The Superbowl for Geeks

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Photo caption: John Dicker hosts Geeks Who Drink at the Irish Snug in Denver.

Tomorrow (January 30th) hundreds of nerds from around the country-- and they’d be proud to call themselves that-- will descend on Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium to test their knowledge of random facts in Geek Bowl V. It’s billed as the largest trivia competition in the US. The teams that compete play trivia all the time at local bars through something called “Geeks Who Drink.” Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee gives us a glimpse. Then Ryan Warner talks with the man behind Geeks Who Drink, John Dicker.

Saturday hundreds of nerds from around the country will descend on Denver’s Filmore Theatre to test their knowledge of useless facts in Geek Bowl V.. The event bills itself as the largest trivia competition in America. This brutal cranial challenge is the brainchild of the Denver-based bar trivia company, Geeks Who Drink. We sent Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee to one of the local trivia nights to see what it’s all about.

It’s a Tuesday night and the basement of the Irish Snug bar in Denver is packed. On the loud speaker, quizmaster John Dicker reads trivia questions that cover everything from what's the largest predatory land mammal (answer: polar bears) to who played the stepfather in the film 'Shaun of the Dead' (answer: Bill Nighy). All around Dicker, groups of twenty- and thirty-somethings sit at crammed tables, whispering and scribbling furiously.

At one table, thee four guys who go by the team name the Piccadilly Twits are agonizing about which former senator is facing Rahm Emanuel in the Chicago mayors race.

'Picadilly Twits' is one of the few team names here I can safely say on the radio. At trivia night, wit and raunch go hand in hand. The general rule is, the filthier the funnier. Twits Parker Given and David Hosana have been coming to Geeks Who Drink nights at various bars in Denver for years now.

GIVEN: “It’s something to do while you drink.”
HOSANA: “It’s a good mental workout.”
GIVEN: “Gets geeks out of the house sometimes. It’s nice.”

There are lots would-be trivia stars here hoping to have a shot at Geek Bowl glory, but there’s one team to beat: The Slumpbusters. They’re the reigning champs, holders of the Geek Bowl Trophy. You don’t get a title like that by taking things casually. These guys have matching T-shirts and a team cheer. But members Julio Trujillo and Rob Knight say there’s no particular secret to their success.

TRUJILLO: "Studying doesn’t work. You just have to know it."
KNIGHT: “Our brains are kind of like sponges. And you just kind of have to go through the natural process of letting them soak s--- up.”

You want a sense of the role trivia can play in a guy’s life? Knight proposed to his wife here, and she put Tuesday night trivia in their wedding vows. His fellow Slumpbuster Trujillo proudly tells the story.

TRUJILLO: "So it literally says, ‘I will always let you go play with the Slumpbusters every Tuesday.’ And so whenever Shannon, his wife [says] “Oh, I need him home for...” It’s like, 'we’re in the vows, sorry Shannon. He gets to come out and play trivia ‘cause you promised, it was there, we all heard it, were were all there.'"

A confession: I’ve played trivia here at the Snug more than a few times, for a team whose name I can’t say on the radio. And one thing I can’t get over? By the end of the night the emcee always gets the crowd to sing, and not just any song -- the theme song to 'Real American Hero.' It's quite the auditory experience.

If a regular Geeks Who Drink night seems wacky, just imagine all that tipsy energy ramped up a couple hundred notches -- that’s Geek Bowl. And tomorrow, the Slumpbusters, the Piccadilly Twits, and more than a hundred other teams will take part, trying to wrack their brains to victory.