The Winners with Brad Rutter standing behind them.
When I lived with my parents, if the phone rang between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. we did not answer it by saying “Hello.” We said “Jeopardy! is on” and hung up. That half hour every weeknight was sacred. We would scream out the answers (If we knew them). My family was always competitive, especially in mind games. We all thought we were smart. Maybe we were, but the years, beers, and drugs have taken their toll on me, and last night I got a big reality check.
Last night the Lancaster Library had another “Are you Smarter than a Librarian” event, a literary trivia contest built for bookworms. The Librarian team competed against about 20 other local teams in the contest, and they were out for blood. The last time they held one of these events, the Library team got creamed by the competition, and they were determined not to let that embarrassing moment happen again.
There are some very knowledgeable people in Lancaster and these trivia contests are very popular in the local bars. Like usual, this contest was held in one of the local bars, Tellus 360, so I was psyched up to attend. I didn’t actually enter in the contest because you needed a team of 7 people, and quite frankly, I don’t even know 6 other people in town who like to read. Even though I wasn’t in the actual competition, I was given an answer sheet so that I could play along.
I said that there are some very knowledgeable people here, and the most famous was Brad Rutter, a Lancaster native who won over $2,000,000 on Jeopardy!, defeating such well-known opponents as the 74-time Champion, Ken Jennings, in the Tournament of Champions. The only one who ever beat Brad was Watson, the IBM Brainiac computer. Brad, who now lives on the West Coast, was in town to host the show.
There were 7 rounds of 10 questions each and the first round was Literary Potpourri. I got 5 out of 10 correct. I put down “Colossus” as the name of the poem on the Statue of Liberty. The correct answer was “The New Colossus.” So, I was close but no cigar. Damn.
The next round was Wizarding World, and not having read the Harry Potter books killed me. I muggled my way through and only got 1 out of 10 correct. I figured I would make up for that round in the next round, What the Dickens! Unfortunately, I only got 4 right in that category. The next category was Pictures: Late but Great. I only recognized one face, but I even got that wrong when I wrote down Angela Mayou instead of Maya Angelou. I thought Kurt Vonnegut, Jr looked like one of those Russian writers who spent too much time in the gulag. It wasn’t a very flattering picture of him, and certainly never appeared on any of his book jackets. So, I wound up with a zero in that category.
We moved on to Sound: Is the Force with you? Jar Jar Binks and Lando Calrissian were the only voices I recognized. There were no easy ones, like Darth Vader’s, “I am your father” or Princess Leia’s “Help me, Obi Wan”, So, I only got two correct. The Force was not with me. The next category was One Hit Wonders. If they were talking rock n roll songs, I was in, but they were talking authors and I was out of my comfort zone. I only managed to get 4 out of 10 correct. The last category was Heroes and Villains. I recently listened to a 5 CD audio book about Heroes and Villains in literature. I knew about everyone from Beowulf to Lizbeth Salandar, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was pumped to finish on a high note. Then, most of the questions were about Marvel comic book characters. I was a DC Comics fan as a kid, so I only got The Joker, and Mr. Freeze. Those two correct answers brought my total up to 18 out of 70.
There was a bonus question. Name the four Jane Austen books that were published in her lifetime. All I could think of was Pride and Prejudice. So, no bonus points for me. My final score was 18. Was I smarter than a Librarian? No, I was as dumb as a doorknob. Most of the teams scored in the 50s and 60s. I did singlehandedly beat out one team, though. The Tequila Mockingbird team only had 17 correct answers. They had an excuse though. They were all doing shots of tequila before every round. They were there for the party.
The Librarian team won in a squeaker, and afterwards I went up to Brad Rutter to shake his hand and tell him a story about when I watched him years ago in the Tournament of Champions on Jeopardy! I told him that my favorite sport is Harness Racing, and I was shocked when none of the three great champions on the show knew that the vehicle the horses pull in a harness race is called a sulky. I told him that was my “Aha moment” when I knew my favorite sport was in serious trouble and needed way more TV coverage.
I didn’t do well in the contest, but I did learn one thing. The next time the library holds an Are You Smarter than a Librarian contest, I’m going to try to get my well-read New York friends Patrice, John, and Margaret to visit Lancaster that day and be on my team. My two brothers would also be welcome additions to the team. I’m sure that my brother Kevin would have gotten all the comic book questions right. That would only leave room on the team for one more player. I wonder what Ken Jennings is doing these days.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,
P.S. I went to the library today and it wasn’t open. There was a paper sign taped to the door “The library is closed today” with a picture of a big snow flake. The weather forecast had called for several inches of snow. We only got one inch and it was melted by noon. I imagined that more likely the library was closed because all the librarians were hung over. They were still partying pretty hard when I left the bar. I’m glad the weatherman gave them a well-deserved day off to celebrate their victory.