Northbrook aficionado leads squad to sports trivia fundraiser triumph

  • The One True Team, from left to right, consists of Kevin Hartbarger, Matthew Scalise, Eric Mennel, John Calkins, Erik Johnson and Paul Veith, who has captained various iterations of the squad nine times. The team previously won the title in 2012 and 2014.Matt Baron

    The One True Team, from left to right, consists of Kevin Hartbarger, Matthew Scalise, Eric Mennel, John Calkins, Erik Johnson and Paul Veith, who has captained various iterations of the squad nine times. The team previously won the title in 2012 and 2014.Matt Baron

 
Matt Baron
Updated 3/2/2020 11:06 AM

They had become the Shirley Babashoff of local sports trivia mavens, but on Saturday, February 22nd, a squad led by Northbrook's Paul Veith finally broke through again to win one of the region's most popular fundraising events, the 12th Annual St. Giles Men's Society Sports Trivia contest.

At Trinity High School in River Forest, they emerged from a pack of 97 teams, totaling nearly 600 players, in an event whose roots go back to a small Oak Park church hall where 14 teams gathered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For Veith's team, known as The One True Team, the prior championships came in 2012 and 2014. Over the past five years, and six out of seven, a collection of extremely knowledgeable sports nuts known as Popeye Jones' Ugly Brothers had a stranglehold on first place.

For most of those years, The One True Team came in second as the overall field more than doubled, to about 100 teams (six players per team). Hence, the Shirley Babashoff reference: along with a pair of Russian gymnasts and a Swedish cross-country skier, the 1970s standout American swimmer has won more silver medals (six) than anyone else in Olympic history.

She also won two golds, and The One True Team has now enjoyed three tastes of foremost glory along with a bunch of close-but-no-cigars: five second-places, including 2017 through 2019, and one third-place finish, the worst showing over the nine years Veith has fielded a squad.

In that span, about a dozen teammates have come alongside him. This year's crew included fellow Northbook resident Kevin Hartbarger, who is an advertising executive. Rounding out the team were a pair of Chicagoans, Matthew Scalise, a special education teacher, and Eric Mennel, an attorney; John Calkins, an attorney from Wilmette, and Erik Johnson, a data analyst who hails from River Forest.

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The One True Team racked up 157 points out of 192 possible. They edged Popeye Jones' Ugly Bros. by three points, prompting loud cheers from other teams rooting for the underdog when the final tallies were announced.

Of the six trivia rounds, the one that may have separated the good from the great on this night called for identifying the college or professional team associated with over 50 logos--more than a few of which were exceedingly obscure. The One True Team had guys who somehow recognized the Montgomery Biscuits (Double A baseball) and the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants (NBA G League), among other lesser-known clubs and colleges.

Another moment that stood out in Veith's recollection was when, at the last second, he summoned the name of retired relief pitcher Robb Nen from his memory bank. That answer came as part of a series on palindromes, a nod to the occasion falling on the calendar as 02-22-20.

"It's hard to prepare for something like this," observed Veith. "It's just by happenstance that you know this stuff."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Each year, a team of about 15 Sports Trivia Night Committee members from the St. Giles Men's Society brainstorm the questions, across a variety of sports, time periods, and themes.

For its first nine years, debuting with 14 teams in 2009, the Sports Trivia event was held at St. Giles' campus, 1045 Columbian Ave. in Oak Park. After six years at McDonough Hall, steady growth forced a move to the school gymnasium. Then, in 2018, the site shifted to Trinity High School in River Forest.

In recent years, organizers have focused the bulk of their charitable giving to Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School's Corporate Work-Study program. Over the previous three years, the event generated about $120,000 for the program; organizers will soon announce this year's fundraising amount, which will again go toward underwriting the Work-Study Program for students who attend the private Roman Catholic high school in the Austin neighborhood.

According to the school's web site, the program "allows students to earn the majority of the cost of their education by working five days a month at Chicago-area businesses, law firms, banks, hospitals and non-profits. This model allows tuition payments to remain affordable while providing funding for a safe, faith-based environment with rigorous college prep academics."

To learn more about the St. Giles Men's Society Sports Trivia contest, including its history and mission, visit http://www.stgilessportstrivia.com. For a listing of this year's teams and their results, visit https://www.stgilessportstrivia.com/index.php/history/2020-results

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