Festivus captures Trivia 49 title
By Gene Kemmeter
Festivus for the Rest of Us overcame the “Blizzard of Oz” and won “Trivia Rush of 49” early Monday, April 16.
The contest is broadcast for 54 hours on the 90 FM WWSP, the radio station at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP).
The victory was the third straight for Festivus, as the team compiled 17,865 points to finish ahead of the 17,110 points recorded by Dad’s Computers.
It was also the third straight year Dad’s was second after winning the previous three years, from 2013-15, when Festivus finished second.
Festivus won for the first time in 2012, when Dad’s was second. The prior four years, the team Network won the contest using variations of its name while doing so, the last time in 2011 as The Anti-Social Network.
This year’s contest really was a contest where thousands of players on 359 teams hunkered down in homes, apartments and residence halls because of a snowstorm that trivia players on social media dubbed “Blizzard of Oz” in honor of Jim “The Oz” Oliva, who writes the Trivia Contest questions with John Eckendorf.
The hazardous travel conditions prompted the radio station to cancel the two Running Questions and the Trivia Stone competition to keep players off the streets as road crews battled to keep up against the snow.
“The contest went well, but there was lots of stress with the snow,” Oliva said. When he opened the phone complaint line, he said he was bombarded by callers complaining about the snow for two hours before he was finally able to get away to make some decisions to deal with the weather.
The first clue of the Trivia Stone was broadcast, he said, but by the time the second clue was due, that competition was called off. That marked the second time that competition in the contest was called off because of snow.
The previous time was in 2008 when participants were unable to see the necessary items to follow the clues because they were covered by the snow, which also created hazardous traveling conditions.
Brandon Flugaur of Festivus said the snowstorm impacted the team because many members basically had to stay put because the street wasn’t plowed, and the cancelation of the two competitions allowed more people to help out during the contest because they didn’t have to leave the team headquarters.
The key to the win, he said, was sticking to preparation for the contest.
“It gets harder every year. We’re getting married and having children, so in a sense we’re used to being sleep deprived,” he said.
The team started when its members were in high school and the membership has morphed through the years as some moved
away and were replaced by college friends and co-workers, he said.
Festivus was able to correctly answer questions worth 400 and 500 points early Sunday morning, Flugaur said, and that
helped the team separate from others.
“The contest requires teamwork to answer a challenging question,” he said. “Everyone helped a little because the questions covered so many different areas.”
Eckendorf agreed the snow impacted the contest, but volunteers stepped in to help out.
“About 90 percent of the volunteers to answer phones showed up, which was incredible because of the weather. We can write questions, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t have volunteer support for the contest,” he said.
The snow presented problems for businesses that provide food during the weekend because the snow forced them to close early, he said, complimenting Nathan Hansen, sports director of the radio station who coordinated and picked up food, for his efforts to keep volunteers fed.
On Sunday night, McDonald’s Restaurant was the only food place open on the north side of the city, he said, and there was a 45-minute wait to get something because of the demand.
This year, the contest included live internet streaming of the events instead of showing the live broadcast on the university’s cable channel, and Eckendorf said the switch was made for various reasons, one of which was to improve the technical quality of the picture.
“I thought the quality was incredible,” he said.
Staffer John Kluck, known as John Louis on the air, and his wife helped coordinate the switch, Eckendorf said, and that enabled the station to track viewers, showing more than 16,000 viewers tuned in, including 500 watching at one time.
Eckendorf acknowledged that writing the questions for the contest has become more difficult because of all the sources available.
“We have to ask for something very specific but in a way so we don’t give away clues,” he said. “Trivia Unplugged is easier to write the questions for because there’s no internet.”
He said writing the questions remains a labor of love for Oliva and himself. “Trivia is a great diversion from what else goes on in life.”
Oliva said the only reason he writes the contest is to have fun, so he and Eckendorf try to add some fun things to the questions, such as asking multiple questions in an hour to follow a theme or playing a song that was the answer to the previous question.
The pair also have to adjust to deal with changing situations, such as the snow. The two spent about a weekend writing the Trivia Stone clues, and then they spent Thursday driving the routes to make sure the clues were still in place.
All that work went for naught, Oliva said, and they’ll write new clues because things will be different next year.
One other adjustment that needed to be made, he said, was for the Music Snippets, with teams identifying about eight short segments of songs.
Usually, teams brought their answers to the radio station, but the snow forced them to email their answers. That created problems for some teams because there was no form to fill in so Oliva had to create one.
“There’s no such thing as ‘so simple even a moron can do it,’” he said. About 95 percent of the teams followed the directions, but others sent in the answers in photo or Word documents instead of simple text.
With text, he was able to simply copy and paste the answers onto a score sheet, he said, but he had retype or go through a longer process with the other documents.
Those other submissions were time consuming to process, especially with about 300 submissions, he said, and by the third segment, players finally followed the directions, although the station was still getting answers at 8:30 p.m., an hour after the deadline.
During the contest, one volunteer was caught cheating, resulting in the volunteer and his team being disqualified.
Oliva said the scoring system is set up to detect efforts to cheat, and this is the second time a team has been disqualified because a member tried cheating after volunteering to answer the phones.
The previous incident was about two decades ago.