For me, trivia has always been just a word missing the L at the end. I never found the need to devour page after page of statistics or the compulsion to reel off the starting lineups of every UCLA national championship basketball team at moment’s notice. However, sports have always been such a major part of my life and my professional career. Surely, I had to absorb some valuable information.
At least, that was my thought when Laura and I agreed to join my daughter, Julie, at the Topeka, Shawnee County Public Library Saturday afternoon for a sports trivia contest. Julie has really gotten into the renewed interest in trivia. She and her friends rule local bar trivia contests as documented on the Capital-Journal’s trivial website. Sorry, I meant their bar web page. Same difference.
My big problem with Julie’s team success is that the use of cell phones and laptops is allowed. They can dial up their friend, Google, at any time. Their team seems to have the fastest fingers and the best grasp of how to make Google spew forth its knowledge. The only reason we agreed to join her at the library is the ban on such devices. Straight brainpower.
Taking no chances, we enlisted two of my best friends, Jim Turnbull and Mark Nordstrom. I never would accuse Jim of being that much into trivia. I just knew that he was remarkably well read and very thoughtful when it comes to anything. He also has a mind like a trap. He easily would have been my “phone a friend” if I ever landed on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
I was counting on Mark to bring his wealth of knowledge on local sports, especially the high school scene and Washburn basketball. Surely, there would be tennis questions. As one of Topeka’s best players, he’d ace those. In 43 years of friendship, we have spent many a long night immersed in conversations that many have called trivia with that “L” added. We were sure to be a formidable duo.
Julie brought in her long-time friend Shane Baker from Kansas City. Since my knowledge of the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs died in the late 80’s when both franchises hit the skids, Shane and Julie would provide all the current knowledge. He and Julie warmed up by debating the merits of each Royals’ catchers. Julie knows her baseball, Chiefs and could rock anything to do with Ultimate Fighting and NASCAR. Scary, but perfect.
What would Laura and I bring to this party? Laura was counted on for college basketball knowledge. We’d team up for Yankees lore, and I’d handle college football and most sports-related movies. Time to kick some butt.
Ten categories, ten questions each. Things moved along rapidly. There wasn’t much time to debate. Of course we did and immediately began missing some of the next questions. Julie scribbled answers as fast as she could. That wasn’t easy when you’re trying to spell “Massimino” quickly.
Baseball questions right off the top. Baseball Hall of Fame. Jim was writing down answers before the early questions were even finished. Even though Mark was late arriving, this was going to be a breeze. Then somehow things all went wrong. I can’t even remember some of the questions. Here is one though:
“How many Cy Young awards has Nolan Ryan won in his fantastic career?”
Our fingers kept climbing up and up. As baseball geniuses we settled on four. About this time, doubt began to creep in. Laura argued it might well be a trick question. She suggested we think of zero. Nah, we all said and went merrily along. Disaster. We should have listened to Laura. Ryan won all of zero Cy Young awards. Only 6 out of 10, are you kidding me? We are already in a major hole.
Father and Son combinations in sports were next. A chance at redemption. For one thing, there can’t be that many. A perfect score awaited us. So, how can we miss the very first question that went something like this:
“What father-son combination has the best home run, slugging percentage and RBI totals in baseball history?” We all agree it’s the Griffey’s, Ken and Ken, Jr., though there was some thought given to the Fielders. We’re rolling, we thought.
Imagine the shame we felt when Barry and Bobby Bonds were the correct duo. How in the world could the HGH-inflated head of Barry Bonds not loom like some giant Macy’s Day Parade balloon in our minds? Eight out of 10.
Super Bowl questions next. Mark arrived coming straight from a huge golf scramble where his team went very low. That fact surely led to a few extra beers at the 19th hole. Tough getting into the flow. We miss three.
We roared back with a strong 9 of 10 on stadiums & arenas. We pull a few tough ones out of the fissures of our brains, but can’t settle between LSU or Clemson for site of “Death Valley.” We died in that valley by going with LSU.
Round five and homegrown Topeka talent make up the questions. Watch out for our smoke. Every member of the team comes up big, but how well do you really know The Topeka Capitals? Would you know that Ben Francisco, a former Capital is now on the roster of the Philadelphia Phillies? Good for you if you did. We didn’t.
Mascots next. Another strong round except for the slime left on us when we missed the Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. Nine out of 10 in the last three rounds has us rocking. We are a strong third. We long ago gave up hope of beating the team at table next to us. Some radio sports show hosts on that team, we are told. My goodness, those guys drown themselves in minutiae every minute of every day.
Finally, March Madness. We built this team for this category. Laura and I work at the home of college basketball. Start dropping the confetti from the ceiling in celebration. Instead, the ceiling fell in on us. We flat bombed. Think Bucknell or Bradley. Only 6 out of 10? Our shame started with missing the #1 seed that Princeton pushed to the limit in an opening round game. We were sure it was Duke, but it was Georgetown. We only had the Fab Five in one Final Four not two. The rest is a blur. We fade from the podium.
Sports Movies next. I am an admitted movie freak. I pull out the bat Robert Redford used to hit the final game-winning homerun. It wasn’t Wonder Boy. Remember he broke it during that at bat. Do you remember, The Savoy Special? Or, can you remember the HBO minor league baseball movie called “Long Gone?” Turns out only I could. We bounced back with 9 of 10.
Last two rounds with Big 12 questions next. We rolled along until we are asked to name three of the four Big 12 teams that have not made a NCAA Final Four. How easy. The answers seemed limitless. We went for Nebraska, Iowa State and Colorado. Wrong! How in the world did Colorado and Iowa State ever get to a Final Four? Seriously? Somehow, before any us were born, they did. Check it out here. It’s the same for all Big 12 schools except the Huskers, Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
Leaders of the Pack was the final category. That didn’t describe us. We limped in with 8 of 10. The indignity of it all is that we blew the all-time NCAA basketball victory leader. We went for Bobby Knight. Even with two women on the team, we completely missed Tennessee’s Pat Summit. Coach Knight would have thrown a chair across the room. We just wanted out.
The winners missed only nine of the 100 questions. We finish with 79, two away from third. We let Julie down. However, we had a ball with great friends and family. The “L” that I mentioned could be added to “trivia?’ Let’s make that a “L” for “Loser.”