Trivia diehards storm the Amsterdam for Trivia Mafia's first Tournament of Champions
One of these teams emerged the Masters of the Universe of Trivia in Minnesota (and $1,000 richer).
courtesy Trivia Mafia
On Saturday night, more than 150 trivia champions crowded into the Amsterdam Bar in downtown St. Paul. For five hours, they answered -- or tried to answer -- questions like, "How do you say bear in Hindi?" or, with a picture, "Which TV show is this dog from?" Their brain power was focused on winning the title Masters of the Universe of Trivia in Minnesota, and $1,000 in grand prize money.
All 38 teams had tasted victory before -- to qualify for the tournament, they had to place in aTrivia Mafia
pub quiz in the first three weeks of September. The Mafia is the five-year-old Twin Cities trivia empire that runs bar games in more than 30 venues across the metro. Its Godfathers are Sean McPherson, who spent Saturday frantically tallying teams' scores in Excel between rounds, and Chuck Terhark, who wrote many of the questions for the event.
Those questions: They were harder than usual. The first round was "outrageously difficult general knowledge," says McPherson. Of five questions in the round, no team got more than three correct. The next rounds had images, audio clips, lists, and other combinations and variations on question types throughout the night.
"We crafted particularly difficult questions, and we made sure none of these questions had been used before," McPherson says. "We wanted to challenge those people who come to our events every week."
One of those regulars is Michael Herman, whose four-person team, "And, Go Fuck Yourself," plays every Wednesday at Cafeteria in Uptown, and some Fridays at the 331 Club. Herman's group was stumped during an image round that focused on the roles of B-list actor Harry Dean Stanton. The last question of the round showed Stanton in a security guard outfit. "We didn't know exactly what film it was from," Herman says, "And we half-jokingly put down The Avengers."
It was the right guess, and that kind of half-lucky, half-educated answer is part of the reason Herman's team took the night's championship title. But the results were close: at the halfway point, none of the teams who won first, second, or third were ranked at all.
"And, Go Fuck Yourself" wasn't the most experienced team competing, either; though Herman has known one of his teammates since they were teens, the foursome has only been playing trivia together for six months. They plan on spending the prize money on a few short trips, and so far are thinking of a weekend at a team member's cabin and a visit to the Water Park of America.
For other Masters of Trivia hopefuls, McPherson and Terhark aim to make the Tournament a biannual event. "As we've grown, it's been harder to stay connected with the people who play," McPherson says. "We wanted to try to make something special for a loyal set of folks who come to a lot of our trivia."
That loyal crew turned out. The first week that teams could qualify for the event, attendance at Trivia Mafia's pub quizzes was up 10 percent, and on Saturday, the room was packed with trivia diehards from throughout the metro, from Eden Prairie to St. Anthony. As different hosts got on stage to read questions, the teams who play at their home location cheered.
"A lot of the folks that do our trivia are trivia people. They were going to get something like this in their life anyway, but we were able to make it a more robust network," McPherson says. "Now, this culture of goofy jokes and hanging on weekday nights has spread far beyond me and Chuck. The night was just a huge knockout."
A few of the hosts, including Sean McPherson in the red sweater and Chuck Terhark in the red bow tie, look at the scores.
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