Lost Journal: Pleading No Contest to Trivia

Journal entry: December 9, 1994 (age 25) – Trivia

Geographically speaking, my life is perfect. I live in the trendy Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., three blocks from my job at a patent and trademark law firm. Three blocks in another direction takes me to my main hobby, frequenting the bars around 19th and M. Sign of the Whale, Rumors, and, especially, Madhatter’s are my favorites. They all serve Miller Genuine Draft in bottles and spin my current favorite record, “Missing,” by Everything But The Girl, at least once an hour.

Mel Schwing, the younger brother of my high school classmate and friend, Trina Schwing, moved to D.C. recently, and we’ve met up a few times. Mel’s tall and extremely confident when meeting women, so he makes an excellent…I don’t what the word is for the guy that a wingman follows around to meet women, but that’s him.

Today is Friday, and my after-work routine is to nap for a few hours before going out. When Mel called me this afternoon, it took him a while to talk me into altering that plan. A bar called Mister Days at 19th and L? That’s an extra block of walking. Happy hour? I prefer nappy hour. Miller Genuine Draft on DRAFT? You’ve got to be kidding me. He finally won me over by appealing to my ego. “They’re having a trivia contest, and you’re really smart, so I figured you’d be great at it.” He did have a fine point there.

Soon after we arrived at the bar, we were talking to a pair of beautiful women in black mini-dresses. I even posed for a Polaroid with them. The fact that they turned out to be employees of a liquor company selling expensive shots was ironically sobering. But I was still having fun. Meanwhile, equipment for the contest was being set up by a radio station, making this a bigger deal than I had expected. Mel looked over at me with a big, cheesy grin. “Pretty cool, huh?”

The precise moment when things turned really, really uncool was when they unfurled a banner that read “WTEM Sports Radio.” I sputtered, “This is a SPORTS trivia contest?!”  “Yeah,” Mel said with a shrug. “What’s the problem?” The problem was his unfamiliarity with my lifelong disinterest in anything sports-related. My strategy for participating in conversations about sports relies solely on having memorized one famous name from each sport. During the Super Bowl, I frequently comment that a particular player is “no Red Grange.” For baseball, I drop a few “Luis Tiant” references. For golf, I also use Luis Tiant, which usually confuses people long enough for me to excuse myself and go get more Cheetos.

But there was no getting out of this trivia contest, so I employed a new strategy: complete silence. Before Mel answered any of the questions, he turned to me for input. Each time, I furrowed my brow and rocked back and forth on my stool, as though the name of the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner was on the tip of my tongue. When the final tally revealed that Mel and I would not be proceeding to the advanced round next week, I was the happiest loser in sports history – except maybe that one guy who was happy even though he lost all those football points to Red Grange that one time.

Tim Mollen
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