Okay, so some of this is covered in my review of Wordplay, but here it is from a slightly different angle. But before we go there, answers to the last entry’s questions:

Following in the footsteps of Anthony Michael Hall and Jason Lively, he played Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. More famously, he appeared as David Healey, Darlene’s boyfriend and eventual husband, in 92 episodes of Roseanne. Name this actor who currently stars as Dr. Leonard Hofstader on The Big Bang Theory.
Answer: Johnny Galecki

In the 1960s, Marvel Comics loved to liven up its titles by throwing in an extra adjective. I’ll give you a comic book title, you fill in the missing adjective, for five points each.
1. The Incredible Hulk
2. The Amazing Spider-Man
3. The Invincible Iron Man
4. The Uncanny X-Men
5. The Mighty Thor
6. The Astonishing Ant-Man

During CU‘s 2001 revival of the Trivia Bowl, I heard rumors of this thing called a “Basement Bowl.” I gathered it was some kind of trivia-oriented deal held in somebody’s basement. As you may recall, I had the epiphany in 2001 in which I realized that these are my people, so I wanted in on this Basement Bowl thingy. Sadly for me, it’s not easy to invite yourself to somebody else’s event, at least not for me it isn’t. So I asked around about it, discreetly, and got vague answers that sure, the Bowl’s always looking for new blood, and I’ll pass your name on.

I never heard back.

The next year (the final year of the revival), the same scenario played out. This time, I was more direct, asked more people, and was once again assured that my name would be given to Leonard, which I learned was the name of the guy in charge of the Bowl. I even went so far as to send email to Jason Katzman, who I knew as the film critic from CU’s unofficial newspaper, the Colorado Daily, during my student tenure. He’s part of the trivia crowd, and has a day job at the CU Bookstore, meaning that we sort-of-kind-of share an employer. I had briefly talked with him at the Bowl, and sent a follow-up email saying how much I love the trivia thing and how I’d love to be a part of any other trivia events he knows about.

I never heard back.

A couple of years later, the much much smaller-scale bowl began. That year, I once again participated, and made a connection with a guy named Dave Gatch. Dave is a wonderful guy, extremely bright and very funny, like a lot of trivia people. He’s also interested in reaching out to relative outsiders such as myself, and so that year he started taking me under his wing. In the summer of 2006, he invited me to attend the Basement Bowl at last.

And now, a bit of background. Leonard Fahrni is one of the true characters of the trivia world. Like Gatch (like all of them, really), he’s quite intelligent — he has four undergraduate degrees [3 of these simultaneously, from a triple-major] and three master’s degrees. I dunno, maybe four by now. Going to school is kind of his hobby. He teaches math at Metro State College. Plays trumpet in the National Guard’s 101st Army Band. (Actually, I know he retired from the military recently, so this may no longer be true.) He can be acid-tongued and caustic, but he can also be amazingly hospitable and generous. Oh, and he lives in his parents’ basement.

This basement is the home of the Basement Bowl. Leonard is a longtime fan of the trivia bowl, and during its heyday he watched for several years before forming his own team. When he did, they got blown out. He decided that practice was needed, and inaugurated a habit of getting some like-minded people together to write trivia questions for each other as practice for the yearly Bowl. He even got some mad scientist friend to build a buzzer set, just like the real thing.

In time, the habit morphed from practice into just a friendly event, a chance for friends to get together and do something they love. Basically, a bunch of trivia geeks descend (literally) on the place, bringing packets of toss-ups and bonuses with which to quiz others. If someone is moved to create one, there can also be multimedia quizzes, with sound clips and video clips and so forth. It’s not required that you create a game to come to the party — it’s just that most of the time at the party is spent playing these games, so the more games, the more fun.

Leonard sets up the buzzer system, but there are no set teams — everybody just sits down kind of free-form at the beginning of each new game, and a general social etiquette makes sure that everybody gets a chance to play some. Whoever wrote the game moderates it, and people just sit themselves down on sides, 4 to a team. It is very casual and non-competitive. It starts around 1:00, and goes until the questions run out. Leonard serves lasagna and salad around dinnertime, and guests generally bring drinks and snacky stuff for everybody to munch.

And OH MY GOD IT IS SO MUCH FUN.

My first time there I felt a bit overawed by the whole thing. These were people who had known each other, many of them, for upwards of 30 years. They are very tight and very bright. Some of them have actually won life-changing amounts of money on game shows. I brought a game to my first Basement Bowl and acquitted myself reasonably well, but boy was I blown away at the speed and knowledge of the people in that room. It was amazing.

Well, I must have done something right, because I got invited back. And last Saturday, I attended my 10th one. Laura is always awesome about these, taking on Dante for the day. I try to pay her back in various ways, like when she wants to climb a 14er or attend a meditation seminar or something, but I definitely appreciate how supportive she is of my fun.

For my part, I’ve tried to keep improving in the material I create for the Bowl. I’ve created at least one regular game each time, as well as some other stuff — a music game and a geek game (covering stuff like D&D, Buffy, Internet memes, etc.) I print out sheets with visual clues for bonuses, like TV screengrabs, film stills, album covers, etc. I’ve done all-audio games, like a disc of 55 song clips from one-hit-wonders. Games like that are played as an all toss-up round, often with the top scorers getting some sort of prize. I’ve also branched into video, thanks to the wonderful DownloadHelper, and integrated quite a bit of multimedia into my regular games.

And that, three blog entries later, is what “Basement Bowl” means. Now to start writing the entry I intended to write in the first place. But first: The Geek Bowl!

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