My dad wasn't just rolling over in his grave, he was screaming at me.
And I could hear him, loud and clear.
You so stupid if they put your brain in a gnat's butt, it would fly backwards.
His admonishment did me no good. In my first attempt to win a live contest called "Team Trivia," needing only one answer to capture more than enough money to cover my garlic Parmesan chicken wings and potato wedges at Buffalo Wild Wings, I sat lost and confused.
How could I blow this chance after singularly competing against 12 teams and answering all manner of trivia questions to put myself in contention?
How could I, the son of an art professor, not know which artist died of a self-afflicted gunshot wound in 1890? How could I not recall one salient point from the 200 art history books I shared a home with for 18 years.
Oh, my dad would have been so mad.
It's van Gogh, you idiot.
This is the lure of live trivia contests. Like the network game you play with a keypad at various restaurants, it's free to participants. But live trivia is different because it includes a host at the site asking questions and stirring competition among different teams.
Sure, it can be a great gathering for colleagues, friends and family. The questions can spur conversation over a meal. Teaming together can make the evening more fun.
But I like trivia for the sheer pursuit of genius. I genuinely believe I can answer every question, and I celebrate every correct answer as if I just found a winning lottery ticket.
Never mind that I define genius as knowing Jeff Conaway played Bobby Wheeler on Taxi, or that the 1989 hit album The Raw And The Cooked was recorded by the Fine Young Cannibals.
The fact that I can find such meaningless facts rattling around my brain the same week I lost my car keys and struggled to remember lunch appointments makes me brilliant. Well, it does.
Until, of course, they pose a question that requires true academic prowess. Sure, I know the WWE's Raw always airs on Monday, but don't ask me about the longest mountain range in the world.
Monica Van Liew, the live trivia leader, asks which four planets have the shortest days, and I sit baffled, cursing myself for focusing more on my seventh-grade science teacher's beautiful red hair and less on what she was actually saying. Then I wonder where Christine Powell and her beautiful red hair might be today as other contestants hurriedly scribble down Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus.
Genius? Maybe not.
But Van Liew understands the drive. She began playing live trivia years ago. Back then she was a young mother who wanted a night out of the house but didn't want to go to a bar or sing karaoke.
"I used to call it 'Mommy's bowling night,' " Van Liew laughed. "I'm not very athletic, but I'm smart. At least I like to think I am.
"You get to know the other teams, and you want to beat them. It's not like your typical night out. There's a goal. There's something to do."
As for the specific game Van Liew promotes, the rules are fairly simple. In each round you get three categories and three sets of varied point values. You place your highest point values on the categories you have the best chance of answering — for me, it's something like "teachers with red hair" — and your lowest point value on your worst category — think "7th-grade science."
The host asks a question, plays a song and you write down your guess on a slip and take it up before the song is over. She keeps a running tally, and on the final question you can bet up to 15 points.
Winners take home varied prizes, including cash and gift cards.
Live trivia contests have been around Tampa Bay for a while. Team Trivia, arguably the most popular brand, is currently available at restaurants in Pinellas Park, New Tampa, Citrus Park, South Tampa, Temple Terrace, Brandon and Riverview.
Eric Bergman, who recently moved from West Virginia to head up Team Trivia in Tampa Bay said establishments like the concept and cover the costs because it brings in business on slow nights. It's not uncommon for some teams to visit two to three restaurants in a week.
Bergman hopes to grow that trend with a new facet: league play. He launched a 20-week season Monday, and the top 25 teams at the end of the season compete in a live tournament for cash prizes that could total in the tens of thousands.
That's likely to attract a lot of players, but for me, it'll never be about the money.
It's about the genius.
That's all I'm saying.