LOS ANGELES, Oct. 11, 2002–The Japanese American Bar Association repeated its triumph as Trivia Bowl champion and winner of the coveted Rice Cup with a dominating performance in the eighth edition of AAJA-L.A.’s signature team trivia competition scholarship fundraiser at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
The past three Trivia Bowls have been won by teams comprised primarily of legal minds. “Are we going to let the attorneys whoop us once again?” asked Denise Poon, Trivia Bowl VIII commissioner in her rallying opening remarks. The lawyers answered, by crushing the field of 21 other teams with 68 points, more than six points and an astonishing 16 points ahead of the second- and third-place finishers, respectively.
JABA’s six-point advantage over the runner-up marked the largest margin of victory for a Trivia Bowl champion. Four of the past seven Trivia Bowls have been decided by two points or less, and the winner in two others separated themselves from the runner-ups by only three points.
While JABA established itself as a Trivia Bowl dynasty in the making, the Los Angeles Times and Dateline NBC/NBC News also set themselves apart as contenders in repeating their finishes in last year’s competition. A L.A. Times squad came in second (62 points), and the NBC team took third place (52 points). Of JABA’s first-place finish, “It’s apparently the first time lawyers ever gave correct answers without billing someone,” quipped Josh Mankewicz, Dateline NBC/NBC News team captain.
Significantly for the L.A. Times, a second squad, featuring AAJA founder and former Times Business Editor Bill Sing, scored as many points as the NBC team at the end of five rounds but finished fourth under new tie-breaker rules.
The Top Ramen prize went to KTLA, which finished last for the third time in Trivia Bowl history. “KTLA has perfected a Top Ramen recipe,” laughed Janet Hill, senior producer, KTLA Morning News. “You can mix the pork with the beef, but never the beef with the chicken and always wait two minutes for al dente.”
JABA jumped to a tie for the lead in the first of five 20-point rounds, took sole possession of the lead after the next round and never looked back.
L.A. Times II, captained by AAJA-L.A. President Don Chareunsy, appeared as if it would give JABA a serious run for the Rice Cup when both teams finished in a tie for the lead after the first round. But Chareunsy’s team stumbled in the next round, answering only nine questions correctly, while JABA had correct answers for 12 questions.
A new participant, a unified KCAL/KCBS team, with KCAL anchor Mia Lee on board, had its shining moment when it found itself in second place, a point behind JABA, after the second round. But Lee’s team also stumbled, scoring only eight points in the next round, partially because the team forgot to put one answer down and wrote another answer on the wrong blank. The team ended up tying for 10th with the Asian Pacific American Legislative Staff Network and The Orange County Register. “Next year, make no mistake, we’ll all brush up on our Asian American pop culture!” said Steve Holzer, executive producer, CBS2/KCAL9 News.
Meanwhile, JABA extended its lead, scoring 16 points in the third round. Indeed, JABA fielded such a well-rounded squad that it either had the top score or tied for the top score in each round. Chareunsy’s team roared back into contention in the third round by scoring 16 points. In a competition where three points or less often decides the outcome, Chareunsy’s L.A. Times II was five points ahead of three teams tied for third and six other teams tied at a point behind.
However, despite hopes for a come-from-behind victory, L.A. Times II could not overcome JABA’s three-point lead and actually lost ground. The lawyers doubled their lead over the journalists in the last two rounds. “Only a small, insignificant, furry Tribble would know the obscure Star Trek answers,” Chareunsy observed. “Oh, OK, I admit it. Our team answered the Star Trek questions correctly.”
Four teams tied for fifth place: ABA Valley Online, City News Service, the Black Journalists Association of Southern California and KTTV. “Our academic decathlon student team members from El Camino High School learned hard lessons in real-life information,” said David Iwata, president of ABA Valley Online. “We’ll be black, make that back next year,” said Gayle Pollard-Terry, BJASC’s team captain. “And, how about asking what day James Brown was born instead of when Elvis died? Who cares where the Dow closed, we’re all losing money.”
In the middle of the pack were the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, President’s Table and KNBC at ninth, 13th and 14th places, respectively. KABC’s two teams tied for 15th place along with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California, the Trivia Bowl VI champion.
KTLA and The Korea Times battled at the back of the pack not to finish last. KTLA was in position for the Top Ramen after the first round, a point behind Katipunan-USA and Cathay Pacific.
The Korea Times was two points ahead, in a tie with a unified team of the California Chicano News Media Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which finished fourth last year. “It just wasn’t meant to be this year,” said Cecilia Alvear, former NAHJ national president.
But The Korea Times dropped back in the next round to stake its claim on the ramen. The newspaper squad appeared to be on its way to take it home before KTLA posted only two correct answers in the fourth round, a possible Trivia Bowl record-low score in a round. The Korea Times stayed in front for good. Sharon Tay, KTLA morning news anchor, who missed this year’s event, vowed to lead the team next year to avoid taking the ramen home again.
This year’s win by JABA marked the third time a team has won twice. City News Service and the Daily News of Los Angeles also have prevailed twice. “JABA won again. Wait until next year. We’ll be there. Will JABA?” challenged a CNS team member.
As usual, complaints came from participants and teams that scored low. Richard Fruto, a Trivia Bowl founder, AAJA-L.A. treasurer and question developer, responded, “The answers are right before us, it’s just a matter of paying attention. Are you checked in or out of society?”
Trivia Bowl VIII raised more than $20,000. As in past years, proceeds from Trivia Bowl will go toward high school, college and graduate student scholarships, internship stipends and professional development program subsidies.
In 2002, the chapter distributed more than $17,000 toward that goal — all through volunteer efforts and generous donations. “Corporate support certainly hasn’t been trivial,” said Yet Lock, AAJA-L.A. Board Member and a Trivia Bowl founder. “In fact, over the years Trivia Bowl has won a loyal following among key media corporations and other companies and organizations in the community who look forward to fielding teams each year.”
Corporate sponsors who provided food donations included Panda Restaurant Group and Relaxtation Leisure Foods & Special-Teas. KABC anchor David Ono emceed the event.
This year’s judges included “real” judges. They were U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lew and Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Fred Fujioka, Tomson Ong, Mark Kim and Commissioner John Ing. Glendale City Councilman and LAPD Commander Paul Kim and his wife also served as judges. “Trivia Bowl is anything but trivial. If this contest gets picked up by a network as a series, it most likely will be called ‘Intellectual Survival,’ ” Judge Ong said.
View excerpts of Q&As from AAJA Los Angeles Trivia Bowl VIII.
View final standings from AAJA Los Angeles Trivia Bowl VIII.
View a list of sponsors from AAJA Los Angeles Trivia Bowl VIII.�