Move Over Football: Lawrence University's Marathon of Minutia Makes Super Bowl Seem Trivial
APPLETON, WIS. -- The teams are making final preparations. Game-day strategies are being mapped out. The gauntlet for bragging rights to the title champion has been thrown down. All signs point to another "super" weekend of competition.
No, we're not talking about that over-hyped football game that will be played Sunday in San Diego. We're talking about the "Super Bowl" of useless knowledge -- Lawrence University's Midwest Trivia Contest. In this ultimate game of games, knowing such facts as Celine Dion's high school nickname ("the vampire queen") will be the difference between winning and being an also-ran.
A year older than football's Super Bowl, Lawrence's 38th annual salute to all things trivial returns to the airwaves of the campus radio station, WLFM, 91.1 FM, Friday, Jan. 24 at the appropriately insignificant time of 10:00:37 for the start of 50 straight hours of off-beat questions and equally obscure answers.
Last year, 55 teams, some as large as 30-40 members, hunkered down for the weekend in basements, heated garages and residence hall lounges for the battle of the mind(less). When the minutia had settled, The Bank of Kaukauna won it's second straight title and fourth in the past six years, coming from second place in the contest's final 15 minutes to narrowly edge rival Kaukauna squad Lucky Guess, 1,375-1,345.
But the Lawrence trivia contest is more about camaraderie than competition. After all, it's certainly not the prizes that have trivia addicts returning to the Fox Valley like swallows to Capistrano every January from points as far away as California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Washington. There's apparently something addictive about knowing what Frank Zappa once said was the ugliest part of the human body (the mind) or where the bank examiner in the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life" was from (Elmira, N.Y.).
"Serious fun" is the perfectly apt, albeit oxymoronic, description that best fits the contest. The majority of teams use the weekend as a convenient excuse to renew old friendships and nurture budding new ones, all the while ordering extra phone lines, installing high-speed computers and writing special software programs to better search the Internet.
"Once people experience it, they realize how much fun it is and they get hooked," said Eric Siebers, whose Lucky Guess team will be competing in its 21st trivia contest.
Cene Ketcham, a senior from Decorah, Iowa, who is serving as this year's Grand Trivia Master, puts the contest in even clearer perspective: "In the past, the trivia contest has given thousands of people an excuse to act like complete idiots. We look to uphold that high standard again this year."
By day, Kevin Brimmer, Appleton, is a mild-mannered portfolio manager for Thrivent Financial. But come trivia weekend, Brimmer and his Drake College buddies turn into the "Lord of the Iowans." The routinely rub a lava lamp for inspiration and gorge themselves on the traditional weekend diet of chili cheese dogs.
Looking for that little "edge" that will finally put his team over the top -- the Iowans have been a top five finisher every year since entering the contest in 1986 but have never won it all -- Brimmer has added a replica of the leg lamp made famous in the holiday movie ³A Christmas Story² to his trivia weekend decor.
"It will be our pièce de résistance, the ultimate tribute to sheer and utter tackiness," said Brimmer, who received the lamp as a Christmas present.
It may take more than leglamps, however, to unseat perennial power and two-time defending champion Bank of Kaukauna team, which, with 40 members, 30 computers and 15 phone lines, is expecting to field its largest, most technologically advanced team ever.
"It's going to be intense," said team captain John Brogan, hinting that this might be the Bank of Kaukauna's swan song for the contest. "We've talked about this possibly being our last hurrah. We thought if we could 'three-peat,' that would be a great way to go out. The level of anticipation is at an all-time high."
As in previous years, the contest will feature is share of "theme hours" throughout, such as custodian hour (maintenance-related questions), geek hour (think "Star Wars" nerds and "Dungeons and Dragons" aficionados) and fairy princess hour (bone up on your magic).
And upholding the grandest of all trivia contest traditions will be the final hour Sunday night when the trivia masters roll out the toughest "garruda" questions, culminating with the 100-point, virtually unanswerable "Super Garruda."
Since the contest always begins by asking last year's Super Garruda, here's an easy 100-point headstart on tis year's game: Who drove in the winning runs in the Busch baseball tournament championship game in Madison, Wisconsin? Kent Palmer of the "Black and Tans from Harmony Bar" team.
In addition to being broadcast on WLFM, the entire contest will also be webcast at http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/wlfm.