The Fire Rises


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There was a time, many years ago, back when fire still swept the land the cries of men begged cruel and primal deities for salvation, that a trivia team came in at least second place every time they played bar trivia at the Fermentation Lounge.

They were called Hydra, and fedora wearing nerds everywhere trembled at the mere hiss of their reptilian name.

Hail Hydra.

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The group was composed of a ragtag band of erudite grad students: Stacey, Jared, Erich, Nic, Adrienne and myself. Though our knowledge ranged a variety of subjects, our expertise lay mostly in television, film, history and classic rock.

Hail Hydra.

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The group, though mighty, was torn to pieces when several of us received our master’s degrees and traveled across the great, western wastes in a mighty caravan on a quest to find a job in the film industry.

A quest some of us are still… ahem… questing.

Hail Starbucks.

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Hydra burned, but from its ashes a new trivia team arose, one far fouler and more evil than any trivia team ever formed.

The Quizlamic State.

The Quizlamic State was never quite as successful. Chief among it’s problems was trying to find a fertile staging ground to set up our new quizlamic caliphate. The first bar we went to was a rough affair, more of a sports bar than anything. It was full of heavy, thirty-five year old men who hooted at the TV screens no matter what was on them.

Even for lame sports like NASCAR and HOCKEY.

The trivia was cordoned off in a musty corner of the bar. No one except us was there to play. The other patrons just wanted to hoot. Some drunkenly grabbed answer sheets butt they never filled them out. They used them mostly as poor quality napkins.

Our victory was basically uncontested.

The bar didn’t have any prizes for winning, though.

We migrated, finally settling in a newer, nicer bar that was closer to my apartment.

Then the dark times began.

From the north came a marauding band of music teachers. They were called “We ate an entire pizza with ___.” The blank would be any headline pulled from the news, like “Bernie Sanders,” or “that crashed Russian airplane,” or “Nicholas Cage” or whatever. They wore glasses and had neck beards. Many of them were bald. One of them had a leather jacket that he probably thought made him look like James Dean. It more accurately made him look like Nicholas Cage from Ghost Rider.

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They never talked to anyone else in the bar and drank only water. They spent most of their time laughing at little inside jokes, cheering too loudly when they got hard questions right; and dropping into a sullen silence and staring awkwardly at anyone who dared wander too close to their table.

Oh, and winning.

Did I mention winning?

They won.

A lot.

They never spent their bar cash either. They just drank water. The quiz master had to make a new rule that you were ineligible to win if you didn’t buy anything from the bar.

The very next week the teachers showed up with someone who looked like a discarded rough draft of Michael Cera. He drank beer. He drank a lot of beer. He would stand up on the booth and hoot and dance when they won a round.

He was not a good dancer.

This was probably at least partly due to the beer.

He also had a leather jacket that made him look like Nicholas Cage from Ghost Rider. Whoever these teachers were, they must shop at the same Hot Topic.

We hated them.

It wasn’t their skill that made us hate them. We had a friendly rivalry with trivia teams at the Fermentation Lounge. There was one that normally beat us, but we didn’t hate them. We would hang out with them afterwards.

It wasn’t their knowledge of trivia that made an entire pizza so loathsome. It was their personalities.

It was the way they snorted with laughter when other teams got a question wrong. The way they would ask you what you put for number three and then make fun of you to your face if it wasn’t right. They way they screeched like hungry babies when the quiz master announced that they were in the lead.

It was the way they didn’t talk to anyone. Thee way they didn’t buy beer. The way they always took the middle booth and sat there, scowling at everyone, as if worried that the troglodytes they so feared us to be would rack our brains so hard trying to figure out who founded Kelogg’s that something would burst and the reptilian parts of our brains would take over and we would assault them en masse and gobble them up, bones and all, in a bacchanalian orgy of violence and perversion.

Bars a social places. You go to bars to hang out with your friends and meet new people. I met a guy who produces terrible action moves. He told me they were bad and showed me a trailer on his phone.

It looked really bad, but in a good way. In the way that it might be so bad it’s funny. He let me use the table when my friends finally got there.

I met the guy who did the soundtrack for the remake of The Thing.

I met a girl who danced with Nicki Minaj on one of her tours.

I met somebody who had to throw Andy Dick out of a bar.

The cool thing about bars is that I have no idea if any of these people were lying to me. They could have been. Who knows?

More to the point, who cares?

I tried to talk to an entire pizza one time. It had been a close match, and the State had only lost by three points. I went up and congratulated them. I told them I hoped we’d get them next time.

They just stared at me.

They didn’t say a word.

They just stared.

It was then I began to think there was something off about an entire pizza.

I began to wonder if they even liked pizza.

I began to wonder what do they like?

They like shouting obscene jokes at the quiz master. I’ve seen them do it.

They like music. They all wear shirts with quarter notes and other such things on them.

They like winning.

Do they like playing trivia, though?

And I wondered…

What’s the point of doing something if all you care about is winning and all you ever do is win?

It must be terrible.

Actually, I sort of know what it’s like.

I’m a Patriots fan. It’s okay, you can hate me if you want. Hail Belichick.

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I’ve been a fan ever since my friend Nick made me watch football with him in middle school. His family is from new England, and my family is a Florida State family. We watched college, not professional, so I never had a pro team. I adopted the patriots.

I was a fan in 2007 when the Patriots almost went undefeated.

That season started off great. The patriots blew everyone out of the water and it was fun to watch. They kept winning… and winning… and winning.

Each victory made me more nervous. This is history. We can’t lose now.

It eventually got to the point where I didn’t even have fun watching the games. I gripped the couch so hard I thought the leather would tear. Veins stood out on my forehead. I clenched my teeth so hard I probably broke a tooth.

I was so worried that we would lose that I didn’t even enjoy the event.

Then we lost.

It was the Super Bowl and the Giants beat us and I hate the Giants and all I could think about was how relieved I was it was finally over.

It was soul crushing. I felt like shit. It was awful.

But I was relieved.

Ronda Rousey said she thought about killing herself when she lost. It seems like an overreaction, but if you’ve never lost…

Hey, man. I don’t understand it, but I understand that I could understand it if I was her.

It’s hell to be undefeated because you start to question your every move instead of just enjoying your game.

It’s even worse to lose, and the severity of the loss directly relates to the length of being undefeated.

So I’m a little worried for Entire Pizza.

One day they will lose.

Will they pass the water and start hitting harder stuff like soda? Will they ditch the quarter notes and get tattoos of full rests? Will they find another Michael Cera?

I don’t know.

I do know one thing, though.

The Quizlamic State is dead.

We are reforming Hydra from its ashes.

The fire rises.

Let us test an Entire Pizza’s mettle against the flames.

I hope they don’t break too hard, because I don’t wish harm on any human being.

But they made fun of my friends for not knowing who Kenny G was. They laughed in our faces and made jokes about us the whole night.

I hope they don’t break too hard.

But I want them to break all the same.

Hail Hydra.

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