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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
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Trivia nights in Tampa draw quizzical crowds for a night out

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Published:   |   Updated: July 24, 2014 at 11:08 AM

But wait, was Michael Jackson ever considered sexy?”

The question is posed — dead seriously — by John Klopfer, a 73-year-old military veteran who is intensely eying a group of other silver-haired vets and their wives across a table that is crowded with tall mugs of Budweiser.

They're trying to figure out if the King of Pop is the now-dead celebrity who was the youngest man ever named People magazine's “Sexiest Man Alive.”

Time is up.

Someone frantically scribbles an answer and turns it in. The laughter returns to the table. Big slugs of Bud for everyone.

It's team trivia night at The Lodge on South Howard Avenue, and “Annex,” a team composed of Army, Navy and Air Force veterans ranging in age from 63 to 80, wants to beat Care Bear Stare, Hobo Lollipop, Trivia Newton John and lots of other, younger teams vying for the evening's prize, a $50 gift card.

It's just one of several dozen team trivia nights happening all over the Tampa Bay area each week.

It's a night of fun, but for the team of seniors who met at the campground at MacDill Air Force Base where they all live part-time, it's serious competition, too. They play at different spots several nights a week, and a couple of years ago tallied enough points to win their league's annual overall championship.

“We like to win, and we love to beat these young kids,” said Russ Ginalski, 63, over the bump of a Jay-Z song. “They weren't even born when we were learning this stuff.”

Not every team is as competitive as Annex, of course.

“With trivia you get a lot of really fun, good, reasonably smart people who are just out to have a good time on weekday night,” said Brad Hall, who hosts a popular Tuesday trivia night a few miles away at The Bungalow. “Everyone congratulates each other.”

So what does it take to build a team that can challenge the likes of Bunz n Gunz, the Screamin' Pelicans and Tom Selleck's Mustache?

“Everyone knows a certain amount of pop culture stuff, so you have to have those teammates with knowledge in a specific area. If you don't have a single player who knows sports, you're going to lose those points every single time,” Hall said. “Big groups do have an advantage, but you don't want to have too many people either. There's definitely too many cooks in the kitchen at some point.”

A big part of the fun are those ridiculous team names. When Hall is hosting, anything goes. The teams can get very creative, with a lot of topical, blue humor.

“I'd tell you my favorites, but honestly, they're not anything you'd be able to print in the newspaper,” he said.

Hall's job is part comedian — he's quick with a joke when there's a ridiculous answer — and part referee. He keeps an eye out for covert Googlers on their smart phones.

“It happens once in a while, but it has never been a problem. When somebody's lap is glowing, it's pretty obvious what's going on, and somebody's going to let me know. We've never had a situation when someone who was cheating was able to come even close to winning.”

Back at the Lodge, the answer that Annex was mulling over comes back. The now-deceased celeb who was the youngest ever Sexiest Man Alive: John F. Kennedy Jr.

“We got it!” says Sandy Ginalski, slapping the table.

Annex will go on to win first place that night, and when they do the entire table lets a whoop that's way louder than the tables of 20- and 30-year-olds around them. The restaurant gift card will go in a pile with the others that they'll pool for one big blowout at the end of the season.

“That's when we'll really party,” Russ Ginalski says.

cspata@tbo.com

Twitter: @CSpataTBO

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