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. 

simon garfunkel

In the different iterations of 90FM’s Trivia, missing a question isn’t that troubling. The contests are built to be challenging, and some information is simply beyond the reach of our collection of finely honed minds. There’s no shame in that.

Then there are the instances in which the fumbled response to a trivia question causes deep spiritual agony, even if there were clear impediments to the retrieving the right answer from the data bank of the mind. For my squad, made up of quite a few alumni of the sterling college radio station airing the main contest, I suspect its misfires on the music questions that hurt the most.

For Trivia weekend, with digital resources always the ready, questions about song lyrics have dwindled in  recent years. Typing in a few key words brings the answer up with too much ease to make the strain of questions viable. In the “Unplugged” edition, though, simply asking for a detail found in the words of a familiar song can make for an exceptionally tricky task, especially when the venue’s speakers are booming out a different track than the one that is the subject of the question. It’s hard to run a song, even a beloved song, through the mind while some competing pop monstrosity is bullying its way through the space.

So it was at “Unplugged,” when team were asked to identify the city in which two youthful travelers boarded a bus in the Simon and Garfunkel song “America.”  As time ran out, we scrawled “Saginaw” onto an answer slip, I’m pained to report. As soon as the music in the room dropped away, the whole of “America” came rushing into my head, like a fire hose being twisted open. I knew at once that Saginaw was a starting point for a hitchhiking trip and the Greyhound seats were claimed in Pittsburgh (a city with, as another song asserts, has a “real cool tunnel”). It was too late. All I could do was groan.

I will help answer many questions this coming weekend. But I also know the near-misses — the ones that again make me groan — will make the sharpest memories.


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.

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