The hidden trivia opponent

Two years ago, a team of Times Union staffers won an inaugural charity trivia event.  Last year, Trinity Alliance of the Capital District – a team that I participated on – took the title.

So last night was essentially a “rubber match” between both squads, as part of the annual SEFCU charity trivia tournament.  The grand prize?  $5,000 to the charity of the winning team’s choice.

Let’s do this.

And of course, you know that for me, this trivia battle has a deeper meaning.  I didn’t even want to glance at the Times Union squad or even know who was on their roster.  As far as I was concerned, that team may have been comprised of office staff and the like, but I just imagined them as Rex Smith, Steve Barnes, and three Kristi Gustafson Barlettes – Big Hearst in all its nasty glory.

If we came in 29th in the game, it was okay so long as the TU team came in 30th or worse.  How’s that for motivation?

The tournament began.  Each team received a handheld computerized scorepad – similar to the kind you receive when you play Buzztime / NTN trivia at your local tavern.  Each answer is multiple choice … and you have only a few seconds to answer the question.

And we’re off.

The first question involves the acting roles of legendary actor Christopher Lee.  As host Rodger Wyland stumbled through reading the question out loud – apparently Rodger has no problem reading the most complicated tennis surname, but he can’t pronounce “Saruman” or “Count Dooku” without tripping over his tonsils – the first multiple choices appeared on the viewing screen.

They listed five other possible roles Christopher Lee played.  Only one was an actual role of his.

Our team knew it cold.  Lee played Dracula in several Hammer films in the 1970’s.  I looked at my keypad.

The keypad was locked.


Electronic malfunction of some sort.  Nobody in the entire ballroom could get their keypad to work.

Eventually techies went around and explained that because of some glitch, people needed to log out of their keypads and log back into them.  After questioning this strategy – we did so.  Keypad finally accepted our Dracula answer.  We had 10 points.

A tough ten points to earn.

And that was the theme all night.  We couldn’t get through three questions in a row without the keypad freezing, coughing, nerfing, belching or spasming.  At one point in time, game staffers started handing out sheets of paper, “just in case we can’t get the system to completely work.”

Oy vey izmir.

Nevertheless, we were still doing quite well for ourselves, and by the end of two rounds we were only a few points off the lead.  The Times Union squad?  They were falling farther and farther back.

And of course, we had some snickers throughout the night about how some of the questions might give Big Hearst some fits.

One question involved a synonym for the term “obsolescence.”

“Times Union printing press,” one of my teammates snarked.

See, that kind of stuff keeps you going.

Then came the Altair question.

We had to identify the name of the double star in the Aquila constellation.  I knew it.  It was Altair.  Okay, press the button and –

Oh crap, the keypad froze up again.


Back to the question screen and –

The system rebooted itself again.

And again.

And by the time the questions popped back up – the answer was revealed.  Cheers throughout.

And we were furious.

“We never got a chance to punch in our answer,” I growled.  “That’s 20 points we left on the table.”

“We need to file a protest,” one of my teammates reassured me.

I contacted a staffer and explained the situation.

“Don’t worry,” she said.  “We have to adjust almost everybody’s score manually afterward.  If you said Altair on that question, you’ll get credited the 20 points.”

We continued to battle the other trivia teams – as well as the keypad, who must have been playing on the trivia team “Blue Screen of Death” for all its issues.  Grr.

Then again, it didn’t help that we did not correctly identify the home state of Jackie Robinson’s birth (it’s Georgia), or identify the military leader out of a list of five obscure names (don’t ask me, the name is still obscure).

So in the final tally, a team known as “Team Boom Sauce” – which I understand was made up of SEFCU employees – took the crown.  Congratulations to them, they played a hell of a game and they did their team and their company proud.

Then came the scoring adjustments.  We got our 20 points back, and the Times Union – who apparently also had a malfunctioning keypad – received 10 points back that they lost on a question.

Which meant that our Trinity Alliance team finished with 510 points…

And the Times Union finished with 510 points.

Tie ball game.

Granted, both of us also received $500 apiece for our various charities, and that’s a big win in and of itself.  Something definitely worth being proud of.


We finished in a tie.  A tie like it’s a 1980’s NHL game.

Dag nab it.

So now we have to wait until 2018 to try to break this tie.

That’s fine.  I’ll be there, and so will my Trinity Alliance team.  It’s a charitable competition, and the charities are the big winners of this event.

And just in case, I’m bringing a freakin’ spiral notebook and lots of ballpoints.

Just in case this keypad nerfs up again. 😀