If you know the color of azurite and the Great Lake with the smallest surface area, you might be a contender in the Kansas Trivia League.
The league had its mini league championship April 15 at Bigg’s Barbecue, 2429 Iowa, drawing a crowd of about 160 competitors divided into 35 teams.
Creative names are part of the game — the weirder, the better. Competitors on this Sunday night include Bert & Ernie’s Love Child and Animatronic Grandma.
Some teams are made up of families, others of friends, and came from throughout the state. Rachel, Robin and Joe Edmunds make up the team of Idiot & Savant. Robin and Joe drove from Manhattan, and their daughter, Rachel, joined them from Kansas City.
“Who’s the idiot and who’s the savant? It depends on the question,” Robin says.
This week’s defending champions are Team Channel Four News Team.
“Last time, we missed six of the first seven questions — it was brutal. This has been way too easy,” says team member Patrick Funston at halftime. “It’s nice to hear more groans than cheers (when you know the answer).”
Teams play every week at venues throughout the state. Team membership is flexible week-to-week, and there are no limits on team size. For the finals, however, only five members may compete.
A competitive spirit is evident at tonight’s event.
For the game, the emcee asks a question, then plays a song. All teams must turn in an answer before the song ends. In this crowd of experienced trivia players, many teams have an answer ready and in the air before the music even starts.
At a regular trivia night, teams bring their answers to the emcee on slips of paper. Such a crowded and competitive venue means that off-duty emcees walk around the crowd, collecting answers from each table.
Many teams discuss their possible answers in hushed tones, even writing down choices to show each other so they won’t be overheard by neighboring competitors.
“We’re just here for the fun of it. Some teams are serious,” says Melanie Lawrence of team Steins and Fine Minds from Topeka. “Once you start playing trivia, it awakens your brain. We enjoy the beer, too.”
Perhaps the most important rule in the game is that players are not allowed to have their cellphones out, lest someone be tempted to turn to the Internet for an answer. Such a transgression is grounds for immediate disqualification.
Both the weekly trivia games and the final are free to play, but teams must qualify to play in the big competition. The trivia league held several semifinals last month to gain entry to this game, and the team with the most top-five finishes of the season at each venue gained direct entry t o the finals.
“In the old days, the only entertainment was to go see a band, and you had to pay a cover charge. This gives a more cerebral entertainment,” says emcee Dell Johnston, who runs games at the 23rd Street Brewery and Dempsey’s Burger Pub every week. “I admire the intelligence of the teams here.”
Other local venues for trivia include Wayne & Larry’s, The Jayhawker at The Eldridge and Saints Pub + Patio.
The weekly prize is $80 in gift certificates for the top three teams. In the finals, the stakes are much higher.
The winning team of the evening was Jack & Coke from Kansas City. Team members Scott Gregory, Art Loepp, Doug Polson, Jeff Dayton and David Bruce took home a total of $1,500 in cash.
Second- and third-place teams took home $400 and $150, respectively. The top 15 teams received prizes of cash and/or gift certificates.
At halftime, Jack & Coke was in 30th place, but in the trivia league, comebacks are part of the game as later rounds are worth more points.
“If you make a mistake on the front side, it doesn’t kill you,” says John Parker of Team Channel Four News Team.
Jack & Coke takes its name from a charity bike ride its members organize in memory of Doug Polson’s son, Jack Polson, who was 27 years old when he died from liver cancer in 2009. This year, the ride will take place May 12 in Missouri.
“We started getting together for (charity) meetings and playing trivia at the same time,” Dayton says.
Gregory estimated that their team had the oldest average age in the competition — a number in the 60s, he said.
“This is the biggest thing since I won the spelling bee in the eighth grade,” jokes Gregory.
The hardest questions for them were about the name of the mineral hardness scale (the Mohs scale) and the name of the boxer who was called the Brockton Blockbuster (Rocky Marciano).
Area owner of Challenge Entertainment Drew Coté, who runs the Kansas Trivia League, says he hopes the league can become part of a national trivia league competition by 2013. Last Sunday’s game was the fifth championship the league has held since it started.