I’m not sure who first invited us to play trivia; perhaps it was Dallas and Jackie. We’ve been playing for several years now, so hopefully you’ll understand if my memory is a big foggy on how it all began. I know the “where” part and if you’ve read any of my past rambles, you probably know that a scoop of ice cream has a better shot of surviving a Florida sidewalk in the middle of August than I do of coming up with the “when” part. The “who” part? Well, there’s a few culprits, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to Dallas and Jackie.

He had invited me to play softball with the River Rats co-ed softball team one fall when they were short of players. He must have gone pretty deep in his phonebook to ask me, because they were a pretty good squad even when playing short-handed.

I still harbor some mixed emotions about that, because I jumped ship from another team that had previously asked me to play with them (because they were short on players). Bill, the coach of the Logic Mountain team, had coaxed me out of a 15 year retirement and talked me into pulling my glove and bats out of mothballs. I really enjoyed playing with them, but going into the fall, they seemed to have plenty of players on their roster and my other friend was going to be short a couple. FTR, I eventually ended up playing with the Rats on one night of the week and with the Mountain on another.

Did we get distracted? Sorry… now you see why I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the “when” of things. It continues its reign as my strongest weakness and leads to the deepest of rabbit holes. Let’s get back to trivia.

I remember that I started going because trivia fell on a night when my wife had a previously scheduled activity of her own – belly dance. She had been a part of Island Tribe long before we met and it’s a beautiful art form. She enjoyed it and, although it kept her busy a few nights each week, I absolutely didn’t want her to alter her commitment after we started dating. I just filled those nights with softball and eventually trivia. Now we play trivia together two nights a week and actually host a show for the trivia company on another.

I’ve found that trivia can be addictive, or so it would seem, but I think the addiction has several very positive benefits. This morning, I thought I’d try to actually build that list and see if my thinking can be validated with supporting evidence. Here we go…

The family that plays together…

You may have reflexively completed that one on your own, but I’ll give you another shot to read it a second time, just in case you didn’t. It’s true, not just for us, but I’ve seen the evidence in the lives of others as well. Most of those who show up to play are families and in most cases, they bring their kids. It gives you something that you can do together as a group on the regular weekly schedule. It gets mom (or dad) out of the kitchen for one night. It creates an ongoing “date night” for the couple who has lost that over time. It actually gets the kids out of the house and introduces them to an arena of public interaction that they need to see – how adults behave in groups. Last but not least, it inspires conversation between two (or more) people who may have lost some of their communication skills.

That last one is a trap that more couples than you might imagine fall into. Over time, common ground is shared to the point where it no longer becomes a point of discussion and uncommon ground gets filtered out of the conversation because, “my partner just doesn’t have any interested in (fill in the blank).” Trivia piques memories and brings knowledge to the surface that might otherwise stay in the dusty confines of You-Never-Told-Me land.

I know that may sound like a fabricated stretch, but I’m fascinated with the things that my wife knows that I never would have known that she knew had it not been for an obscure trivia question that popped up one night. I don’t know that trivia is designed to do that, but it happens on a regular basis and it’s a nice side-effect. We’re always talking about some new topic on the drive home.

I haven’t thought about that in years…

Flashbacks to things that haven’t tickled the electrodes of brain cells in years are pretty common.

“How’d you know that?”

“We took a field trip there in 5th grade.”

Again, this leads to natural conversation, but even more compelling is the way it nudges gears into motion that haven’t been asked to grind on anything in years.

Once such conversation spun into discussion of modern day uses for that ingenious instant dehydration-rehydration device that The Penguin brought to the party in the 1966 Batman movie starring Adam West and Burgess Meredith. Another question about what the “B” and the “O” stand for in the “B & O Railroad” launched a discussion of Monopoly. I should have known the answer to that one because it’s referenced on page 110 of my book, End The Beginning. I failed my team… sigh. Yet another question exposed a member of the group as someone who didn’t like musicals… at all… whatsoever… he even bailed on Chicago. Gasp!!!

Halftime is a matter of opinion…

At halftime, the game shifts gears just a little. It’s a good change of pace that triggers a completely different skill set – the art of persuasion.

If the question asks you to name the top five box office grossing movies for Rodney Dangerfield, you might struggle to come up with five flicks for your list. (That actually was a question and we got 4 of the 5. Darn you, Ladybugs! Darn you!) But, if your question is to list the five films that have earned Tom Hanks a nomination in the Academy Awards category of Best Actor, you’ve got a lot of options to argue for and against. Put four minutes on the game clock; court is in session. My mom loved him in Saving Mr. Banks and he was fantastic in Captain Phillips, but he didn’t get nominated for either film. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in Charlie Wilson’s War and thought he carried the film, but he didn’t get a nod for that one either.

Confidence, desperation, and logic…

Okay, let’s wrap this up. I need to shoot a cooking video in a little bit and I think I’m on the verge of over-cooking my grits.

Every game wraps up with a final question. This is the only time you can lose points, but you can also make up a lot of ground if your host has been asking the wrong questions for most of the evening. You (and every other team playing) must wager at least one point, but not more than twenty-one points, on this final adventure into what-do-you-know-ville.

You’re given a list of four items and asked to put them in a specific order. Your answer is either 100% correct or it’s wrong. Sometimes the question involves sorting out when something happened. For the record, I hate those. Sometimes it asks you to sort out the value of things on the list, such as the correct order of Rodney Dangerfield films according to the highest grossing at the box office, down to the oe that made the least money. We’ve been asked how tall? How old? Most to least? Longest to shortest? We’ve been asked to sort things by virtually every metric other than ugly to pretty, which could get pretty ugly, but I’m still holding out hope.

Before the final question is asked, the score of every team is announced. This helps you determine whether you’re playing catch up or protecting the lead that you’ve built over the course of the evening. No one is out of the running at this point; this question has the potential of a 42 point swing. Even if a team is way behind, a plus 21 coupled with a minus 21 can flip the final order of finish in an eye blink.

Not only is this is a question of knowledge, but of confidence. Regardless of how well, or how poorly, a team has done to this point, this question rewrites the script and will be the final decision that puts one team in the winner’s circle and another out in the cold. If your team is trailing the pack, you could just wing it in a desperate attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Is it a question of mathematical logic, where a 9 point wager keeps a trailing team from catching you if you get it right, but doesn’t spiral your team into the land of crash and burn, if you get it wrong? Everything is riding on the order of your list and the numerical value you assign to your answer. Hold onto your butts!

Ultimately, trivia is a learning experience and a growing experience. It’s a night of magic, shared with family and friends that produces interaction like few other activities can. Go ahead; build your list. I’ll put trivia up against anything you’ve got and wager that those who play would side with me almost every time.

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