So I’ve talked a little bit about this before in that the highlight of my midweek is trivia on Wednesday. A bunch of friends play at a restaurant/pub in Cambridge on a team. The make-up of the team changes from week to week as does our performance. We have a more or less core group of people that go (thankfully they are the people that provide most of the answers) and then a large number of people who make cameo appearances. Being that I’m way too competitive…especially with things like this, and because I’ve played on a good number of trivia teams (many through college and then quite a few since then); I think I finally have a grasp on what makes a team successful or not. I’m going to make my guidelines based on a fairly standard format of 4-6 person teams with limited time to answer and no outside resources (i.e. no iPhones blackberries etc…though I think some people cheat at our particular event). Trivia nights all focus around particular categories and a successful team has keen understanding of those categories. A team full of people who know “trivia” is paradoxically a bad idea. Instead, you need a division of labor approach where individuals have particular expertise. A great team would have the following key strengths in particular players
1. Pop culture phenom – This is the person that watches too much TV and isn’t too particular to one type of TV. The guy who sits at home watching shark week on the discovery channel all the time isn’t much good here in comparison to the guy who tivos all the prime time dramas and sit-coms from all the major networks. The guy who secretly sits through ryan seacrest’s top40 and reads People magazine like it’s the New York Times. They will be responsible for TV, Music, and Celebrity identification questions. If they can name all the members of the brat pack and the rat pack…you might be set.
2. The News Junkie – That person who has too much free time and fills it with newspapers, newsweek, time, the economist, and watches CNN headline news. If someone on your team can name members of the council on foreign relations and can name all the member states of the EU…that’s your guy. This person needs to stay up to date on current events. They are actually very similar to the pop culture expert just with different priorities.
3. The Historian – What was the “bulge” in the battle of the bulge? If know the answer to that…then you might be the historian. A trivia team needs some diversity here too. Being that there is 4000 years of human civilization to cover, questions can never be too specific but the range of possibilities is very high. A history major in college is a good choice, a guy with a PhD in antebellum architecture is not. Both historical but only one is going to get you any place at trivia.
4. A scientist – Someone to tell the team why degrees Kelvin and degrees Celsius are different. The scientist suffers like all the other categories from being too specific in many cases. While being a scientist myself…I might fit into this category, in reality its probably not my best. The problem stems from being too focused. You need the guy that reads popular science as a hobby and not fungal molecular physiology as a career.
5. The Sports Nut- the most straightforward but also the most elusive team member. Finding that right mix of sports fan who can not only rattle off baseball stats but can figure out whats going on in a rugby scrum. A knowledge of history is also key here too…players on great teams, recent MVPs and hall of fame inductees are crucial. ESPN watchers are a good start but a student of the game(s) is what’s required.
6. The Sweeper – The person that picks up the slack with truly useless knowledge. Things that no one should be expected to know are common knowledge to this player. He rattles off that a group of barracudas is called a battery like he just saw it yesterday. This players knowledge is a combination of inspiring and disturbing.
If only my regular teams could have these people all the time. For those of you out there reading…we need a sports nut.