The Super Geek Bowl in Austin
"Where do you think this thing is?" I ask my friend as we wandered Downtown, searching for the Austin Music Hall. He points ahead, where a huge crowd of people is massed outside a building. As we get closer, the 80's t-shirts and patterned sweaters let us know we had, indeed, arrived at Geek Bowl VII.
I had been very unsure what to expect; a bingo hall with hole punches was what I originally envisioned. But nothing could have been further from the truth.
Geek Bowl is the Super Bowl of pub quizzes (Super-Geek-Bowl, if you will). It's hosted by Geeks Who Drink; a nationwide company that brings quiz games into over two hundred bars in thirty-three cities spanning seventeen states. Last weekend marked the seventh annual Geek Bowl, where one hundred and fifty teams (sixty-two from Austin alone), and almost nine hundred competitors had a battle of the brains. This is a huge jump from the first Geek Bowl, where only thirty-eight teams competed.
Geeks Who Drink doesn’t host your typical pub trivia evenings. No one can say the difference quite like they can, either; to quote their website: "Most so-called 'trivia nights' consist of either an MP3J reading Trivial Pursuit cards in between bad music, or a bunch of people staring at TVs with buzzers in hand. Our quiz burns through nearly seventy multimedia questions in two exciting hours. The quizmaster gets to know the players, and smack talk flying around in all directions is pretty much par for the course."
The smack talking wasn't left out for the big day, that was for sure. Last year, a team from Philadelphia won the Geek Bowl, and during Mayor Lee Leffingwell's video welcome to the assembled nerd squads, he set the tone for friendly fire.
"We welcome you with open arms! Except for those of you from Philadelphia…" His honor kept it on an even playing field, making sure to tease the whole crowd. "Questions about, I dunno, Dungeons & Dragons or something. I'm sure it's not as pathetic as it sounds."
The Super-Geek-Bowl kicked off with a song and dance sequence dedicated to anti-cell phone use (there was even glitter involved). Round one punted the category, "Things that are on or around your ass - literally or figuratively." Most rounds had a witty punch to their titles, like when the sixth came about; "The fabric of our lives… or slavery." My friend and I jotted down what answers we could with our Yelp sponsored pens, and marveled at how little we did, in fact, know.
"I bought a discounted subscription to The Economist to get ready," a player from a local Austin team told me. His other teammate had bought all forty-four volumes of Now! That's What I Call Music! to boost his pop knowledge. Preparation for the event is not to be taken lightly, because the prizes are serious - first prize walks with $6,000; second place with $300; and third place with $1,200.
All questions were posed twice, or in the case of the music round, played twice. In a unique twist, the music portion consisted of different bands playing a song in the style of their genre. When a harpist came on stage to play One by Metallica, there was a geek-plosion that rocked the house. After all questions were asked, each team had two minutes to then hand their sheets over to a proctor.
In the end, only two points separated the first and second place winners. The McCheese Administration from Albuquerque, New Mexico took home the gold, while Hey 4th Place, Get Off The Stage! from Denver, Colorado took the close silver.
Geeks Who Drink regularly hosts pub quizzes in a handful of Austin bars, including Moontower Saloon, Gibson Bar, and Opal Divine's Penn Field. You can find a full schedule on their website. And if you attend and leave feeling a little disheartened by how few questions you could answer, just remember, you are a geek who drinks. The beer is just as important as the questions.