Commentary

Killing time between Olympic thrills

Sporcle quizzes a great diversion while waiting for events that involve some danger

Updated: February 23, 2010, 12:36 PM ET
By Tim Keown | ESPN.com

This is an Olympic column, but not really an Olympic column. It's about what to do with your time between events that you might want to watch -- loosely defined as anything that looks as if it originated as a drunken dare -- and events that include feathered costumes, push brooms or cowboy hats. This column might change your life.

[+] EnlargeOksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin
Richard Mackson/US PresswireMaybe Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin will be answers in the costume category of future Olympic quizzes.

The other day, sometime after Tiger Woods' apology and before the Russian ice dancers went to work wearing fake leaves, I stumbled upon a Web site that might be the best time-waster ever devised. Since I'm not a gamer or a guy who does much on the Internet but read, I have no problem admitting I might be extolling the virtues of something everybody in the world has known about for years.

But sporcle.com is hideously, wonderfully addictive. It carried me through ice dancing when I was waiting for the skicross to start. It took me through the "live" cut-away from bobsled to the final moments of the "live" hockey game between the U.S. and Canada that I had watched -- tape-delayed on the West Coast -- five hours earlier.

(This just in: The Vancouver police have issued a missing person's report for Mary Carillo. She was last seen dressed as Dudley Do-Right while going through the motions of pretending to become a candidate for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She's been seen with polar bears, too, so the authorities are asking for your help in locating her. Consider the matter urgent.)

Sporcle is a compendium of timed quizzes covering just about anything you can possibly imagine: sports, geography, history, literature, movies, television. Trust me, I'm not getting paid by them, but if you're interested in seeing how much you know -- or how much you forget -- give it a shot. It's humbling.

For instance, you are asked to type in as many of baseball's 233 Hall of Famers as you can in 20 minutes. You are given the year of induction and the team, which doesn't help as much as you might think. If you break 100 without Googling, you're doing well. One other thing: The next time someone tells you the Hall of Fame is too exclusive to allow the likes of Bert Blyleven in, throw these two names at them: Elmer Flick and Dave Bancroft, although Bancroft did lead the league in games played. Once.

(One of my sons wore a Halloween costume like the Russian ice dancers' two years ago. He taped oak leaves to a matted wig, an old T-shirt and a pair of ratty jeans. He was a little dirtier than the Russians; he was dressing as one of the tree people who lived in the oaks outside Cal's Memorial Stadium while protesting the expansion and refurbishment of the stadium. I don't think he insulted indigenous people, though.)

Sporcle is also instructive. It's pretty good at assessing how much you think you know versus how much you really know and how quickly you can compile the knowledge in your brain. For instance: One of the quizzes I did while Evan Lysacek was undergoing his fourth or fifth interrogation in the Bob Costas Comfy Chair asked me to name the quarterbacks who had started for the Chicago Bears since 1985. Sporcle gave me eight minutes.

There have been 28 of them, including Jim McMahon, who have started since they won the Super Bowl after the '85 season. I remembered Steve Walsh and Jim Miller, but not Kordell Stewart (seven starts), Craig Krenzel (five) or Peter Tom Willis (three). I had absolutely no recollection of Will Furrer (one) or Moses Moreno (one).

That's another thing you can learn from Sporcle: the ineptitude of some teams at specific positions. Anyone looking at the list of Bears quarterbacks would come to one conclusion: The bar in the Bears' scouting department must have been well-stocked for years.

[+] EnlargeStewart
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesSadly, but maybe not suprisingly to Bears fans, Kordell Stewart did not complete a TD pass in this game against the Chiefs.

As the time to complete your quiz gets short, you become like a bad high school point guard looking up at a dwindling shot clock. You absolutely panic. As the timer headed toward zero on the Bears QB question, I racked my brain and typed in "Bob Avellini" even though I knew he was at least a decade too old.

But in the category of first-round quarterbacks taken since 1980 -- Jim Druckenmiller! Got that one.

(When I was attending Washington State University in the mid-80s, we would carry cafeteria trays to the top of a steep, icy road near campus. Halfway down the hill was an unprotected intersection, so we'd position spotters on both sides of the cross street ready to stop traffic if it came to that. There was no way for the tray-rider to stop before the intersection -- short of jumping off and sliding down sans tray -- so the sport had ice, speed and the potential for catastrophe. Sochi, Russia, in 2014, anyone? And then, for 2018, the ultimate Pullman sport -- hickey-bobbing.)

My favorite Sporcle quiz is the one that asks for "What Meat Loaf Won't Do For Love."

You have one minute to come up with the answer.

The answer, of course, is "that."

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown co-wrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," which is available on Amazon.com. Sound off to Tim here.

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Senior writer, ESPN.com