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Column: The trivia question that went wrong

In grade school, there was little doubt about what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Not only had I decided by eight years old that I wanted to be a play-by-play announcer, but I was already preparing myself to be the replacement for University of Wyoming legend Mr. David Walsh. I’ve listened to countless games on the radio and watched even more on television and have never seen anybody quite as good as Walsh, who retired a couple of years ago.

Growing up in a family who were huge Wyoming fans, there were plenty of trips to Laramie and across the western United States to watch our beloved Pokes, but when we were not in attendance, the game was always on the radio. Our preferred method was to follow the game with the captivating charm of the “Voice of the Cowboys.”

Part of the fun of listening to a radio broadcast was the pregame show, at a time when you could learn a lot about the upcoming matchup, which was very appealing at a time before quickly accessing something online.

My favorite part of the pregame show was the trivia contest, where the first caller to answer the question would receive a prize, which always seemed to be a $25 gift certificate for “Wyoming Beef.”

In late grade school and my early years of junior high, I would read everything I possibly could about sports. We not only had the local paper, statewide paper, and the Denver Post, but we also subscribed to Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News. Every once in a while, I would be able to get my hands on a Wyoming “media guide,” which was a Treasure Chest of Information. I would also pay close attention to my grandpa, Dad, and Uncle when they would share stories about past games, players, and teams.

The first time I won the trivia question was in the sixth grade. I felt like a king, not only able to have my voice on air to answer the question but get it right. This would be far from my first correct question.

By the time I was in junior high, I had won about seven or eight times over a few months. One fall afternoon, I took a bus with my grandparents to a game, and it probably looked ridiculous as I was walking around the tailgate area with my Walkman listening to the pregame show. As soon as it came time for the question, I realized I knew the answer and scrambled to try and find a pay phone. I found one in the basketball stadium concourse and nailed the question for another $25 bucks in beef.

A few weeks later, I called during the basketball season and was informed that I had won too many times, and they told me not to call for a while. I was young enough not to realize how awesome it was to have been so good at something that they wanted someone else to win. I was angry and quit listening to the weekly trivia question.

Fast forward five or six years, I was a freshman at UW and listening to the pregame show for a road basketball game in the dorm room with my cousin. While I was still religiously listening to the games, I had been skipping the pregame show, so this was the first time I had heard the trivia question in quite some time.

As soon as they asked who the teams were at the 1979 Final Four, I realized I knew the answer and decided it would be fun to try and call in and hope that I had forgotten about my winning streak.

I was pretty little and had no recollection of the 1979 Final Four. Still, I am a big enough college basketball fan to know that the National Championship featured a Larry Bird-led Indiana State squad against Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans. I also remember my dad telling me about the Final Four because it was played in Salt Lake City, just a few hours from my hometown.

I called at the right moment and was the first to go on air to try and answer the question.

I remember answering Indiana State, Michigan State, and Penn, but I blanked when it came time for the fourth team. Two minutes ago, I knew it was DePaul, but I froze at the moment and gave the wrong answer.

This is when things went a little sideways. My reaction to hearing I had given the wrong answer was to mumble, “Oh s**t” on a live broadcast. I quickly hung up and ran out of my dorm room. I cannot believe what I had just done.

Much like during the winning streak, I think my on-air behavior had probably just banned me from winning the trivia question. To this day, mostly out of embarrassment, I have never tried again. I’m unsure if they still have a weekly question, but I would never dare try again.

The following year, I interned with a radio station and was politely told I didn’t have a voice for radio, which put a damper on my plans, but I was okay with that. I obviously could not be trusted.

A couple of years ago, when I owned the paper in Whitehall, I did the radio broadcast for a handful of games for the Trojans. It was stressful but also a lot of fun. It always validated that it’s probably good I cursed on air.

 
 
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