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Confessions of an (Ex) Quizzo Champion

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Forget Susan--I am desperately seeking the first character to die in Romeo and Juliet. Also the name of the horse that cost Barbaro the Triple Crown. At least I was until about a year ago, when the weekly Quizzo game my friends and I played with gusto went south.

For about 10 years, we met every Tuesday night at the same downtown restaurant for dinner, drinks, and a chance to win our bar tab by knowing more trivia than the 15 or so other teams in the house. And we ruled.

We were the group for which the long-time waitresses saved the best table, produced our drinks before we ordered them, and kept the refills coming. We were the obnoxious folks who came up with topical team names, contested answers to poorly worded questions ("by largest lake, did you mean area or volume?"), and very rarely had to pay our own way, though the competition was spirited.

             (Answer No. 1: Mercutio)

Thumbnail image for Mercutio 2.jpgLeading up to each week's contest, our regular group of 6-10 trivia wonks carefully considered options for a timely and tasteful team name. A few examples include "Forty Funerals and a Wedding" (for the week U.S. forces accidentally bombed an Iraqi wedding party), "He Lies in his Crypt Tonight" (to commemorate the passing of Christopher Reeve), "Uncle Tom's Cabinet" (in recognition of President Bush's appointing Colin Powell as his Secretary of State), and of course, "Boys Pants Half Off" any time Michael Jackson made news.

Over the years, we dismayed our competition by correctly identifying the second man to set foot on the Moon, the group that assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, the name of Bogart's character in African Queen, the kingdom that yeast belong to, who wrote "The Rockinghorse Winner," which two players on the 1960 Yankees were nicknamed "the M&M Boys," the traditional birthstone for August, how to find the area of sphere, what the zip in zip codes stands for, who lived in Quigley Mansion, which apostle was Jesus' brother, the name of Nick and Nora's dog, what scale is used to measure the hardness of minerals, how much you win for second prize in a beauty contest in the game of Monopoly, and why you can't get to heaven on the Frankford El.

During that same period, we (repeatedly) disagreed about and/or forgot how many players are on a side in cricket, where Victoria Falls is located, the traditional gift for a 10th wedding anniversary, and anything at all to do with college basketball. Win or lose, every Tuesday we laughed, we cried, we schmoozed, we went home happy.

Then we got old.

Suddenly, the questions were all about reality TV shows we'd never seen, boy bands we'd never heard of, and some guy named Justin Bieber. For a while, we tried to keep playing. The waitresses were just as solicitous, the food and drink just as enjoyable, and the friendship just as warm. But we rarely knew any answers, and mostly, we just didn't care. I suppose today's popular culture is no worse than that of any other generation, but it's hard to put Sinatra and Shakira on the same plane. Besides, when did pop culture become the only thing worth knowing? Despite what my children think, I was not a contemporary of da Vinci, but I do know where his painting of the Last Supper is housed.

Occasionally one of our gang finds a new trivia spot, and we gamely give it a try. At one locale, our host ("Hey! How's everybody doin' tonight? How 'bout those Phils?") plied a sparse and lackluster crowd with questions such as "Who painted 'Starry Night'? Now here are the choices: Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Michelangelo. I'll give you a hint: he cut off his ear." Another stumped us with pictures of celebrity toddlers we were to match with their famous parents. Recently, we reached a low point at a bar where the quizmaster wowed everyone with a themed round in which he called out names of pharmaceuticals and asked us to identify which ones were male enhancement products.

All I can say is, a plague on all their Quizzos!

 

Jo Ann Zimmerman is a writer who lives in Merion Station.

 

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