50/50 Raffle for Back to School Gear Tonight at Birra!

We raised over $150 for kids school uniforms at quizzo last night, and we’re back at it tonight!

Carl is back at Birra at 8 PM, and we’re bringing back the 50-50 raffle for a great cause. As most of you know, we’re always doing things to raise money for PPERHC, who work tirelessly with Philly’s most vulnerable residents. Tonight we’ll be raising money to help kids get new school uniforms. $5 a ticket, venmo accepted, winner gets half.

Want to help and can’t make quizzo? Another thing that would be a huge help would be to buy the kids some school supplies. To do so, just order something off of this wish list. It can be one pack of pencils, it can be 10 bookbags. Whatever makes sense for you. Then have it mailed to:

PPEHRC

1505 West Allegheny Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19132

Thank you, and see ya tonight!

Let’s Talk About One of my Personal Heroes: Rasputin

We had a question at quizzo last week, “Who did Prince Felix Yuspov kill in 1916?” The answer was Grigori Rasputin, and he’s one of my favorite figures of the 20th century. The fact that such a bizarre charlatan could completely (and largely inadvertently) change the history of the world never fails to boggle my mind. This week on the Worthless Knowledge podcast, Nat and I dug into Rasputin’s past, and had some fun with it as well. Like when Nat asked me if I had ever been offered sexual favors for quizzo answers, and what a spectacular scandal would ensue if I answered “Yes.” If you enjoy the pod, please rate it. If you love it, please leave a review. Thanks!

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Quizzo Updates

We start on Wednesday, with a quiz in Wayne at 7:30 and the weekly Dock Street quiz (hosted by Carl) at 8 PM. The Wayne quiz has been a hit. On to Birra on Thursday at 8 PM. (I’ll be hosting at the Fitler Club). Next week I’m on vacation, but Carl will be rocking out at Dock Street and Birra.

I am still trying to line up two more weekly quizzes, and have some very interesting coals in the fire, but TBH the extreme shortage of staff at pretty much every bar in the city is a killer for quizzo. I’m hoping that the fall will bring some semblance of normalcy to the situation. BUT even if it doesn’t, we’ve got some good news; Fall Brawl II is coming in September. We’ll have details coming soon, but a similar deal to last year. Divisions, head to head matchups, the whole works. I’m getting excited about it. It’s like fantasy football except we’re the players.

And of course we are always available for birthday parties, wedding parties, and special events, either virtual or in person. Click here to learn more.

Hope to see ya this week!

Phil Spector, The Woman Who Gave Us the Eagles, and Dolphin Training

Been doing a lot of podcasting lately. We’ve taken a bit of a break from The Philly Blunt but are planning to launch a new season in September. However, I actually talked to Chip twice last week, had some fun with Nat talking about a question from our quizzo two weeks ago, and had a great time talking to Upton Bell, son of Eagles founder Bert Bell.

Went on Chip’s “I Love Rock n Roll” show to discuss Phil Spector. This was a lot of fun. I sorta knew who Spector was, but mostly I just knew that he made some great music and then showed up for his murder trial with a giant afro. Turns out he was an awful, awful guy. A genius but a psycho too.

I also went on Chip’s Junk Miles show last week to talk about my bizarre career. From dolphin training to quizzo to t-shirts to ultimate frisbee. This is the most in depth interview I’ve ever done about this stuff, so if you wanna know how what dolphin training was like or how I stumbled into quizzo, this is worth a listen.

Nat and I have started back on our Worthless Knowledge podcast, where we do a deep dive on a quizzo question each week. For our latest one we talked about the only man to win a gold medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Eddie Eagan grew up poor, married into the Colgate family, boxed his way around the world, and decided on a whim to join the 1932 Olympic bobsled team. Crazy story.

Over at Shibe, I had the honor of sitting down with Upton Bell, the son of Eagles founder Burt Bell. This was a rollicking good time, as Upton had stories for days about the early days of the league. One fun fact we learned; it was really his mother, a vaudeville star, who made the Eagles a reality moreso than his father.

Down and Out in Lancaster

NOTE: This was a piece I wrote for City Paper in 2005. I’m posting it here because it’s a piece I’m proud of and I want to be sure it’s posted somewhere as backup in case the defunct City Paper goes offline, and I also thought some of you might find it interesting. In the meantime, check out our new City Paper tee at Shibe. Free shipping with code “quizzo”. As for Lipso Nava: here’s currently a minor league coach for the San Francisco Giants.

Camden Riversharks third baseman Lipso Nava has the best porn moustache in baseball. Catcher Travis Anderson informs me (and everyone else within earshot) of this fact shortly after I enter the clubhouse. “He’s the Peter North of the Dominican Republic,” the backstop says.

“He’s from Venezuela,” cries a voice in the back of the room.

“I know,” shoots back Anderson. “I was trying to protect his identity.”

Nava laughs. The impromptu introductions continue: “And there you have Mr. Shark.” Anderson is pointing at first baseman Brad Strauss. Brad’s been with the team since its inception in 2001 and works for the Riversharks as a corporate partnerships manager in the off-season. “Or as we like to call him, Senor, uh, Senor what do we call him, Lipso?”

“Tiburon,” says Nava.

“Yeah, Senor Tiburon.” The fact that I’m simply taking notes and not asking any questions raises a few eyebrows. After the introductions, the mood turns a bit tense.

“What kind of story are you doing?” one of them asks warily.

Good question. This adventure had begun, as all the good ones do, with only the vaguest notion of a plan. I had asked the Camden Riversharks, an independent minor league team, if I could hang out with the boys for a day or two, to see what life on the road is like in the low minors. They had given my idea the green light, having no way of knowing that the term “porn moustache” would appear in the lead.

But what exactly did hanging out entail? The clubhouse is a sanctuary for ballplayers, a place where they can cuss loudly and spit on the floor and do all those other things that used to get you two weeks in your room without TV privileges. It is not a place for an outsider. Hell, the manager of the team usually doesn’t even hang around the clubhouse for more than minute or two. Most reporters just ask a few sports questions (“How’s the arm feel?”) and get the hell out. Loitering, trying to be “one of the guys,” just isn’t done.

Former Phillie Brian Hunter speaks up from the couch. “I don’t know how long you plan on hanging around here, but we got a ball game to get ready for.”

With that, I sheepishly slip out of the room and head up to the press box.

The independent leagues are the last refuge for men who still dream of making it to, or back to, “The Show.” Though the quality of play is high, many of the players are castoffs, told by big league clubs that they are no longer wanted on their teams or in their farm systems. Instead of giving up the dream, these players give it another shot, hoping that they can figure out that kink in their swing or regain confidence in their breaking ball. And some do. Twenty-six Atlantic Leaguers have made it to the bigs, although 22 of them had been there before. Former Rivershark Chris Widger is currently batting .282 in limited duty with the Chicago White Sox.

While a former major leaguer with a name (both Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco have played in the Atlantic League) might make as much as $3,000 a month, the majority of the players are earning somewhere in the range of $1,500 to $2,000 per month. Most of the guys have to find off-season jobs. Left-fielder Richie Barrett even worked during the season last year, waking up at 5 a.m. to help his dad’s paving business, then heading to the ballpark in the evening after knocking off.

The Riversharks lose to the Lancaster Barnstormers, 3-2, tonight. Afterward, I head to the Brickyard to meet up with the team, though when I see a group of about six of them gathered in the corner playing darts, I kind of lose my nerve. So I just sort of hover around, feeling creepy, staring into my beer, wondering why in the hell I am standing in a strange bar in a strange town trying to make friends with a group of ballplayers who like nosey reporters about as much as Nixon did.

Looking up, I see Nava walking past.

“Hey Lipso,” I venture. “I heard you played winter league ball with Bobby Abreu. What’s he like?”

“He’s a really nice guy,” replies the 36-year-old defender of the hot corner. “Really humble.” Lipso chats with me for a minute. As he walks away he gives me a quick pat on the back. I had forgotten what such a minor, friendly gesture could do. I regain my self-assuredness, and when he takes his seat after grabbing a beer, I snag the stool across from him.

In 1997 Nava had reached the Triple A level in the Cubs organization, the highest rung of the minor leagues, a phone call away from the Show. He played extremely well that year. The call never came.

“I have no regrets,” he says. “I have been fortunate enough to play in the big leagues in my country (he plays winter ball in Venezuela on a team that includes several big leaguers), and I’ve gotten to do a job I love for a long time.”

“Estoy estudiando espanol,” I venture, feeling comfortable enough to practice my limited Spanish with the Venezuelan native. He obviously doesn’t feel like listening to really brutal Spanish while he sips his beer, so he responds, “Oh really? Where?”

Guy Lynam wanders over. The South Jersey native had come to the Riversharks after spending a season with the Pennsylvania Road Warriors, a band of gypsies with no home base. They played every single game on the road, spending five months living in Motel 8s.

“Knowing that every day the fans are always gonna be against you makes you a stronger baseball player,” says the 24-year-old. “If you can make it through a season with the Road Warriors, you can play anywhere.”

I pour Lipso a cold one out of my $6 pitcher. In return, he tells me more about Abreu, whom he obviously admires. “I really enjoy watching him play. And off the field, he is a true professional. He knows how to handle himself, and I think it’s an example for the younger guys.” I ask the Venezuelan what he thinks about the heat Abreu takes for being a bit lazy. “I’ve heard that. I don’t understand it. This guy is a five-tool player. Of course he’s going to make some mistakes. But he’s one of the best players in the league, so I don’t know why the fans want to concentrate on the negatives.”

We move to the back of the room, where the rest of the team, about eight guys in all, are standing around. A couple of them flirt with young women, but most of them just chat amongst themselves, discussing the night’s game. Lynam asks me, “Hey man, you’re not gonna make us look bad in this thing, are ya?” Pitcher Mark Ion responds, “Man, nobody cares whether or not some minor leaguers are having a couple of beers.” Lynam taunts the former member of the Tri-City Dust Devils, a Single-A team in the Rockies organization. “Don’t think you’re hot shit just because you look like Brett Favre!” Ion smiles. Lynam turns to me. “Don’t he look like Brett Favre?” I agree with Guy, who then changes his tone. “This guy is a sleeper,” Lynam says of the Packer QB’s doppelganger. “I’m behind the plate, so I can tell you who can pitch and this guy can pitch.”

I spend most of the next day around the underground batting cage. An older gentleman comes down trying to sell bats to the players. I ask Barrett if players fall in love with bats like Roy Hobbs did in The Natural.

“No, you can’t fall in love with a wooden bat. They break too easy.”

Hunter approaches. “This guy’s got an all-access pass, doesn’t he?” the former Phil says to the players around the cage. A lump forms in my throat. “Hangs out at the bar, hangs around the batting cage.”

He addresses me with a quiet but authoritative voice. “You’ve got to understand that this kind of access is just really unusual, a reporter getting this close to the team.” I hadn’t realized that throat lumps could pulsate. Hunter’s tone lightens. “But the fellas tell me you’re a pretty cool guy. Tell me that you know a little bit about baseball.”

Excitedly, I stutter something about how I find it interesting that guys from different backgrounds and with different goals can play together as a team.

“That is kind of interesting. And I’ll tell you something, this is one of the best groups of guys I’ve ever played with. They play hard, and they play together. Not every team is like that.”

We talk for a few more minutes, Hunter telling me that he remembers everything that happened on his first day in the bigs.

Before I leave, I ask Lynam what his goals are in baseball. “I’d love to make it to the big leagues. If you have a uniform you have a chance.” He grins. “And I’ve still got a uniform.”

Quizzo This Week, Including a Pop-Up in South Philly on Friday!

We start it on Wednesday at Dock Street at 8 PM. We’ve had a lot of fun these past two weeks. No reason to think this Wednesday will be any different. Then on Friday, trying something new…wanna do some pop-ups this summer so we can all try out some different bars. We start at the Black Cat Tavern at 12th and Oregon. They’re famous for their pierogies, and they’ll have $5 pierogie plates on Friday night. Action starts at 7:30. Can’t wait to see you guys this week!

UPDATE: Thursday quizzo at Birra canceled this week due to tornado warning. We’ll be back in action on Friday night. Hope to see you then!

A Quick Thank You Note

2020 was, in many ways, the year when everything went horribly wrong. There’s no need to rehash it. You LIVED it. But a few things went really right too. And one of those things was taking our weekly trivia cult out of the bars and into each other’s living rooms. It all seems so “normal” now, but at the time it was frightening, bizarre, and somewhat random.

Last March, as Carl, Art, and I discussed what an “Online quiz” should look like and how it should play, Carl said something that quickly directed the focus: “The most important aspect of this is people hanging out with their friends. Everything else we decide should revolve around that.” And so instead of a ton of teams playing at once, or a bunch of technical bells and whistles, we focused on small, intimate (as intimate as it can be on a computer), gatherings with a single quizmaster and a single team.

It worked. Carl went from a guy hosting once a week at Birra to becoming the backbone of the whole operation. (Yeah OK and the brains too. Whatever. I’m STILL the beer belly of this damn thing!) J. Michael went from weekly regular to beloved host. Chip and Blake stepped in and quickly garnered weekly regulars. Every time we faced a hitch in scheduling, Erin or Mike would step up big. The whole thing just kind of…came together. And after each quizzo season Carl and I would have the same discussion: how many can we expect for the next season? And every season we underestimated.

As summer turned to fall which turned to winter, we kept getting teams willing to sign up again. And there was a certain magic to it. The Narcotyzing Dysfunktion, a team that had played weekly at the Bards in the mid 2000s when they were in grad school at Penn, got the band back together despite living all over the United States. Jeremy and Sharon of There’s No I played from Tokyo while working overseas. Tiffany of Synchronized Trampoline drank some sort of red concoction out of a Mason jar every week. Beth of Duane’s World mocked my pronunciations online instead of in person. The Drunk Parents lived up to their name. Not Last Place seemed to always finish JUST AHEAD of last place.

We quizzed through the madness of 2020, the eerie silence of March and April, through the protests, riots, the nightly “fireworks” and explosions of last summer, the daily madness of a deranged President, through an election, an attempted insurrection, and through a year+ that we might like to forget but a year that may well define our lives. And while I can’t speak for you guys I can speak for myself: it kept me sane at times I thought I was losing it, it made me smile when things were grim, and it made me laugh when absolutely nothing else was funny. It kept a roof over my family’s head, and it made me realize that we’ve got something here that is a whole lot bigger than bar trivia. And for that I just want to say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. -JGT

Sons of Sam Pull Off Upset, Win the Summer Sizzler

A thriller in the Sizzler, as the Sons of Sam (aka the Zodiac Killers) pulled off an improbable 92-91 win over the Trivia Mercenaries. Even more improbable: the Texas City Player’s Club, who were 40th in April Madness, finishing their magical season with a 3rd place finish. It was a wild game, with the scores bouncing around all game long. I’ll have the questions posted tomorrow. But a hell of a win for the Sons of Sam, Anthrax Ames’s first monster win since Quizzo Bowl II. Congrats to the Sons of Sam and thank you to ALL of our teams who played this past season.

Our Elite 8 is Set, Will Air Live on Sunday Night

It was an epic Sweet 16 that all but laid waste to our regular season. Four of our top 5 regular season teams were eliminated, while our 12th, 13th, 14th, and 17th place teams all moved on.

To start with, Boyz II Menehune won a spectacular 99-98 victory over two time champion Quarantine Spirit, thus spoiling Jon S’s 40th birthday.

Sofa Kingdom and Stone Cold Jane Austen were 8th and 9th in scoring during the Sizzler regular season, respectively, and that parity was born out in the Sweet 16, as they finished in an 82-82 tie. In OT, they were much closer on Seneca Falls elevation, and moved into the Elite 8.

Queefer Sutherland, who didn’t even make it out of the first round in April Madness, regained their composure and made their way into the final 8 with a surprisingly easy 80-67 win over Quizteama Aguilera.

Underground Bard, even playing without their superstar Anne, found themselves in another Elite 8 with a narrow 88-84 victory over Del-COVID 19.

The Winter Warz champs Trivia Mercenaries cruised into the finals with a 98-65 shellacking of Au Bon Pandemic.

Things were a bit tighter in the next bracket over in the Dork Division, where Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Answers knocked off Hallmark Hot 89-84.

By far our biggest stunner of the Sweet 16 was one of our biggest upsets in the past 16 months, as the Texas City Players Club stunned the defending champs, Brood X Karens, 94-92. This was a team that finished 40th in April Madness. Despite playing much better in Summer Sizzler (they finished 14th) this is a tremendous upset.

Our luckiest team was undoubtedly Sons of Sam, who scored worse than five teams that lost in the sweet 16, but had a favorable matchup with a Quick Questions squad that had scored a big upset over FFSF in the Round of 32 but couldn’t keep the magic going vs Sam.

The Final is set for Sunday night at 7:30 and will air live on Facebook. Chip and I will provide commentary, we’ll have some drinks, we’ll have some laughs, and we’ll crown a champ.

Our next season, Fall Brawl II, will kick off in September. We’ll have details on that soon.

Fireworks, Rock Music, Pizza, and Beer

The Philadelphia Phoenix return home this Friday after a thrilling 23-22 victory in Boston over the Glory on Saturday. The win moves them to 3-4 and 5th place in the Atlantic Division. On tap: a monster showdown with the 4-1 Atlanta Hustle. They played the Hustle in Atlanta a few weeks ago, and actually led by 2 at the half before falling, 24-17. A win on Friday night would be a big upset, and a huge shot in the arm for the Phoenix playoff chances.

As part of a partnership with Slice, our first 150 fans through the gates with the Slice app on their phone will receive a free slice of pizza. First 500 fans get a free disc.

Annnnnnnd there’s more. We’ll have a band called Dan the Movie performing before the game and at halftime. Second District Brewing will be selling great beer, Porco’s will be selling pizza inspired sandwiches, and we’ll have dessert from Poppa’s Custard as well.

Got restless kids who might wanna come? No problem…we have our Kid Zone in one corner of the stadium where the children will be monitored by a local teacher, so you can drop them off and grab yourself a bite or a drink.

Oh, and the Phillies are doing one of their epic fireworks displays right next door, which should start right after we wrap up.

Gates are at 6:30, the 4K starts at 6:45, and the game starts at 7:30. You can purchase tickets here. Price before Friday is a mere $12. We’re going to have a blast on Friday…hope to see you there!

To keep up to date on everything Phoenix, follow us on Instagram and twitter.

Playoffs Start Tonight!

We’re headed into the playoffs, and oh boy do we have some first round doozies! We’ve got Boyz II Menehune vs Lambda, Au Bon Pandemic vs Babysitters Fight Club, and Sofa Kingdom up against their old City Tap House foes, Ukraine in the Membrane. If you wanna see who you’re up against this week, go here and click the “Bracket” tab at the bottom. Excited to kick it off tonight!