him that that might not be appropriate, as he is technically their boss. In an attempt to avoid disaster, Dr. Rohmer gives Mr. Fairbain a copy of the questions ahead of time, so he can practice and prepare to read them without error. On the day of the event, Mr. Fairbain does quite well at first, but then he mispronounces the name "Geronimo," and is corrected by Julian Singh. Mr. Fairbain, good-natured as usual, admits his mistake, but then makes things worse by asking Julian if he is an Indian himself; when Julian gives the qualified answer that he is "in part what is called East Indian," Mr. Fairbain breaks an unspoken rule about not commenting about a person's ethnicity in public by asking, "What is your tribe?" Mr. Fairbain clearly does not understand the difference between East Indian and American Indian ethnicity, and Dr. Rohmer is mortified. Mr. Fairbain, seeing Dr. Rohmer's look, mercifully ceases his blundering repartee, and continues on with the contest (Chapter 7).