Check Your Head

Games magazine once described the CU Trivia Bowl, an annual tribute to insignificance in which players tested their ability to remember factoids most people were proud to have forgotten, as the greatest trivia contest in the country. During its heyday, the Bowl, sponsored by the University of Colorado at Boulder program council and staged in the spacious Glenn Miller Ballroom, drew throngs that numbered in the thousands; one Seventies-era finals match was even hosted by Family Feud's Richard Dawson and broadcast live on ABC. But by the early Nineties, interest in the spectacle had faded, and after the 1993 edition, the program council decided to put this tradition of more than twenty years out of its misery.

But the silly old thing refused to die. Since 1994, a slew of Trivia Bowl participants led by one Leonard Fahrni have staged a series of "basement bowls," and now Paul Bailey, another Trivia Bowl vet, has hooked up with the Boulder Jaycees in a renewed effort to get the Bowl up and rolling again. Trivia Bowl 1999 will take place this weekend. "We think it's the perfect time to bring this back," Bailey says.

He points to the success of TV shows such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, a top-rated Regis Philbin-hosted quiz program, and the Comedy Central cult favorite Win Ben Stein's Money. "All of them are definitely in the vein we're trying to strike, because the game we play is intended to be entertaining," he notes. "The questions don't deal with dry minutiae. They're quirky, humorous, bizarre." An example from the Bowl's seeding test. Q: "Chad Alvarez, the son of University of Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez, is currently facing one count of burglary and one count of felony mistreatment of animals for what senseless and heinous act?" A: He allegedly stole a parrot and microwaved it to death.

At the same time, Bailey and the folks behind Trivia Bowl 1999, including Trivia Bowl hall of famers Dave Bailey, Bob Reed and Mark Whelan, are shoring up some of the weaknesses that they feel contributed to the original tournament's decline. "The questions started to skew older, so a lot of the younger people didn't think they had a chance," he says. "We'll have questions in TV, movies, music, sports and miscellaneous pop culture, which could include everything from literature and theater to advertising and comic books. And we'll have an equal total from the Nineties, Eighties, Seventies, Sixties and pre-Sixties, so it will appeal to a wider audience and a larger player pool."

The number of competitors who have signed up is modest -- ten oddly named teams of four players each (sample moniker: "Oh My God! They've Killed Kenny G! Kewl...") versus the 64 squads that fought it out in years gone by. But Bailey says he's encouraged by their enthusiasm. "We've got people traveling here from Texas, Minnesota, California, New York and all across Colorado, and we've also got quite a few people who never played in the Bowl -- people who play in some of the bar trivia games around the area, some college students, and even a 62-year-old lady from Denver who got interested." The smaller number will allow for a round-robin format, so everyone will be guaranteed at least four games instead of the single-elimination of past tournaments.

Still, Bailey is hoping for bigger things in the future. "There's been some contact from CU's program council about possibly resurrecting the Bowl. We're hoping this will wake up people on campus to how much fun this can be." -- Michael Roberts

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