Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I just rolled back in from beautiful downtown Berkeley, where I spent a delightful evening playing pub trivia with an august quartet of fellow Jeopardy! veterans. In the wake of a recent discussion on the J! discussion boards about other forms of competitive quizzing, the five of us pulled together to take a shot at the weekly Tuesday night trivia event at the Pyramid Alehouse.

We dubbed ourselves "The Ruttersnipes" in honor of Ultimate Tournament of Champions winner Brad Rutter. Around the table, the 'Snipes were:
  • Steve Chernicoff, technical writer, a five-time champion in 1994 and member of the Elite 18 in the UTOC.

  • Dr. Dan Melia, professor at UC Berkeley, winner of the 1998 Tournament of Champions and another Elite 18 qualifier.

  • Carolyn Cracraft, UC Berkeley grad student, the 1999 College Champion.

  • Bruce England, one of the 148 unfortunate souls Ken Jennings left in his wake during his historic 74-victory run.

  • Yours truly, whose Jeopardy! stats you already know if you camp here often. I was the "old dog" on the squad, having won my original run of games way back in 1988.
Observing the Ruttersnipes with the keenly observant eye of an experienced journalist was Jon Carroll, the popular human interest columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Jon was watching to see whether this assemblage of legendary brainpower would generate any human interest worth writing a column about.

We started the game strong, ticking off nine correct answers in the ten-question first round of play. (Actually, truth be told, we had all ten right. The quizmasters blew the answer to a question about Peter Pan's hideaway and scored our correct response of "Neverland" as incorrect, judging the appropriate answer to be "Never-Never-Land." They're wrong, and you can look it up.) Then we encountered some rockier territory in rounds focused on celebrity photos -- we misidentified Brittany Murphy and Melissa Etheridge -- and war movies, dropping back to about seven points behind the leaders midway through the game. But we rallied in the last three rounds, ending up in second place, only two points off the lead.

One handicap we discovered was our being accustomed to playing at Jeopardy! speed. Given ample time to discuss our answers before submitting them, we on several occasions talked ourselves out of correct responses by overthinking. Had we been clipping along at the pace of the show, we would have had to go with our first impulse more often, and would have ended up with more correct answers.

Still in all, the evening was a blast. Meeting Dan Melia was a real treat -- he's been one of the players I've most admired over the years, and he's a delightful fellow in person. Steve Chernicoff I met seven years ago when he was the alternate for the Jeopardy! Battle of the Bay Area Brains, in which I competed and won, so it was great to see him again. Carolyn Cracraft is every bit as fascinating as she seemed in her recent UTOC appearance. And Bruce England appeared genuinely thrilled to be in the company of several J! champs not named Ken Jennings. For me, meeting Jon Carroll, whose columns I've relished for years, was icing on the cake.

After the match, we all agreed we'd enjoyed the experience enough to reconvene the Ruttersnipes again sometime in the near future. So, if you play pub trivia anywhere in the East Bay, keep an eye out for four middle-aged guys, accompanied by a lovely brunette, at a table near you. They just might be ringers.

3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Bruce England offered these pearls of wisdom...

Thanks for making the the drive Michael. My only other experience with pub trivia was the Brittania Arms in Sunnyvale 5+ years ago. It's a shame that's too far for a sniping, since they give $$ prizes and my memory is the "homegrown" questions were more fun and required more team effort. Still, I'm definitely up for a rematch.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Bill Nyden offered these pearls of wisdom...

If any or all of you would be interested, you are welcome back at the Brit. Arms any Tuesday. You won't be the only Jeopardy! alumni there.

(I won on Nov 3, 1989 and didn't win on Nov 20.)

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...

I found your site because of the Jon Carroll column. I was so excited reading about the Guttersnipes because my boyfriend and I followed the Ultimate Tournament of Champions way too closely, and knew all the names of the top people. We were like sports fans following the players on their favorite teams.

I can sympathize about your "Neverland" answer being wrong since whenever we go to Pub Trivia, the moderators inevitably mark some of our answers wrong. The day after I'm always sending out e-mails to the other members of our team with my research on the answers (and finding we were correct!)

Anyway, we live in Millbrae now (after living in Berkeley for 14 years). Next time the Ruttersnipes decide to crash a pub trivia contest somewhere, please let me know or post about it ahead of time. I would be honored to play against you guys, and ecstatic just to see all my favorite players from the local "team."

--Kathy Mikulis

6:41 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home