“Who was the first American in space?”

I encountered this question years ago at the George & Dragon. And it remains the most annoying trivia question I’ve ever been asked, as a player.

Why? Because the answer was “John Glenn.”

Unfortunately for the quiz host, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Alan Shepard was the first American in space, as just about any reference material you consult will be happy to tell you.

When the host said “John Glenn,” protests exploded like strikes in a bowling alley. But she insisted she was right.

Of course, that’s the quiz host’s preogative. When I host at the Old Pequliar, one of the rules is that, for the purposes of the quiz, I know what I’m talking about, and there will be no arguments. It’s a rule I inherited and decided to keep, because lord knows I don’t want to get into cite-fests in the middle of a quiz.

Because of that, though, I make sure I get my facts right. I double-check answers. I cite a source in the question, if necessary. And I anticipate common objections for when someone does want to quibble so that I can provide a more detailed explanation.

The John Glenn question was asked years ago, at this point, and I’ve bored many people talking about it. Some point out that anyone else who said Shepard got it wrong, too. True enough. But all those teams that said John Glenn? They earned an undeserved point. And I’m sure more than one team gave the correct incorrect answer.