How many people live in New York City? — 19 million in the metro area. Whatever the subject, I want to know more. It’s a sentiment that is directly connected to my career path into feature journalism.
And for the most part, all of this absorbed knowledge only bubbled to surface of my mind during small talk at dinner parties or lame attempts at impressing a cute girl. But, that all changed when I was asked to participate on my first “trivia team.”
While attending Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., a group of colleagues wanted to throw together a team for the weekly trivia match at the nearby Sidestreet Bar & Grille. Our majors ranged from physical therapy to criminal justice, film production to English (mine being journalism and history). With our powers combined, we could tackle any obscure music or movie reference, bodily function or British literary greats of the 19th century.
Those competitive nights were a great excuse to procrastinate a senior thesis or finally wash the mountain of dishes piling up at our hole-in-the-wall apartments — not to mention trivia being an easy icebreaker if one found themselves on a random team with that femme fatale you’ve been meaning to talk to since freshman year.
After college, I would find myself at random trivia nights in towns around the country. I’d go to a bar for a beverage or restaurant for dinner and find myself walking into a heated battle of wits. Someone would see me saunter in and yell, “Hey, he’s a reporter, he must know stuff, get’em on our team.” Before I could respond, an anonymous arm would reach out, yanking me down into their respective tables.
Throughout all of those teams, I never really took the competitions that seriously. Yes, I would contribute answers if I actually knew them, but mostly I looked at it as downtime from life, where I could sit, relax and joke around with friends and strangers alike. But, that all changed when I moved to Waynesville and found myself a member of a trivia team in the highly competitive Wednesday night winter tournament at Tipping Point Brewing.
I was asked to join a rather robust group of knowledgeable folks, whose minds all worked like a sports car engine. The almost two-month long tournament was a grueling war of conflicting answers, question clarification and accusations of other players using Google or Wikipedia on their smart phones. When the dust cleared, our team has won not only the trophy (yes, there was a real trophy given), but also a year’s worth of bragging rights and the ego-inflating sense we could give Alex Trebek a run for his money.
Since that tournament, I’ve wandered into another weekly team — one filled with friendly, jovial folks from around the community. Looking around our table, we have two teachers, two doctors, two software developers, a newspaper publisher and reporter (me). There’s a lot of education on each of our resumes, which tends to lend itself to a tornado of words, answers (wrong and right) and, ultimately, laughter.
Each competition lasts five rounds. The first, “General Knowledge,” can be a litmus test for the evening. If you don’t come out of the gate with at least seven correct (out of a possible 10), you’re most likely dead in the water. The second and third rounds are all about consistency — keep a steady number of correct responses to figure out your strategy for the final stretch into rounds four and five.
Within all these rounds, lurking like a shark in the depths, is the “Pitcher Round,” where whatever team wins that specific round receives a free pitcher of beer. The room usually erupts into a cacophony of cheers and screams when that piece of information gets released like blood into the water. Most would rather win the pitcher than bragging rights for a week.
But, through it all, the competitions only play as the background during these evenings. Sure, trivia night is first and foremost a game, but it’s the societal interaction brought about by it that’s truly the biggest victory. You may only see friends of yours that one day a week, run into new acquaintances soon to become friends, or just dive into a pool of fresh faces that make up our backyard.
It’s about coming together in your community and putting aside the matters of the day, even for just a few hours of rollicking fun. So, put on your thinking caps Southern Appalachia, we need you on our team.
Editor’s Note: Trivia nights are held around Western North Carolina at Heinzelmannchen Brewery (Tuesdays, 7 p.m.) and Tuck’s Tap & Grille (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.) in Sylva, and Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville (Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.).
1: The Guest Appreciation Festival brings a variety of outdoor activities and live music to the Nantahala Outdoor Center Sept. 27-28.
2: Comedian Dave Coulier brings his brand of clean comedy to the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin on Oct. 5.
3: The Corbitt Brothers rolls into Alley Kats Tavern in Waynesville on Sept. 28.
4: Herman Melville’s book “Billy Bud” will be discussed on Oct. 3 at the Haywood County Public Library in Waynesville.
5: The Classic Wineseller presents Valorie Miller on Sept. 27 and Music Nostra on Sept. 28 in Waynesville.