Un-trivializing trivia

Yesterday during interviews of the speakers at the Toastmasters contest, one of them was asked about his interest (from a questionnaire filled out earlier for this purpose) in “memorizing things”. He enjoys going to trivia nights, and one of the members of his team is their expert on American presidents, but if that person can’t make it, he wants to be sure they have someone to handle those questions. In addition, he is working on memorizing data in two or three other categories likely to come up in trivia contests.

I enjoy trivia games, but I’ve never attended a trivia night, because they’re usually fundraisers (at least the ones held locally). I like to play just for fun, with no entry fees and no prizes. I wouldn’t want to find myself on a team that cared too much about winning. I like winning, but not enough to actually memorize trivia for the purpose of winning.

To me, the whole meaning of trivia is stuff not important enough to study. It’s stuff you just pick up over the course of a lifetime, some of it as part of formal studies but mostly just from being aware of people, events, and facts about the world around you. Studying trivia for the purpose of winning trivia games seems somehow … wrong.

I’m not sure exactly why I feel that way. People who want to win ball games put in a great deal of time and effort learning techniques to give them an edge over their opponents. People who want to win Olympic medals spend countless hours practicing their sport. My reaction to their single-minded devotion to that goal, to the exclusion of just about everything else, is a mix of admiration at their self-discipline and concern how they will adjust to normal life when their (usually brief) Olympic career is over. Their love of a sport is foreign to me, but I don’t think it’s wrong.

I suppose my reaction to the idea of studying for trivia nights is a bit like the feeling that used to keep pros out of the Olympics. If people who could afford (due to being paid for their athletic performance) to spend all their time developing expertise in the sport were allowed to compete, “regular” people (amateurs) would have little or no chance. It just wasn’t “sporting.” (Besides, the root meaning of sport is leisure – if you get paid for it, it’s not leisure, is it?)

If I wanted to spend my leisure time learning lists of trivia, I imagine I could do pretty well at trivia nights. But the more that people study for trivia nights, the more that other people would feel the need to study to be able to beat them. Pretty soon it would just be too much work to be fun.

I like learning. Just not for the sake of winning trivia games.


2 Responses to Un-trivializing trivia

  1. Karen O says:

    I agree, Pauline. I love to learn & I love picking up tid bits of trivia here & there, but I wouldn’t want to have to work at it.

    Plus, the people who do work at it are probably too competitive for my taste.

  2. Debra Baker says:

    Sort of my feelings about trivia.

    But I’m the font of useless information.

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