Trivia masters rule for a weekend


by Rhonda Wofford
The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 28, 2002.

TRIVIA CONTEST results
Piggy Bank of Kaukauna successfully defended its off-campus team title in the 37th edition of Lawrence University's Midwest Trivia Contest, edging Lucky Guess Choking on a Pretzel at the Library, 1,375-1,345. It was the fourth off-campus title in six years for the Piggy Bank of Kaukauna, which received a ceramic figurine holding a lute as the first-place prize.

Lucky Guess was the runner-up for the second straight year while The Lord of the Iowans: Fellowship of the Corn finished third with 1,170 points.

In one of the closest on-campus finishes in the contest's history, the Yuais squeaked past the defending champion Der Uberteam, 1,302-1,300, to win its second on-campus team title in the past three years. The Ormsby/Colman/Brokaw halls team placed third with 1,248.

The Yuais received a pair of old pants from last year's trivia grand master, Matt Pickett, as their first-place prize.

Fifty off-campus teams and five on-campus teams participated in the 50-hour contest, which featured 393 questions from 10 p.m. Friday night until midnight Sunday.

There was a bit of an evil gleam in Adam Pelzer’s eye as he read the obscure poem into the radio microphone.

Would any of the 60-odd teams have a player who knew or could find the author in 3½ minutes?

Pelzer was one of 12 trivia masters who dream up all those impossible-to-answer questions for the Midwest Trivia Contest that ran Friday through Sunday at Lawrence University in Appleton.

“I played on a team my freshman year, but this is tons of fun,” Pelzer said, with a grin. “You become friends with all of the trivia masters, and it’s also one of the only things I do where we get to interact with lots of people from the community.”

In addition to being broadcast on the Lawrence campus radio station WLFM 91.1 FM, for the first time this year the trivia contest was Webcast, drawing teams from other areas playing online.

“We had somebody call Friday from Los Angeles,” said trivia master Nick Siegel.

The contest brings in past Lawrence students and former Fox Valley residents who have played the game over the last 37 years.

“People come from Iowa, Indiana, from all over to be with their friends for this weekend,” Pelzer said.

Once in awhile, the trivia masters throw in a special challenge for on-campus teams, such as bringing in the best dish made with bratwurst to earn 10 points.

“When we do that, we have to give the off-campus people a 10-point question instead,” Pelzer said.

In a small room next to the studio, volunteers answer calls from teams phoning in their answers. Their table is crowded with seven telephones, pencils, pads of paper, open bags of cereal, candy, and pretzels, and lots of pop cans and water bottles.

Colin Martin, 15, likes to see both sides of the contest, so he volunteered to man the phones for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ve been on a trivia team for as long as I can remember, because my family runs one every year,” Martin said. “It’s fun to come down here too. You get to talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise.”

To keep it fair, players from off-campus teams can only answer calls from on-campus teams, and vice-versa, so Martin wouldn’t end up taking a call from his own team.

Others who played both sides of the event were Sean McNee and Doug Perrin from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

“I’ve been up since 9 a.m. Friday, ” McNee said. “Having to answer the phones helps you stay awake, because you stay active.”

It was 6 p.m. on Sunday, and Perrin’s eyes were red as he listened to a second wrong answer on the phone.

“You’ve got 10 seconds to give me another answer, dude,” Perrin said to the player.

Teams calling in can try three answers before they have to hang up and call again. Although it’s against the rules, some teams call in repeatedly and stall, trying to tie up the phone lines.

“Callers will make up the first two answers before saying the right one, just to waste time and block other teams from getting through on the phone lines,” Megan Brown said, as she hung up the phone.

“Or they’ll make up a team name and number, and try to keep you on the phone, just to tie up the lines,” Rachel Berkely said.

When the tactic, called “jamming,” gets out of control, players will call in to a separate complaint line, Phred Beattie said.

“This is not my favorite job,” Beattie said, as he collated the teams’ point totals into a computer spreadsheet.

“Mostly they call in to contest an answer, because they’ve found a different source.”

Rhonda Wofford can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 215, or by e-mail at rwofford@ appleton.gannett.com.