In 2020, The Fellowship Buzztime Trivia Team was incredibly honored to be inducted into the Trivia Hall of Fame. Yet as proud as we are of our team’s accomplishments, such an honor would have seemed fanciful for those of us who were there from the start. Although it sounds like a cliché, it’s true: Our team really did grow from humble beginnings.
The Fellowship began almost twenty years ago in December 2003 when BOBBO at Damon’s in Stow, Ohio invited me and WRATH—who usually played together down the bar from him—to join him in putting together a team for an upcoming winter tournament. It sounded like fun, so I grabbed my colleague FRODO, BOBBO tapped a couple of his friends, and the team was born.
At first we could muster only a group of five to seven regularly, but soon LOU and RUNES—who also played at Damon’s—joined us, as well as other colleagues and friends including ELROND. When considering what we should call our team, FRODO noted that because the team included him, ELROND, and ARAGRN (one of BOBBO’s other handles), we really just had to be “The Fellowship.” The name stuck.
We actively recruited new players for each tournament whenever and wherever we could, and by any means necessary. Perhaps the most flagrant example of this was when RABBIT—a former student of mine—walked into Damon’s on a date, and we shamelessly stole her for the game. She has been a valued member ever since. Soon after, she asked if we’d like a Jeopardy! champ to play with us, and that’s how her French professor FROG joined us. We also recruited more proactively, too.
When an editor for the local newspaper wrote about her winning stint on Jeopardy!, I cold-emailed her with an invitation to play with us. She in turn invited her Mensa-member friend, and MELEG and ARBEZ have been stalwart members for 15+ years now. Similarly, one day on the University of Akron campus I was lamenting to someone that we lost the previous night’s game because we did not know the scientific family name for bananas. BOTAN just happened to be passing by at that moment and said, “Musaceae” without even slowing down. I chased after him and gave him my card and an invitation. To this day it is the best card I ever spent. When Damon’s closed its doors in 2009, we decided that we still wanted to play, and our subsequent moves only strengthened us as we collected talent from each location.
Although we did OK for ourselves in the early years—winning Bronze, Silver, and Platinum League championships and working our way into the Premier League—it was not until 2007 that we really began to compete with the best. We won our first Showdown game that year, and have followed that with more than 195 others—almost 30% of the Showdown games we have played since then, and far more than any other team. Along the way, we also have won multiple Premier League championships and more major player-run tournaments—the McCarthy and Sandbag traveling trophies—than any other team.
At first we only played Showdown, but because we were having so much fun, we started playing other games regularly, too. Over the years, we have posted one or more wins in at least fourteen different Buzztime games, including more than 225 in Brainbuster alone. It was this set of accomplishments that got us nominated for the Trivia Hall of Fame in 2020, but such a resumé would have been unimaginable to that rag-tag group of five to seven players twenty years ago.
And what is our secret?
No secret, really. In fact, from the very start we have only had two simple guiding principles:
1) We play as a team: We work together on answers and nobody really cares about their individual scores.
2) We play for fun: We welcome everyone, we recognize people for their contributions, and we never give anyone a hard time for the occasional wrong answer—after all, we have ALL been there. We also fill the evening with lots of fun banter: from witty and erudite remarks to silly and dumb jokes. Win or lose, at the end of the evening we have all had fun, which we think is still a “win.”
So, if there IS a secret that has kept a growing number of people (usually twenty or more now) coming out to play every week for almost twenty years, I think it is just simply that we never lose sight of the fact that we are there to have fun—while we may take our playing seriously, it is just a game, after all.