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!