We are all linked in certain ways to certain people. The smaller the group, the closer the knit, the more bonded we feel. On the broadest scale, we are human beings, relating to each other because we share a phase in evolutionary progress. We are Americans. We are Tennesseans. We are Memphians. As the sizes of these groups lessen, our loyalty builds. If we hear about a fellow Memphian in the grander scheme of national news, we experience a sense of camaraderie. If a coworker or neighbor is put on public trial, we will stand in support of his cause.
It is loyalty and community like this that sometimes surprises me, especially under circumstances of competition. So when I heard applause break through the hanging smoke of the crowded barroom tonight, I was brought nearly to tears. The 12th-place name announced was ours, and the clapping came from a team across the room, one with whom we’d been competing the past few months at a similarly smoky barroom across town. To hear anyone applaud for us besides ourselves was surprising, but it reminded me how closely knit we feel coming from the same Wednesday-night Fox & Hound subset of the Memphis Trivia League.
Here is a quick rundown of how the league works for those unfamiliar… Teams convene at 43 bars across Memphis and the surrounding area and vie for points, gift certificates and standing at their respective bars. This regular competition goes on for a number of weeks, during which teams can be comprised of any number of players and show up whenever they want. At our location, first, second and third place teams each week received $50, $25 and $10 gift certificates (respectively) to the Fox & Hound for food, games and non-alcoholic drinks. Other bars have their own system for compensation. Each win gives that team a certain number of points that are tallied on the online leaderboard. Once the regular season ends, the top five teams from each location qualify for the first round of semifinals. Seven bars’ worth of teams compete in these initial semi-finals. With no-shows, 28 teams were in the game tonight at Brookhaven Pub & Grill off Poplar. From here, the top 12 teams will advance to the next round of semi-finals and on into infamy.
In all those weeks at the Fox & Hound, we began forming bonds, not only with our own teammates, but also with those who faced similar challenges. With a cheating team constantly coming out on top, we became closer with the often second-place winners, Spinal Tappin’ That Ass (hereafter STTA). They are a kind-mannered bunch of nerds (like us) who win totally on their own smarts and merit, no iPhones necessary. We always felt better when STTA beat Boats and Hoes (the cheaters, hereafter B&H) and when STTA showed up so low in the standings at halftime tonight, we were sad for them. B&H didn’t show their faces, but we still wanted STTA to make it through. They deserved it after such a valiant effort in the regular season. Little did I know, but STTA was cheering us on too.
When the final 12 teams were called that qualified for round two, we clapped when STTA was tied for 9th place. And when they called us as team 12, STTA cheered for us. Not just clapped, but CHEERED. They then walked over to our table, congratulated us with big smiles. Even as competitors, we were so happy to see that both teams had made it through. I rarely see such genuine sentiment these days. We were bonded by our shared location, our honest/fair playing practices, our desire to beat B&H into the ground and a general nerdiness that comes with being trivia players. And we were both underdogs, rising from the ashes of 25th+ place and 20th place to reach 9th and 12th. That’s a lot to go on.
Humanity astounds me sometimes. Even when I feel like the most selfish person alive, I still know that I’d be happy to see STTA win it all. It wouldn’t make me feel like I’d won it all by association. And I wouldn’t feel envious that we didn’t make it that far. I’d just feel happy that these great people won. That they showed us support, and we showed it back, and they took the win. I hope that happens. They’d deserve it.
Go BBB, go STTA. Team Trivia FTW.