Useless knowledge has to count for something, right?
So the question becomes, if you have spent several years of your life (usually in your early post-high school or college years) in the mad pursuit of acquiring such useless facts as who was the inspiration for Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands", how is such knowledge put to use once the time comes to finally grow up?
Some of us, like myself, for example, were fortunate enough to parlay such knowledge into careers in the entertainment industry for a few years as snobby critics or low level record executives (I actually did both).
The select few of us left who hit the nerd's jackpot became millionaire computer Poindexters. As for the rest of us? Well, think of the comic book guy on The Simpsons or the guy wearing the Spock ears at your nearest Star Trek convention.
For me, this particular dilemma has been dead and center for at least the past several years since I was sent packing home to Seattle from my (actually not so) cushy record label job in L.A. This has been particularly true since I turned fifty a few months ago.
So again, the question simply becomes this:
How do I take my encyclopedic musical knowledge, which served me so well when I was the very poster boy for record store geek in my twenties and thirties, and make it work for me now?
Answer: Bar Trivia Games.
At my local watering hole, The Rocksport Bar And Grill, I've been the king of NTN Trivia for some time now. Well, that's actually not entirely true. There are a lot of very smart guys who play there every Friday night, and I can generally hang with them on the general subjects. I hang with them and that's about it, actually. I rarely win the big general knowledge games.
But on Rock Trivia? I kick ass.
NTN Trivia is played in thousands of bars across America. If you've ever been to one of them, you probably already know how it works. You are also probably familiar with the guys and gals who play it. Guys with screen names like Ratman, Fetish, and Cookie (three of the better players I play with at my beloved Rocksport).
Some use humorous names like Phoc U, when they can get away with it (Steve, the guy who plays at my bar under that very name is good enough to back that up).
My screen name is Twoeye.
I'm blind in one eye and used to wear a patch. Back then, my screen name was Oneeye. When I got my glass eye a few years back? Well, you get the drift.
So NTN trivia works like this:
Players are given a handheld device called a playmaker and answer questions displayed on a screen. Clues are given and the clock ticks down to the next question. The quicker you answer, the more points you get.
The questions will usually go something like this:
What reclusive 1960s Rock Genius finally released his great lost masterpiece Smile in 2005?
1. Kinky Friedmann
2. Bob Dylan
3. Brian Wilson
4. Wild Man Fischer
5. Bobby Sherman
If you answered Brian Wilson, you've earned yourself a drink and the right to play me the next time you are in West Seattle on a Friday night.
The etiquette surrounding these games is an iffy thing and will generally vary from bar to bar. At some places, the bars will comprise teams that share answers in the hopes of placing a national ranking (scores from all participating bars are compiled and displayed following each thirty minute game). At my bar, however, things are much more competitive and we go head to head. This can make for some humorous moments.
Like when the drunk passing by the screen will blurt out an answer (which is nine times out of ten going to be wrong) and break the concentration of a devoted player like me. This will piss me off in degrees that can usually be measured in direct correlation to the amount of drinks I've had that night.
Or when people start making excuses for wrong answers. Among the most popular are "my board died" (which actually can be a somewhat legitimate one) or the perennial favorite, "that's not the right answer!" This usually happens after the player has downed seven or more drinks.
So when I first started playing NTN bar trivia about five years ago, it used to be a pretty huge deal at my beloved Rocksport Bar And Grill. At its peak in about 2001, the back bar was literally lined up with geeks like myself, boards in hand, ready to match wits with each other.
For the group who played back then, it was a Friday night ritual and it was a lot of fun. As for the rewards of playing? Well, I won a few trinkets along the way – T-shirts, concert tickets, and the like. But certainly nothing major. Basically, it was all about bragging rights. You got respect from your fellow trivia geeks. There is a certain feeling of superiority when you are able to display your mastery of otherwise useless knowledge.
I very seriously doubt anybody ever got laid playing bar trivia and I certainly know I didn't. That was more the area of the young jocks chasing tail who co-existed with the trivia geeks at the Rocksport.
As with all good things, however, times do change.
A few of the guys who used to play got married. A few others moved away. They were replaced by other guys – some really good (there's been one standout named Dextor who kicks ass in the current news game). Others, not so much.
For me, and trust me I was a holdout, the Friday night bar trivia ritual pretty much ended six months ago when they passed the anti-smoking law in Washington State. I am much better able to concentrate on the mission at hand when I have a smoke in one hand and a Bud Light in the other.
But you know what? After staying away for six months, I've gone back the past two weeks. And damned if I haven't lost a step. There were differences in atmosphere to be sure. I had to step outside between games for a smoke, for one thing. I was only playing against three players at the bar, for another (at the peak of trivia night, there used to be as many as twenty players).
But I kicked some pretty serious ass in the Rock Trivia games. Can you say #1 in the country on the national rankings two weeks ago? I only hit #3 national last night. Still, pretty good for a guy who has stayed away for six months.
Because useless knowledge has to count for something, right?