published Friday, October 18th, 2013

Brain battle: Trivia buffs put ‘useless knowledge’ to test around greater Chattanooga area

Team "We Skipped Church for This" laughs over a possible answer during a trivia competition at The Honest Pint. They are, from left, Karen Rush, Candy Britton, Sandra Patterson and James Payne.
Team "We Skipped Church for This" laughs over a possible answer during a trivia competition at The Honest Pint. They are, from left, Karen Rush, Candy Britton, Sandra Patterson and James Payne.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
  • photo
    Jennifer Weatherspoon turns in an answer to Marc Michael from "The Weeping Angels" team, a name inspired by the alien winged humanoids in "Dr. Who."
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

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    Marc Michael, Challenge Entertainment region manager for Chattanooga and North Georgia, is one of a dozen people in the country to create questions for the company.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

RULES OF THE GAME

1. Each game consists of six rounds, with one half-time question and one final question.

2. Each round has three questions. Categories for questions are announced at the beginning of each round.

3. Teams are allotted three point values to use each round. Once a point value is assigned to an answer, it may not be used again for that round. Point values in rounds 1-3 are 2, 4 and 6; point values in rounds 4-6 are 5, 7, and 9.

4. A team may be one person or as many players as desired. Only five people per team are allowed in the finals.

5. Players have the length of one song to turn in their written answer to a question along with its point value.

6. Once an answer is turned in, you may not resubmit another answer.

7. Teams do not lose points for wrong answers, with the exception of the final question.

8. A team may wager up to 20 points on the final question. If the answer is correct, you are awarded the points wagered; if incorrect, those points are deducted from your score.

Test Your Trivia Skill

Here are examples of questions read in Challenge Entertainment Live Trivia.

1. Who plays Alex Vause in the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black?”

2. The advertising slogan for what company is “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight?”

3. The Rosetta Stone was discovered in what country?

4. Name one of the two cops often seen on “The Simpsons.”

5. What is the name of the scientific study of earthquakes?

6. In what midwestern state did Richie Valens’ plane crash in 1959?

7. Name four of the six Southern states the Appalachian Trail runs through.

8. What are the names of two of the three Bronte sisters?

9. In what city is the main campus of the University of Oregon located?

10. Name the unit of measurement equaling 660 feet frequently used in horse racing.

WHERE TO PLAY THIS WEEK

MONDAY

• Jefferson’s, 618 Georgia Ave. 7:30 p.m.

• TGI Friday’s, 2 Broad St. 7:30 p.m.

TUESDAY

• The Acoustic Cafe, 61 RBC Drive, Ringgold, Ga. 7 p.m.

• Brewhaus, 224 Frazier Ave. 7:30 p.m.

• La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, 5425 Highway 153. 7:30 p.m.

• Southern Burger Co., 9453 Bradmore Lane, Ooltewah. 7:30 p.m.

• TGI Friday’s, 2 Broad St. 8 p.m.

WEDNESDAY

• Buffalo Wild Wings, 120 Market St. 7:30 p.m.

• Hill City Pizza, 16 Frazier Ave. 7:30 p.m.

• Buffalo Wild Wings, 625 Paul Huff Parkway, Cleveland, Tenn. 7:30 p.m.

THURSDAY

• Fox & Hound, 2040 Hamilton Place Blvd. 7:30 p.m.

• Magoo’s, 3658 Ringgold Road. 7:30 p.m.

• T-Bone’s Sports Cafe, 1419 Chestnut St. 7:30 p.m.

FRIDAY

• La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, 5425 Highway 153. 9 p.m.

Source: Challenge Entertainment

As trivia jockey Marc Michael announces that the Bronte sisters were Emily, Charlotte and Anne, an exuberant “Yeah, baby!” bursts out of Savannah Mazda and her right arm swings into the air for a fist pump.

“I knew those English classes would be good for something!” she laughs.

Mazda was one of a couple dozen trivia buffs who clustered around pub tables Sunday afternoon at The Honest Pint on Patten Parkway. They weren’t there for the beer and burgers — although that’s a perk many took advantage of before they left — but for a battle of brains known as the Challenge Entertainment Live Trivia competition.

Mazda and Jennifer Weatherspoon, roommates and trivia teammates, have only played in the local tournaments twice, but the rookies agree they’re hooked.

“It’s a good way to get useless information out of your head,” jokes Weatherspoon.

Challenge Entertainment Live Trivia, a nine-year-old national company with headquarters in Memphis, began its fifth season of tournaments on Oct. 1. The contests are being played Sunday through Friday at 15 restaurants, pubs and sports bars in Chattanooga, Ringgold, Ga., and Cleveland, Tenn.

Michael, Challenge Entertainment region manager, says anywhere from 12 to 15 teams play weekly at each site, drawing a broad age range of competitors from mid-20s through 60-somethings. At the end of the night, the top three highest-scoring teams at each location win either a cash gift card or food cards to the host club.

There’s no fee to play, and a team may be one person or several people. Competitors play under the same team name each week at their chosen location, and their points accumulate until the end of the season on Jan. 31, so it’s not too late to join. Teams playing at more than one location must use a different name at each site; points are nontransferable.

The five highest-scoring teams from each weekly location compete in the local championship, called the semifinal, for a $1,000 prize. The top 12 teams in the semifinal advance to regional finals in Tunica, Miss., where they’ll play for $25,000.

“Some competitors are TV trivia fans — the ‘Jeopardy’ junkies. Some are kids who played on high school quiz bowl teams. It’s a diverse group of people, but they are all pretty clever,” says Michael.

Michael hauls in his own sound system, sets up, then walks around the bar to hand out score sheets and response cards while he greets each team. He reads a question, then plays a song on his laptop while teams decide their answers and the points value they want to assign them. Question topics cover TV, pop culture, politics, sports, literature and a variety of sciences.

Once an answer is written down, one team member delivers the response to Michael, and the music continues to play while he tallies points for correct answers. This isn’t the little 30-second flute ditty that Final Jeopardy contestants hear.

Michael’s musical choices range from “Tubular Bells,” better known as the theme to “The Exorcist,” to Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which prompted Weatherspoon to bust a couple of moves while her team waited for the correct answer to be revealed.

The music helps promote a party atmosphere. Many contestants chat and joke with other teams at surrounding tables during the three or four-minute wait after each question, others use the time to order drinks or dinner, check their cellphones or even read a book. Teams are on the honor system that they won’t use cellphones to research answers; however, phones are allowed at tables after the answer is in.

Longtime competitor Dale Dworak, who teaches high school government at Brainerd High School, works the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle between questions — not intended to be a mind game to psych out new players but still intimidating. He, wife Laurie and their friend, Rich Fortson, comprise the team they’ve dubbed “I Saw Miley Twerking Santa Claus.” They previously competed as Team Crazy 88s — a reference to the masked gang in “Kill Bill.” The Crazy 88s have won the local finals once and placed second twice.

Dworak says he’s always liked games such as Trivial Pursuit and “Jeopardy” — even tried to get on the TV game show a couple times— so that’s why these tournaments appeal to him.

ANSWERS

1. Laura Prepon

2. FedEx

3. Egypt

4. Lou or Eddie

5. Seismology

6. Iowa

7. Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland

8. Emily, Charlotte or Anne

9. Eugene

10. Furlong

“We read a wide variety of media and it’s fun getting a chance to show off what we know,” says Laurie.

Acoustic Cafe in Ringgold began hosting Tuesday night tournaments to feed the in-house rivalry of its two employee teams. It was also a way to beef up business on an otherwise slow night, says Deedra Hemphill, Acoustic Cafe publicist who plays on the team, “You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly.” Cafe owner David Petty heads up their competing team, “Mobias Strip Club.”

“We’ve been playing Trivial Pursuit together since we were all friends at Ringgold High School,” says Hemphill. “We’re full of useless information thanks to our high school chemistry teacher Sandra Owens. She always put these random trivia questions on her tests — pop culture questions that had nothing to do with the test subject at all. She’d tell us, ‘You never know when someone is going to walk up to you on the street and offer you a million dollars if you can answer this question.’”

The cafe’s trivia night draws anywhere from 30 to 60 customers each week, folks who might not otherwise stop in, she says.

“Our Tuesdays went from being a dead night to a really good night with a lot of people here enjoying the camaraderie and fun,” she says.

John Lewis was a trivia player before he was recruited to be a trivia jockey for Challenge Entertainment. Now Lewis hosts trivia nights at TGI Fridays and Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Chattanooga. He met his wife, Sarah, because of the game, one of three couples Michael knows that met during tournaments.

“I was hosting trivia four years ago at Smokey Bones near Hamilton Place and Sarah was a server there,” says Lewis. “We struck up a relationship when I came in each week.

“I always looked forward to doing that show,” he adds, laughing.

They’ve now been married 2-1/2 years.

“The enjoyment I get is to watch friendships evolve,” says Michael. “People who didn’t know each other find a common bond. The experience of competing together tends to strengthen a friendship, and friendly rivalries will develop between teams. There is a lot of goodwill in this community.”

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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