I want to take you back a decade, before we start this year’s Trivia Bowl recap.
A decade ago, the “Trivia Nights Live” game was called “Team Trivia,” and was played every Tuesday night at the Hooters in Crossgates Mall. Thirty to forty teams participated each week, including one team who showed up, got hammered, wrote down “Bob Saget” as the final answer regardless of the final question, and went home.
These were the Skidmarks. Clay Aiken Skidmarks, if you must be precise, although the Times Union does not want me to use the team’s full name, lest some readers get offended.
They played for years. Sometimes they’d get close to a victory, but mess up on the final question. Other times, they would just write “Bob Saget” as the final answer, no matter what.
Let’s fast forward now to a few years ago. The Skidmarks, along with Street Academy and Woo Hoo a Go Go and other squads, were tearing up the Elbo Room trivia game. In order to qualify for the finals, the Skids had to bet a sizeable amount – and then get the answer right. They bet the sizeable amount – got the answer right – only to discover that when someone brought their bet up to the host, the courier called an audible and changed the best from a sizable one to a one-point bet. Skids were outpointed and missed the finals.
And you know that when someone gets so close to a championship… they can taste it. They can taste it like the last drops of water in the Mojave Desert.
To that end, the Skidmarks refused to give up. They kept on playing, they kept on trying – and eventually they won a few trivia games. Then one day, they won the Elbo Room tournament. And things moved on.
It’s now Trivia Bowl XI – the eleventh iteration of the top trivia tournament in the Capital District. The trophy, previously held by Stern Fans for the past year, was returned to trivia host Kevin Baker.
Nearly forty teams packed Wolf’s 1-11 for this game. And although I didn’t have my trivia teammates Jeremy and Katie, I did acquire some solid teammates – Jeff and Danielle from the previously closed team Get That Poison Out, and Lindsay, who played on the old Blue Mooned team. I also received a last-minute text from Bryan, who played on our Trivia Bowl team of two years ago – Bryan was a former Skidmark who had a falling-out with his teammates, and joined our squad for the game.
The place is filling up. Jeff and Danielle arrive. Lindsay is here. Where’s Bryan?
And in he walks. “Did you get my Facebook message?” he asked me.
“Look, I had a talk with the guys, and we talked about some things, and – ”
I shook Bryan’s hand. “Go join the Skidmarks. Good luck. Go help them win.”
“Thanks man,” he said. “I promise that when it comes time to booing you, I won’t boo you this game.”
We did pretty well in the tournament, staying in the middle of the pack for most of the game. There was only one scoring discrepancy in the game, and it was a minor one – name the TV show that also shares its name with an MLS soccer team. In almost a synchronous movement, Danielle, Jeff and Lindsay all leaned in and whispered to me, “Chicago Fire.” Okay. I wrote it down and handed up the slip. But as I did, I asked the host, “Would you have also accepted ‘Revolution,’ in that there is a team called the New England Revolution?”
“Nah,” he replied, “It should be the full name of the show and the team.”
No matter, it was a two-point question. Then Ed, my buddy from A Few Cards Short of a Deck, walked to our table. “I’m angry,” he said, “He should have accepted our answer.”
“What did you write down?”
“We said ‘Revolution.'”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I already asked him about it, he won’t accept that answer.”
But eventually enough teams brought the discrepancy to Baker’s attention – and, to Baker’s credit, he did write the question in such a way that it could be interpreted to include that show – so he eventually agreed to gift two points to those teams who also wrote “Revolution” as a choice.
As for us, we were doing okay – but we kept getting tied up with questions where we could come up with two answers, hand in our slip, and eventually discover that the answer was someone we never considered. Such was the case in identifying a 10-point question about who was the woman who, at age 42, was named Esquire magazine’s sexiest woman alive in 2008.
We thought about everybody from Catherine Zeta-Jones to Meg Ryan to Jennifer Aniston. We eventually wrote down Catherine Zeta-Jones and handed in the answer.
And as I walked back to the table… I groaned. “What if it was Angelina Jolie?”
Groans at the table. We never thought about it being Angelina Jolie.
Well, it wouldn’t have mattered. Because the answer was…
Halle Berry. None of us even considered Halle Berry.
Oh, and another moment in the game. After halftime, there were door prize raffles of various bar swag and T-shirts. At one point in time, the prize being raffled was a set of Twisted Tea fleece pajamas. One of the members of Woo Hoo a Go Go won the pajamas, and with chants of “Put Them On! Put Them On!” he actually wore the pajamas for the entire second half of the game.
Meanwhile, two of the ancillary trivia hosts – Ben Hovey and Dave (a former trivia player who now hosts a game in Amsterdam) came over to my table. “Chuck,” Ben asked, “If you won that raffle, would you have worn those pajamas?”
“Well, I didn’t win, so – ”
“But if you did win the raffle.”
“I guess we’ll never know, will we?” I winked.
So it now comes down to the final answer. We’re in tenth place among 38 teams. The category is American Business.
We bet it all. If we get it right, we can’t finish any worse than tenth place.
“What was the first piece of clothing ever sold by the Columbia Company?”
Oh man. Another murder question. We went through several different answers – socks, jackets, scarves, gloves, hats, boots – and eventually we wrote down socks.
So did several other teams.
Other team wrote down boots, jackets, long underwear…
The answer? Hats. Especially since the company was known as the Columbia Hat Company way back when.
Only one team got it right. A long-standing team called Sky Hawk.
But their correct answer didn’t give them enough points to surpass another team for the lead – a team that bet a safe bet to win.
Come on, people, I foreshadowed it for you in the beginning of the blog post.
That’s right, the 2015 Trivia Bowl XI champions are…
And they celebrated and selfied and cheered and hugged each other as if they won the Super Bowl. Because, really, they did win the Super Bowl of competitive team trivia. Ten years of playing and eating and drinking and playing and winning and whatnot… paid off.
I found out after talking to a few members afterward that this victory was an emotional one – team captain Ryan lost his beloved grandmother a few weeks prior, and there had been some other tragedies and setbacks that befell the team. That being said, this squad never gave up. They never packed their tents and went away. They played, they won the game, they are now Trivia Bowl Champions.
So congratulations to the Skidmarks, and welcome to the Parthenon of Trivia Bowl champions. Congratulations to Ryan and Eric and Bryan and everybody on the team. Now and forever, you are Trivia Bowl champions. And for the next 365 days, you will be “The Current” Trivia Bowl Champions.
And for every person out there that says right now, “What the hell, the freakin’ Skidmarks won the trophy?”
I will say to them, “They won it. Yes they did. And if you want them to be former Trivia Bowl champions, then you better bone up on your knowledge of useless facts… and get ready for February 2016 for Trivia Bowl XII.”
And before I end this blog post … thanks to Kevin Baker and the staff at Trivia Nights Live for running a fun game this year; thanks to my teammates Jeff Shubert, Danielle Shubert and Lindsay Garrow for playing on Street Academy and helping out to a decent finish; and thanks to all my fellow teams for participating.