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Do you know a lot about nothing?

November 4, 2010   Tuesday night was a very important night for a lot of people. But while many around campus were either cheering or despairing over the Republican takeover of the House, trying to figure out whether Carl Paladino was actually threatening to go after Andrew Cuomo with a baseball bat, or learning the answer to, “How many panelists can we fit around one table?” by watching CNN, I, like many Hamilton students, piled into the Little Pub for a little break by indulging in some Trivia Night, Hamilton College style.

Even on a campus that in some ways functions as its own little bubble, it’s nice to have places like Trivia Night to get away. On a Tuesday night, it’s probably not entirely advisable to commit two hours to sitting in the Pub trying to figure out such important keys to life as what the opening line to The Hangover was and whether it was Charlie Sheen or Emilio Estevez who played Bud Fox in Wall Street. But to some extent you have to be willing to give yourself some mental breaks, because there are only so many readings one can do on the Mughal Empire and Modernization Theory before you start to lose your mind. 

So, aside from a semester hiatus in the spring of my freshmen year, I’ve been going to Trivia Night every Tuesday since getting to Hamilton, shuffling through different teams and team names. Having a good trivia team name that you’re comfortable with is almost as important as actually getting any of the questions right, which is why the teams I’ve played on generally shuffle through team names at the same general rate as Larry King goes through wives. We settled on Salvador’s Deli as a team name for a couple of months because for once we were satisfied enough with a pun we had come up with, but even that lost its luster after a while. 

Our team in its current manifestation, ‘Habibi Sloppyhouse,’ consists of myself, Catherine Boyd ’12, Jeff Chandler ’11, Nick Green ’12, and Laurie Horesta ’12. We’re not very good. We’re not bad. But we’re not very good. But hey, at least after an hour you’ll usually find us interested in awkwardly dancing in our chairs to the tunes pumping through the speakers courtesy of Paul Ryan (who seems to be going through an indie folk sort of stage in his life -- what’s with all the Tallest Man on Earth and Mumford and Sons, Paul?). 

For Halloween, we decided on a NASCAR theme for our trivia costumes, which is why Nick and Laurie came dressed as race car drivers, Jeff as a spectacular NASCAR fan with a Dale Earnhardt Jr. shirt and jorts to boot, Cat as a race car, and I came sporting… a dress. NASCAR wife, you see?
Even when you’re rarely in contention for the prizes (vouchers for Tex Mex, a restaurant in town), it’s still very easy to get wrapped up in the competitiveness of trivia. Which is why in the time Paul announces the question and then turns on, “Club Can’t Handle Me” by Flo Rida, you will often go through several stages: First, you wonder how in the world someone would know how many hurdles someone jumps over in a 110 meter sprint. Then, you start doing completely arbitrary sorts of estimates, listening to your teammates who “did track in middle school” try to relive their glory days as we to try to come to some sort of conclusion. Next, you settle yourself on an answer, and say, “Okay, whatever, I bet there’s eight.” And then, as you and your teammates dance bemusedly to the music and wait for the song to end so that the answer will be announced, you convince yourself that you’re right. Finally, when you learn that there are in fact 10 hurdles in a 110-meter sprint, you kick yourself, because of course you should have known that. 

Despite the fact that your confidence on the subject came from the fact that you convinced yourself over the past three minutes that you have a photographic memory and in fact could see clearly that race from the 2004 Athens Olympics in your head, you allowed yourself to believe you were going to get it right. And so even if you’re 25 points behind already, you’re somehow MORE disappointed about missing that than you are all the other ones. 

Trivia Night is always a night of stupendous highs and soul crushing lows. Being convinced by a teammate to wager the maximum eight points on a 3rd round question only to find out that Nebraska is NOT the geographic center of the Continental United States can really put a strain on a friendship, after all. 

But there isn’t a better feeling in the world than putting yourself out on a limb and saying that the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals are the only major league baseball teams never to play in a World Series game, and being RIGHT. You all high five, forget that you’re going to be up till 2 in the morning doing your anthro reading, and for those few moments, all is right in the world. 

And hey, there was even that one time last semester when team Salvador’s Deli inexplicably found ourselves in the winner’s circle. I believe the question that won it for us was something about how many toes a cat has. We, of course, had no idea, and debated the whole time between 16 or 20 (either 5 on each paw, or 4). Coming to no conclusion, we said, “What the hell, let’s just split the difference, put 18, and bet the maximum 10 points.” And like every one of our only somewhat educated guesses that night, we turned out to be right. Out of that we got something like $25 at Tex Mex divided five ways, but let me tell you, there’s nothing like knowing that the chips and salsa you’re munching on are a direct result of your knowledge that a golf ball weighs less than a tennis ball which weighs less than a cricket ball. 

In addition to giving prizes to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place every week, a ‘random’ 4th place prize is given every week too, just to give hope to all of the teams like ours that are content with being in the middle of the pack most weeks. I think freshman year my team won that once, but for pretty much the last two years we’ve been going back every week and always seeing some other team win it. Not complaining or anything, but… okay, so yes, I am complaining. Show us the love!