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KNOW BUDDIES

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The more the Foxhoven team played, the better it got. A shifting membership didn't prevent Fahrni and Downs from reaching the Trivia Bowl quarter-finals five times and the semi-finals twice. After one such triumph, Fahrni was so confident he would reach the last match of the Bowl that he wrote a personal biography of the sort that the emcee, Dan Rector, traditionally read to the crowd before the final game got started. Instead, Foxhoven was defeated, and Fahrni tucked his biography into his wallet, hoping he could use it the next year. It stayed there until just prior to the 1993 competition, when a disgusted Fahrni tossed it out. Of course, his squad (that year known as "A River Runs Through Renae Foxhoven") made it to the championship game. Fahrni and company lost that contest, too, but because the team that defeated them retired after its victory, the Foxhovens were considered favorites to take the title in 1994.

It was not to be: The CU program council stuck a fork in the Bowl and declared it done. According to Stephanie Arnold, current business manager for the program council and an organizer of the final Trivia Bowl, "I think it was obvious that its time had passed. It was a combination of the whole organization coming to that conclusion, seeing the response that we'd received in the past versus what we were receiving now."

Even hardcore supporters of the Trivia Bowl would have difficulty arguing with that. From the mid-Seventies to the mid-Eighties, the Bowl was hugely popular, drawing national attention (one exhibition match was hosted by Family Feud's Richard Dawson and broadcast on ABC) and throngs of 2,500 or more for the finals. But in succeeding years, students began to think of the entire spectacle as an anachronism that had nothing to do with them. By 1993 preliminary matches were being held in a small auditorium in the University Memorial Center rather than the Glenn Miller Ballroom, and attendees primarily consisted of other competitors.

But Fahrni's enthusiasm never waned. His first trip to the semi-finals in the late Eighties inspired the creation of the Basement Bowl, an informal gathering of trivia-heads intent on boning up for the real Bowl. After the fourth match, Fahrni started keeping track of the games, and he hasn't stopped. He maintains a Basement Bowl diary and saves each of his sets of questions in separate recipe boxes marked with the date they were used. One basement shelf contains more than twenty such boxes, but Fahrni wouldn't think of recycling any of the questions.

"Never," he says firmly. "But if someone decided to bring the Trivia Bowl back, I could have enough questions ready in ten minutes."

"And now, our national anthem."
Fahrni--clad in shorts, a Basement Bowl shirt designed by Bob Downs and a cap promoting the recent flop movie Car 54, Where Are You? given to him by Jason Katzman, Basement Bowl player and film critic for the Colorado Daily--pushes the play button on his cassette deck. Seconds later, the first eight trivia players gathered in the basement hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" as played by the Flagstaff Brass Quintet, featuring Fahrni on trumpet. "I also play trumpet with the 101st Army Band for the National Guard," he boasts.

As the anthem's final note dissolves, the players get ready, testing the signaling buttons on the elaborate buzzer system made by trivia nut John Dahl that Fahrni keeps in his basement. "I used to borrow CU's buzzer system before that, but it was kind of embarrassing to have to go to them and ask, `May I borrow your buzzers?'" Fahrni admits. Whelan and Klein are among the foursome on one side of the table; across from them is a quartet that includes Ron Fitz, whose memory is photographic when it comes to the golden age of television and the music of the Fifties and Sixties, and skilled jack-of-all-trades Mark Vincent. Watching are Fahrni's mom, Mary Lou, so dedicated a trivia fan that she attended almost all of Young Leonard's Trivia Bowl matches; his sister Patty, a formidable player in her own right; and nephew Aaron, thirteen. Leonard Sr. is smart enough to stay upstairs.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts