This coming weekend, I’ll participate in The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM. As per tradition, this week is filled with idle reminiscing about memorable answers in past years. This time around, I’m focusing answers on the supplemental “Unplugged” version of the contest, which is staged a few times per year in Central Wisconsin.
When I explain the ins and outs of the trivia competition staged annually by student-run radio station WWSP-90FM, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the detail that inspired the greatest surprise is the ready availability of resources. It’s natural to equate the exercise in retrieving obscure facts to widely known quantities, like Jeopardy! or bar trivia, in which checking an outside source is the most grievous cheating. In truth, my beloved Trivia is more of a research contest, measuring skilled rapidity at Google searching and book scanning as much as any purely cognitive ability.
The exception is the “Unplugged” version of the contest, staged through the fall in various Wisconsin cities to raise funds for local nonprofit organizations. Participants — including many who also engage in the marathon extravaganza every April — gather for a few hours in a space with no reference materials, be they printed or online. It tests a wholly different set of talents, and I’m please to report my teammates do as well or better in the from-the-noggin-only version.
Undone by a conspiracy of geography, it took me many years before I was able to personally participate in this glorious spinoff. But I well remember one of the earliest years of the event, because I was getting updates via the phone from reveling cohorts were taking a break from the competition floor and were therefore allowed to use their communication technology. They did their level best to recount questions to me, a feat in their state of tippled joyousness.
The question that sticks with me from that night, relayed to me as I stood in the autumn chill outside my evening workplace, was roughly this: What is the name of the magazine that annually bestowed the J. Fred Muggs Awards? As someone who spent his youthful years a little too obsessed with a certain weekly slab of broadcast listings, I immediately knew the answer was TV Guide.
At that moment, I knew I needed to join my raucous crew at Trivia Unplugged someday. It would happen, and it would be as grand as I expected. It would also be deeply humbling at times. But that’s a story for later in the week.
More info about 90FM’s Trivia can be found at its official website or at the radio station’s online home. There’s also a feature documentary about the contest, but it’s fairly hard to come by these days. To see how my team is faring over the weekend, Twitter is probably the best bet.