Cy’s House of Trivia

I don’t pretend to be a trivia buff. It’s a well-known fact that I dislike games, and my family knows that I’m flat-out terrible at Trivial Pursuit. My mind is not razor sharp. I prefer to think about things for awhile, mull them over a bit, consider the philosophical ramifications of my answers. And, if all else fails, look things up on the Internet.

So when I heard about Cy’s House of Trivia, an event sponsored by the Iowa State Athletics Department, six years ago, it didn’t interest me in the least — especially since I just assumed it was about sports trivia.

But I had a good friend whose team did well that first year, and she said it was a blast. She also set me straight that it wasn’t about sports and that as a team you had a few minutes to come up with answers before making a final decision. Not as bad as I had imagined.

The second year of the event, my friend David Orth asked my husband, Dave, and me to be on a team. He and his wife, Bonnie, were putting a group together with some of their friends. Dave is a trivia nut — he’s really competitive and REALLY good — so he jumped at the chance to compete. David and I were there more for the fun and, as it turns out, the bad beer.

That first year, our team started out not even knowing each other really. And we certainly weren’t in it to win. Except for Dave. By the fifth round, we were in the top three and we started getting excited that we could win this thing. We ended up in second place, and from that point on, we had a team and we were hooked on this event.

That was five years ago. Our team — made up of the Orths, Dawn Taylor, Mary Taylor, Anne Taylor, and Chris Limburg — has more or less stayed intact, and we’ve all become good friends. We get together socially now and then, and we always have a party before the trivia contest where we consume some good food and decent beer before heading over to Hilton Coliseum.

Our team’s name started out “Frequently Wrong but Never in Doubt.” That pretty summed up our attitude. Unfortunately, when we signed up for the event, the organizers told us that name was way too long, so we had to shorten it. We became Team Never in Doubt.

Over the years, we have finished in the top 12 teams each time — twice finishing in the money (top 3), rewarded by free tickets to a women’s basketball game and an embarrassing introduction at halftime at said games. I’m not saying that I’m a good luck charm or help the team in any meaningful way, but the team’s worst finish was last year (12th), the one year I didn’t participate because I was in Italy.

Competition has gotten a lot stiffer. This year’s winning team had a Jeopardy champion as one of its members. And the sheer number of teams has tripled since the first year we participated. This year, 88 groups fielded a team. We finished tied for 9th — not too shabby.

Here’s how the evening works: You show up at Hilton, find out where your team’s table is located, get a wristband, and head down to the floor. The entire floor is filled with tables of eight with an extra chair for “celebrity” participants who rotate from table to table. The first part of the evening is spent eating, drinking (the food and beer have improved considerably since that first time), filling out information sheets, doing a little trash talk with the other teams, buying mulligans for later, that sort of thing. It’s a fundraising event for the Athletics Department, so there is also the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets to win fabulous prizes like autographed footballs.

The night really begins with the introduction of the celebrity participants — mostly current ISU coaches and former star players. Last night’s event was pretty special. Head football coach Paul Rhoads, men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly, volleyball coach Christy Johnson, and basketball superstar Royce White were all among the VIPs. White sat at our table first, and I couldn’t resist getting my picture taken with him. I have to say that he seems to be a nice young man who has taken his sudden fame and success in stride.

The really important part of the evening, of course, is the trivia contest itself. It’s organized into eight rounds of 10 questions each with a break at halftime during which cheerleaders bring out pizza. Categories last night included sports mascots, math, social media, and music to name a few. Our team was not thrilled with the categories since several of them proved to elicit nothing more than wild guesses. The serious trivia types on our team like more of a challenge. I’ll take a true-false category any time — it gives me a 50/50 chance.

By the end of the evening, it was clear that we weren’t going to be the big winners. But we drank our share of beer and enjoyed the camaraderie and, in the true spirit of competition, declared that there’s always next year.

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