Every time you turn around, someone in this country is trying to take some aspect of American culture which is organic, fun, independent, rich with variety and mildly profitable and turn it into something rigid, corporate, stratified, labelled, homogenized and overpriced. Unless we're careful the next victim will be our own beloved quizzes.
A few days ago, the Philadelphia-heavy Quizzo entry on Wikipedia was amended to include the rule variations in my quizzes and with a link to this blog in the External Links section. I have "Quizzo" on my Wikipedia "Watchlist" and was therefore notified that within a day, any reference to my quizzes and to several others not "affiliated" with something called the National Trivia Association (NTA, or "the cretins" hereafter) was removed from the site... by the National Trivia Association! What makes this especially obnoxious is that many of the quizzes referenced in the entry existed long before the NTA or some of its affiliates.
After a brief Wikipedia power struggle, I appear, at least for the time being, to have succeeded in getting all of the previous listings and links returned to the Wikipedia page. You can check the chronology on the History tab of the entry; "thelivenetwork" is the NTA. (Following the IP address trail, The Live Network is a music industry company which acts as a remora to the major labels' sharks, i.e. TLN = The Man. What's more, this guy lives and works at the Jersey Shore, not even in Philadelphia!) Some site monitors have stepped in and have implicitly sided against the vandalism of the entry. The battle is won, but the war..?
In visiting their website, I see that NTA, which didn't exist until 2005, is attempting to corner the market on Philadelphia quizzes, putting forward the notion that they have a right to "sanction" quizzes and even to limit the distance between bars with "valid" quizzes. You can read the cretins' screed on the completely insulting FAQ portion of their site.
Far from merely being a organization which ensures quiz quality (I will argue below it does just the opposite), the NTA centralizes the questions, acts as an employer of quiz hosts and sets a Standard Oil Trust-like fee for bar management. NTA charges bars an absurd $100/hour for the "privilege" of having one of their hosts read generic questions. Some doctors don't charge that. How much of that the host goes home with is not stated, but in a similar Maryland-based scheme I had an interview at before being able to secure venues myself, the completely unnecessary middleman receives a cut of at least 25%. That extra cash will no doubt be transferred to bar customers in the form of higher prices.
The NTA brags they've had experience writing trivia questions for 5 years. No shit, really? Five whole years? Five years ago I'd already been playing trivia quizzes in Philadelphia bars for seven years, and had a pretty good idea of what I did and didn't like. My friend, artist Jim Tantum, currently living in San Francisco, sent me a "memory lane"-type email this past September which referenced an office-based trivia contest I held in this city late in 1995. My inscription to his second-place prize, an American history almanac, dated March 25, 1996, is at left. I had started posting a trivia question du jour at our office in 1994. But five years under your belts, there, eh? OOooohhh...
But let's assume, for a second, that you, the reader, are not capable of writing trivia questions. (I wouldn't condescend to my audience that way, but the NTA does: "Why can’t I just get some trivial pursuit cards and host a Quizzo game myself? Games such as Trivial Pursuit, regardless of edition are mostly boring questions that are too difficult for a typical bar crowd to answer. ... There is simply no place to buy the type of great trivia questions we produce for the Quizzo competition. Truth be told, sometimes ... it will take 9 hours to write only ten. Every week is a new and interesting research and creation process that we take great pride in working on. ... "
OK, cretins, the fact of the matter is that your wesbite just told people on the same page that you are a source for purchasing trivia questions, no? So which is it? And are you using a database of questions, or are you producing new questions every week? Beyond that, I know that much of my audience has been involved in trivia, on- and off-line, for many years. Many of you have stumped me with fine questions, and I respect your intelligence overall. I don't think that Trivial Pursuit is producing anything "too difficult" for you. And I'm not going to claim that I do something so specialized that you simply can't do it, or that I (or my presumed paymasters at the NTA) should get paid more than school teachers with advanced degrees for it.
If it takes you 9 hours to write ten questions, it's not because your questions are super, it's because you're a moron. Really now, 66 minutes to write one trivia question? This is inflating the reality to try and fool the general public and bar management into thinking that trivia hosts are prima donnas worth $100/hour. I wish I could make that kind of money for my latent knowledge of reference materials and general sense of what amuses quiz participants, but frankly no one is stupid enough to pay me that sort of cheddar. You wouldn't want to drink the beverages or eat the food at a place where they are.
The NTA then takes a swipe at the majority of quizmasters in the city, despite the fact most of us work one hell of a lot harder than their stable of regurgitators. From the NTA site again: "Local trivia hosts generally have day jobs and don’t spend the time necessary researching questions that are NTA worthy." I call bullshit. I'll put my questions up against yours any day. And don't give me this "NTA worthy" crap. One of the NTA's hosts at games I played confused Lao Tzu with Sun Tzu and claimed that Emile Zola was "a French composer whose name ends with Z." Come to think of it, I might not be "NTA worthy" out of sheer accuracy.
The fact of the matter is that you could run a trivia contest in a bar, but you probably don't and don't want to be saddled with the responsibility. There are hassles involved such as promotion, locating and arranging terms with a venue, dealing with sound, dealing with the crowd, in my case maintaining an extensive website (which most NTA employees do not), making copies, promoting the games, and coming up with brand new questions, themes and prizes every damn week, 50-52 times per year. I think I do a great job; you might too, you are likely capable of it, but you probably don't want to try. Among other things you probably enjoy playing the games more than running them.
I come up with 102 questions/week and host my own quizzes, which means I know the precise references and can score and argue accuracy accordingly. I have a great deal of public speaking experience and years of experience dealing with a very wide variety of crowds. I own my own amp. I'm smarter than the average bear, have gotten this far without any "help," I don't need an agent and I don't need (or want) someone else's questions.
I also don't want an attempted cartel without a legal right to the name "Quizzo" to push my presence off of the web organized crime family-style. You, as a quiz player, should avoid NTA quizzes with their mafia "protection" tactics (join us and we promote you, don't join and we remove your listings). The NTA is pushing the idea that they have a right to "sanction" (!) bars, as well as organize them into a stratified league structure. Apparently this includes the conceit that their patrons are smarter than the people reading this now (as you have no "right" to compete in their larger competitions without a ranking). Dangerously, these cretins claim that they have the right to ban bars within a certain radius of each other from hosting "sanctioned" quizzes! Couple this with anti-independent actions such as removing people like me from websites and we have some illegal trust-building activity. According to their website, in the interest of full disclosure, in Philadelphia that trust is composed of the following bars (a minority to this point of Philadelphia quizzes, but for how long..?):
Coach's Bar and Grille
Fadó Irish Pub
General Grant's Saloon
Mario's Full Moon Saloon
South Philadelphia Tap Room
Sweeney's Station Saloon
New Deck Tavern
New Wave Café
General Grant’s Saloon
Mario’s Full Moon Saloon
Note that O'Neal's, despite the listing on the NTA site, is a Johnny Goodtimes site and not affiliated with NTA. They can't even get their own membership straight! As you can see in the Comments section of this entry, the wife of the Grey Lodge Pub owner signed in to let me know that their quiz person has changed, and, so far as she knows, is no longer affiliated with the NTA. (Further update Dec. 2008: rec'd email that New Deck, Fergie's and New Wave are also unaffiliated. Remember I'm getting this from the NTA website; please be upset with them, not me.)
When you play a quiz at these places, you're now contributing to an attempted monopoly. You don't always have to play my quizzes, but for all that's holy can we not reward the beast?
That's the plain truth of the matter, as I've always been straightforward with my kind patrons; I didn't start this crap, and I will use any means necessary to defend myself if further provoked. You stick to your Blink-182 live DVDs in Margate and leave the quizzing to the real quizmasters, OK? I'm proud to be an independent, Philadelphia quizmaster, and I provide a damn good product. I refuse to become your vassal, NTA!