Why I don’t play trivia at Recovery Room

A few days ago, Wayne from the Blue Mooned trivia team questioned why, after my personal decision not to play competitive team trivia at a Recovery Room establishment, did I willingly walk into a Recovery Room sports bar in Troy on Super Bowl Sunday and play for football tickets.  He calls shenanigans.

Well you know what?  It’s a personal choice. And for 14 months, I refused to play competitive trivia at any Recovery Room bar and grille in the Capital District.  I made a one-time choice to play trivia for one night in the Troy Recovery Room, for the specific purpose of winning football tickets for a friend of mine.  The friend didn’t show up for the game, I went in by myself, didn’t win the tickets, I paid my bill, congratulated the winners, and left.  Plain and simple.

As part of playing competitive team trivia in the Capital District, I’ve put up with my fair share of gamesmanship and trash-talking from other teams.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll give back as much as I get.  It’s all good.  Afterward teams will walk over and congratulate the winning team, and come back next week.

In the late summer of 2008, I started playing Wednesday night trivia at the Recovery Room, a sports bar adjacent to Albany Medical Center.  I won a few nights, lost a few nights, it was a Baker-style game (20 questions of increasing difficulty) with a $25 bar tab as the grand prize.

Then, all of a sudden, the prize value skyrocketed.  The owner of the Recovery Room, in an effort to increase business at his bar, offered a very choice prize for the winning team on Wednesday nights – four box seats at Giants Stadium for Giants and Jets games during the 2008 season, along with parking passes (which were extremely important, as there was plenty of construction near Giants Stadium – most of which was involved in building the NEW Giants Stadium).

Now if you’re a Giants fan or a Jets fan, box tickets are seriously fantastic prizes.  If you’re a Steelers fan like me, who did not see a Giants or Jets road game on their schedule that year, hey it’s still good, you try to win the tickets and then give them to someone you know so that they can have a good time.  Sort of the “wrap a cutlet of meat around your neck so that the dogs might play with you.”

So my one-man Street Academy team started playing Wednesday nights at Recovery Room in Albany on a more regular basis.  And sure enough, within a couple of weeks I earned first place and nabbed tickets to the opening night Giants-Redskins matchup.  All good.

A couple of weeks after that, I took home a set of Jets tickets.

A week after that, I actually was in sixth place and was able to nail the final question – who was the last team to win a World Series when the series was a best-of-nine game (obviously it was the New York Giants, who beat the Yankees in I think 1921 or 1922).  I got it right, the five teams above me got it wrong, they lost, I won, here come some more tickets.

So the next week, I go to Recovery Room, sit down at a booth, and the waitress is already taking my order and bringing me the first of many diet colas for the night.

That was probably the last happy moment I would associate with Recovery Room.

At that point, the assistant manager walked over to my table.  “You’re not allowed to play here any more.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.  “I don’t cheat for answers, I pay my bill, I leave a decent tip for the server, what’s the deal?”

We’ve got orders,” he said.  “You can’t play here.  If you play and win the prize, it goes to the second place team.  You can eat here, but you’re not allowed to win these tickets any more.”

He wasn’t kidding.  I wasn’t smiling.

“Other teams are complaining that they can’t win because you’re here.  In fact, you win too many times.  It’s not fair to the other teams.”

I win too much.  This guy probably would have told Derek Jeter that the Yankees win too much; so the next time Jeter goes up to  bat, he should do so swinging a fishing pole so that the other team might have a decent chance of striking him out.

Then came the kicker.

You’re not even really a team. You’re one person.  This is supposed to be a team trivia game.”

In the back of my mind, I thought … I’m winning here and you want me to bring reinforcements?  As if that’s going to make it easier for anyone else?

“Tell you what,” he said to me.  “If you win tonight, I’ll comp your bar tab.  But you won’t get the tickets.  Other teams deserve a chance to win them.”

Oh… that was the final straw.  I could play to win $15 in bar tab, as opposed to every other team that would have played to win $$$$ Giants tickets.  Essentially I was being singled out for being too successful.

Now if Recovery Room had instituted a rule beforehand that forbade teams who won the tickets from winning again after 30 days, I could have lived with that.  But that rule was never instituted, and it’s not like I won every week at Recovery Room.  Heck, there were nights when I couldn’t get a correct answer to save my life.

I paid the $5 and change for my drinks and left the building, having been totally embarrassed by the whole situation.

And I thought to myself as I drove home, would Recovery Room have frozen me out if I had nine people with me and ate about $150 worth of food every night?  Not a chance.

Then I remembered that another trivia team from my Tuesday night games at Old Chicago were regulars at a place called Brown’s.

From my cell phone on the way home, I called over there.  “What time does your trivia start?” I asked.

“First question is at 9,” said the perky female voice.  “Do you have a reservation?”

Reservation, reservation… “No.  Sorry.  Can you find room for a team of one?”

“A team of one?” the voice asked.  “Sure, come on over, I’ll make room for you.  When you get here, just ask for me.  I’m Shelby.”

Good enough.  Instead of heading toward home, I drove to Troy for the night.

Since then, I have only entered Recovery Room once.  That was Super Bowl Sunday, when there was an opportunity once again to snag choice Giants football seats in the new stadium.

But this time I arrived with a teammate.  One that didn’t eat, one that didn’t drink, but one who certainly helped start conversations from people walking by.

It was the Trivia Bowl… won the night before, by team Street Academy.