A Question of Sport?

Although it’s generally seen as an archetypal subject for quizzes, the most divisive round I run, without question, is the Sport Round. There are many occasions where I avoid including Sport unless it’s specifically asked for, unless the crowd is quite clearly sport-orientated or unless the length of the quiz dictates that there must be.

I’ve actually taken to asking teams whether or not they want a sport round and if there is a clamour against it, I do something else instead, and throw in a bit of sport elsewhere in the quiz. This is what happened at my quiz in Dublin on Wednesday. I asked if they wanted Sport, they said yes, and, to be fair, the standard was extremely high. Just as often, though, when I ask the question, there is a loud chorus of “Noooo”.

So, what is it about Sport which makes it not actually an ideal topic for our quizzes? Especially when so much “trivia” seems to be sport-based, when there are so many statistics and so many stories to get your teeth into.

Well, in a way, that’s part of the problem. There’s just so much of it, so many areas and angles that it can be hard to know where to pitch it. Someone might know a great deal about, say, snooker, cricket and rugby, but be utterly indifferent to other sports. If those sports don’t come up, they’ll feel as left out by the sport round as someone with no interest in sport whatsoever.

And what else? Well, quite frankly, lots of people hate sport. Hate it in a way that it’s pretty hard to hate music or films or geography or general knowledge. They manage to exclude it entirely from their life, and why shouldn’t they? Having it suddenly imposed upon them can cause real resentment.  Interestingly, both on review sites and amongst friends who bought it, one of the few quibbles about our highly successful iPhone app (called QuizQuizQuiz) was that there was a “disproportionate” amount of sport categories. In fact, there wasn’t, there was the same percentage of sport questions as there was all the other main categories, but that indicates the extent to which Sport looms like a grisly beast to those that don’t like it.

On a personal level, I’ve been obsessed with sport and sports statistics from a young age (I pretty much memorised every Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack between 1984 and 1991), but that was almost a drawback when I started out writing quizzes. It’s not the minutiae and the geeky facts that are of interest to any but a tiny minority. The key to a sport round working for an audience, like we have at our corporates, that may not even like quizzes, let alone sport quizzes, is to be fair, broad, not too hard, have lots of stuff which is possible to work out/think through on a general level, questions about men’s and women’s sport, questions about sporting legends who almost everyone has heard of, nothing which will make people think sport is even more pointless than they already do!

Here are one or two examples of sport questions, all, in their own way, fun questions (in my opinion) but in different ways.

1. (A general knowledge, thinky question, which actually has very little to do with what you know about sport, so works for most audiences)

In which sporting event does the winning team move backwards, and the losing team move forwards?

2. (This is a real sports geeky question. I love it, but teams rarely get it right, it requires both serious knowledge and a bit of lateral thinking)

Which is the only team in the Premier League at the moment that has never been relegated from the top division of English football?

3. (This is the kind of question which works well near the start of a sport round, it’s about sport, but not, it lets people who fear sport know that there’ll be stuff in the round they can help with)

Rod Tidwell was a successful but temperamental wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. Who was his extremely famous agent?

4. (This is a good solid sports question, about a legendary sportsman who everyone has heard of. It requires a bit of knowledge, but not too much, and has a nice 50/50 element to it)

What name was given to Muhammad Ali’s 1975 fight against Joe Frazier?

Good luck with those, sports fans!

6 replies
  1. Chris Philpot
    Chris Philpot says:

    I’m really enjoying your new blog—it always offers a great insight into preparing a clever, meaty quiz. Indeed, the sample questions are fantastic (question 3 a particular favourite!), but I’m struggling with number 2. Any chance of a push in the right direction? Sport never was my category. 😉

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Many thanks for the kind words, and glad you are enjoying our musings!

      Right, question 2 of the sports questions…maybe start by thinking of a team that might be a superpower, and has been in the top division for ever and never ever ever been relegated (and we can let you look up a few candidates like Arsenal, Man U etc. to see if they have ever been relegated)…

      Then if that doesn’t find you a correct answer (it won’t, but will help you learn a bit more football stuff!) you might want to look at the other end of the table at a team which has only relatively recently joined the top division (and is still there) and had never ever been there before.

      At least this is the thought process for most teams in getting to the/an answer.

      This question nearly died a death last season, and looks like it might not survive into next season…

      Reply
  2. MHA
    MHA says:

    In the occasional quiz my friends and I run, we never set a specific round on sport because, as you say, the concept unnerves all those who believe they know nothing about the subject. Often they know more than they realise, but the very title almost makes them switch off. Much better, I would argue, to carefully sprinkle a few well-chosen sports questions into other themed rounds.

    If there *has* to be a sports round, it should live up to its name, and I’m not personally a great fan of ‘sleight of hand’ questions which are actually about games (eg pool) or logical puzzles. This feels like a cheat, and is unsatisfying.

    Some sports work better than others, and the most fertile ground is shared experience – iconic moments (Olympics, world cups), or sports with genuinely broad appeal. Racing and boxing always feel too arcane or niche for pub quizzes, while technical questions very rarely work – you can’t guess meaningfully about positions in a rugby pack.

    On similar lines to those you suggest, the best approach to sports questions (and in fact most questions in general) is that the answer is something everyone knows but the question is indirect. To use a crude example off the top of my head, it’s more effective to ask ‘which famous cricketer also played league football for Scunthorpe?’ than to invert it and require people to name the club.

    Another good compromise approach is the list question (which QQQ deploy well), for example – which five clubs have won the most top flight titles? This rewards accurate knowledge, but because everyone in the room will be able to name five football clubs, and have some idea of who the most successful ones are, all the teams will be able to supply five reasonably credible answers, and will feel they’re in with some kind of chance.

    Reply

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