By Luke Robinson
Many moons ago, my parents and their friends used to be hooked on (what was then) a TV board game called Trivial Pursuit. Of course, Trivial Pursuit comes in many forms now. There are TPs for specific decades or occupations, but the original is still the best and back then, it was the competitors’ only option. The group would gather at one of their respective houses and play the game for hours on end. Usually, the teams were divided into men versus women. As things go when couples are pitted against each other, the competition would get very heated.
One fateful night, my parents hosted the dinner/game party. The food was consumed quickly in hopes of jumping right into the competition. Now seated oppositely at the long dinner table, the men and women prepared to determine once and for all which gender was smartest (at least according to standards set by Hasbro).
Because the competition was so cutthroat, the couples had to adopt various habits and rules not included in the game’s official instructions. For instance, a question could only be repeated once and the questioner (especially the females) were very careful to not look at the answer prior to the opposition’s submission. They feared that some form of marital ESP would give away the correct reply to their mate. Therefore, once a question was asked, the asker tightly cupped the question card in his or her hands (as the answers were printed on the back). Cheating was both abhorred and anticipated in this game, so card security was at a premium.
As this night wore on, the match was very tight. There were the typical questions like, “Who was the MVP of Super Bowl X?” or ‘Who was Richard Nixon’s secretary of state?” Then, a female team member asked a question that shook the dinner party to its core. She lifted the card, asked the query, and quickly covered the card with both hands. The men sat in stunned, group silence. Jaws hit floor and wine glasses were turned up and quickly emptied. The guys asked her to repeat the question as it had truly bewildered them. She posed the question again, slammed the card between her hands, and claimed that she would not ask it again.
The other women leaned back in their chairs confidently and folded their arms with Cheshire Cat smirks. Truth be told, they were probably more relieved this question avoided them, and they enjoyed watching the men struggle.
The question was, after all, a real stumper: “Is God dead?”
The men’s first thoughts were, “Ummm…Isn’t this a pretty philosophical and subjective question for a family-fun themed board game?” Their next thoughts were probably, “Even if the question is definitely answerable, how does Hasbro know the answer? Why hasn’t this been in the news or something?” Even though the query is only made of three little words, it carries a lot of significance in the way it is answered, doesn’t it? It sounds more like a religious scholar’s thesis title page than a Trivial Pursuit question whose predecessors read like, “Which is the largest of the Great Lakes?”
After several pensive and self-reflective moments, the men debated about how to answer. They asked the women for clues, but the females were afraid those were the ole standard male tricks and left the card securely covered on the table. As the minutes wore on like hours, the dinner party transformed into a modern-day Council of Trent. Sips of vino were replaced with all types of Clinton-esque contemplations. “What is death?” “What is life?” “What is ‘is’?”
In the end, my father convinced the group it was better to be safe than sorry. Some men looked out the sliding glass doors to make sure storm clouds weren’t gathering as they went with, “No…he is not dead” as their final answer. By this point, the women were just as eager to get to the back of the card as the men. All eyes seemed to scream, “Oh great Hasbro…tell us the answer to this mystery!”
But instead of an answer, the questioner only burst into embarrassed laughter. It turns out she had read the answer side to the game card. In her haste to keep the answer secret, she covered the card too quickly to notice her mistake. The actual question was, “What was on the cover of Time magazine on April 8, 1966?” with the answer being, of course, “Is God Dead?”
There was a great sigh of relief around the dinner table. The men were allowed a new question and no one was struck by vengeful lightning. From that point forward, though, the couples decided it would be best to stick to Monopoly.