That Was the Armadillo that Was
The Lawrentian, March 2, 1973.
Throughout the weekend, the contest was mixed, but it closed on the up side. The contest of course, was the WLFM-WCHT Eighth Annual Midwest Trivia Contest, and, for the eighth year in a row, all semblances of normalcy went by the boards as Lawrentians, Appletonians, and even Oshkoshites devoted their entire weekend to amassing credit for the recall of trivial facts. Once again, new records were set for obscurity of questions, total points gained, number of hours spent without food or sleep, and number of fingers worn out by dialing the telephone. Once again, there were those stunning Trivia T-shirts (still some in stock, not all sizes available, $1.50, while the supply lasts). Once again there was a serenade by the Lizard Hot Four or Five, with renditions of "Barbara Ann" and "Swing Low, Sweet Armadillo". In many respects, trivia 1973 was much the same phenomenon that has gripped Lawrence for one weekend out of the year for each of the past eight years.
Then, too, there were some new things this year. For one thing, the evil geniuses at WLFM who plan this craziness each year got on the shtick a little sooner, and, with the experienced guidance of incumbent Trivia Master Tony Welhouse and the constant goading General Manager Eric Buchter, trivia was brought forth in the Second Term of the year. Winter Term tends to get depressingly serious, so it needs a refreshing blast of zaniness much more than Spring Term does. This year we got something we really wanted: a Winter Trivia.
Another new factor was the influx of hard-nosed commercialism. Sammy's Pizza, the winning sage-based team, received free pizzas throughout the contest and free beer at the end for doing such a good job in promoting the company's product. Tom Oreck's hustling was the source of this largess, and Sammy's returned the favor by treating their patrons to Trivia on the store radio. Who knows where this might lead?
One more thing that was added to this year's contest was a sharp increase in the scope and sophistication of the tapping of the phone lines coming into the station. New equipment developed by the incorrigible Larry Page allowed us to monitor and/or tape record the conversations on all but one of the seven incoming lines. Monitoring the lines allows us to catch complicity between the phone answerers and the callers.
On the bas side, too, there were some new things. Contestants have understood for years the caller-controlled nature of the University's extension phone system. In the past, they have occasionally called the station and left their phone off the hook. This holds the line open no matter what the station person may do with it, and deprives other people of the opportunity to use it. A new twist was added this year when people started using this tactic against teams, rather than just against the station. teams quickly responded by keeping their phones off the hook as much as possible, and probably this will cause the problem to disappear.
Another serious violation of the spirit of Trivia and fair play occurred when some members of at least one team were induced to consume some "poisoned" cookies. While the "poison" was only Ex-Lax, it was potent enough to send some of the people to the Infirmary.
Cheating and foul play received more attention this year as the tactics escalated and as the means to detect it improved. Early Sunday morning, the Phi Tau's team, Rudolf F. Brainee, was penalized 100 points for a bit of cheating which was detected and recorded off the phone. This marked the first time in several years that a team was caught and penalized for cheating.
Frank Duchow, a leader of Rudolf Brainee, said, "Believe it or not, we don't care who wins." The team name, of course, comes from last year's playoff question on which the Tau's (then known as "Gammera") lost that contest: "From what sport do the following terms come: rudolfs, fliffies, and brainees?" As near as anyone can reconstruct the incident, it was divine intervention which caused (Mad Dog's) Tom Oreck to say "Trampoline!" and leave the Phi Tau's speechless and winless. This year there was not even a playoff, but Duchow and his fellow Brainees accepted defeat graciously, walking (or, perhaps more accurately, staggering) away with the second prize: a fifty-pound block of salt.
Over at Sammy's Pizza, there was a general feeling that all has gone well. Elaborate preparations, including extensive technical work involving the installation of intercoms and extension phone lines (all engineered by Mike Garthwaite), had paid off, and now the WLFM Trivia toilet seat was on the trophy rack. Everyone was impressed with the team's own sense of fair play; they strenuously denied any part in any wrongdoing and said they were even hesitant to let any of their members go to the station to answer phones, because their mere presence might be taken as an attempt to cheat. In fact, there were only two or three times the whole weekend when members of the Sammy's team were answering phones at the station. In a contest in which everyone assumed everyone was cheating, it was clear that everybody can't be cheating if each team unilaterally renounces foul play.
As for the future, who knows what armadillo brings? The senior members of Sammy's are considering returning to run Trivia next year. Larry Page will improve the phone bugging apparatus. Those in charge of trivia will continue to Ruthlessly minimize the amount of time any one team spends on the phone, allowing others the chance to get in. The welfare of the smaller teams will be assiduously looked after. We may get the station's phone numbers switched to unused blocks of extensions in an effort to unclog the lines. Off-campus, Monkey Demon plans retirement after their big comeback win this year, but the Undeer has told this reporter, the he definitely plans to have the man from Uncola bring him back from Michigan for Trivia 1974. In any case, dates for the Ninth Annual Trivia Contest will be set by Christmas time.
One thing is certain: next year's contest will not take place if there is a further escalation of the kind of foul play that sends otherwise healthy contestants to the Infirmary.
Next year's Trivia? Well, just remember the old proverb: At the end of every rainbow lies a pot of armadillos!