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The joy of leaving politics at the door

David Griner

With just minutes left to decide, the pressure was on.

Me: “I’m pretty sure it’s Puerto Rico.”

Copy Chief Ross: “Why would Puerto Rico’s flag have 17 stars?”

Me: “Um … 17 letters in ‘Puerto Rico’?”

Ross: “No there’s not.”

Me: “Whose side are you on, anyway?”

OK, so I wasn’t exactly a Rhodes scholar by the end of last Saturday’s “Brains of Nevada County” trivia contest, but I have several arguments in my defense:

1. There was a free bottle of wine on every table at the beginning of the annual fund-raiser for the Laura Wilcox Memorial Scholarship. Sure, I could have left the bottle untouched, but that’s like not eating the mint someone left on your pillow.

2. The room was packed full of people. We’re talking “American Idol” tryout packed. Michael Jackson courtroom packed. In one year, the number of eight-person teams in the memorial benefit, sponsored by the South Yuba River Citizens League, went from 18 to 24, making it possibly the county’s largest indoor event that doesn’t involve The DeadBeats or Saul Rayo.

3. It was a Saturday night. I’m pretty sure there’s a California law that outlaws thinking on Saturdays. Maybe it’s still working its way through the Assembly …

4. They kept bringing us more bottles of wine. I mean, come on, that’s brain kryptonite.

Despite all this, or maybe thanks to it, The Union’s “Fish Rappers” team was able to rise above my geographic ignorance and claim our spot in the coveted Top 10. Two years ago, we were dead last. A year ago, we were third from last. I like to think this was a testament not to our own intellectual inadequacies, but to the impressive intelligence found throughout this community. That helps me sleep at night.

This year, however, we finally seemed to get our brains in gear and took seventh place. Not impressed? Well, I challenge you to name the monk who supposedly invented Champagne, identify the U.S. poet detained in a 1940s Italian cage, or recognize Ohio’s surprisingly Puerto Rican flag.

Too easy? What are you doing, say, a year from now on Saturday night? We might be able to squeeze you in.

What really impressed me, though, was not our rise from mental mediocrity.

Looking around the Community/Senior Center, I saw some of the most politically active folks in western Nevada County. Community leaders, environmental activists, business big-wigs, and journalists. And everyone generally left politics at the door to have fun and raise money for a great cause.

As one of the area’s most vocal environmental groups, SYRCL is often a flashpoint for political divisiveness. I’m sure there are still many people who eschew the “Brains of Nevada County” because of SYRCL’s central role in the scholarship fund-raiser, which honors a bright young woman killed in a 2001 shooting spree.

But I hope the ongoing success of the trivia contest and the Laura Wilcox Memorial Scholarship will show that we all can accomplish great things when we set aside our differences, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy some good company.

OK everyone, group hug.


This week, I wanted to take a second to let more of you know about The Union’s Reader Circle. If you feel a connection with this community and this newspaper (and who else reads this far on the Opinion Page?), then the Reader Circle is a great way to help improve our content.

The Circle is a relatively new, Internet-based group that gets occasional e-mails from us about stories we’re working on or new features we’re launching. We pay close attention to each response we get from the circle, and we try not to bug you too often.

Oh, and of course, we don’t give out your e-mail address to anyone, even our own advertising people. The Reader Circle is strictly a way for you to weigh in on The Union’s coverage.

To join, just go to http://www.theunion.com/readers on the Web. We’re going to be starting some exciting new projects soon, and I’d love to get your thoughts before they go public.

Maybe we’ll even post tryouts for the 2006 “Fish Rappers” trivia team. Speaking of which, I better start studying now. Wait, it’s Saturday, and I’d hate to break the law by thinking. Maybe there’s a Steve Guttenberg movie on TV.


David Griner is interim managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at davidg@theunion.com or 477-4230.


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