By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
AKRON — A former Findlay man is part of a team that has been nominated for induction to the Trivia Hall of Fame.
Kevin Kern is now an associate professor of history at the University of Akron. But back in the early 1980s, he was a student at Findlay High School, where his interest in trivia began.
“While I was there, one of my favorite teachers was Al Bell,” said Kern. Bell taught civics/world affairs and devoted his Friday classes to a “College Bowl” quiz. “This was his way of tricking us into learning.”
And it was Kern’s introduction to competitive quizzing.
He graduated in 1982 and went on to Kent State University. “When I got to college, I actually sought out the college bowl team and eventually made varsity. We actually beat Ohio State. That was one of our greatest accomplishments.”
After graduation, Kern continued to seek out opportunities for similar competition and discovered the continent-wide NTN/Buzztime trivia network.
“Once I knew that places like Damon’s and Buffalo Wild Wings had this competitive quizzing system, whenever I had some free time, I’d drop by and play a few games,” he said.
He competes under the screen name “Anon.”
“What I liked to do was show up at a place, sit in a dark corner somewhere and then just try to beat everybody,” said Kern. “Everybody’s saying, ‘Who is Anon? Who is this guy? Where is he?’ And I just smile quietly to myself.”
Kern played the contests mostly by himself until the late 1990s. When he took the job in Akron, he started finding other people who were also interested in competing. They formed a team in 2004 that has grown to become a top-ranked team in the network’s most difficult and competitive games for the past 12 years.
“It’s just a fun group. There are no egos,” said Kern. “They all come. They all like to contribute. We laugh and we enjoy each other’s company.”
Membership ranges from 12-25 people, including David Runta, a fellow 1982 FHS graduate. Kern’s 14-year-old son, Kenton, also occasionally plays with the team. Another teammate is a former editor at the Akron Beacon Journal and also a former “Jeopardy” champion.
“We first rose to the top ranks about 2008, and we’ve pretty much been at the top ever since then,” he said.
Until recently, contests were broadcast live from thousands of locations in the United States and Canada. “Of course with all the restaurants and bars closed, it’s kind of a moratorium on all of those.”
Last fall, Kern learned that The Fellowship had been nominated for the 2020 Class of the Trivia Hall of Fame. If elected, they would join the likes of “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings; Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, creators of the board game Trivial Pursuit; and Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Kern received an email last fall from the president of the hall of fame, saying the team is under consideration for the ballot. But although it’s his name on the ballot, Kern insists that represents the team.
Part of the selection process includes a public online vote.
Kern said they are most certainly underdogs in the competition, going up against people with national and even international reputations.
“It is an honor just to be nominated. But we’d kind of like to get in,” he said.
Kern also wants to pass on his thanks to Bell.
“I have always wanted Al Bell to know just how much he was appreciated by me and many of his other students, and to give him the credit that is due for whatever success I have had in competitive quizzing,” he said.