News and Pub Quizzes

It was a question that would irrevocably divide the team. Friendships would be lost, reputations were at stake, and it would determine our final placing in the pub quiz.

The question seemed simple enough.

The quiz topic was ‘News in July’.

The question was: In July, the US published a list of the top news events of the last 50 years. What were the top three?

We immediately began composing a list of the key events of the last half century – Kennedy assassination, Moon landing, Collapse of Soviet Union, 9/11, …

And then the quiz master added this.

“Hint: The top three all happened in the last 25 years”.

Ok. Back to the drawing board. We came up with a new list:

  • Challenger
  • Berlin Wall
  • Gulf War
  • Columbia
  • Concord
  • Election of Obama
  • 9/11
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Boxing Day Tsunami


We had to pick three. We got one point for each correct answer. We were coming in close second place, so it was a critical question.

Arguments commenced, along with deep philosophical discussion about the American psyche, and also how the question could be interpreted.

We decided to scratch all non-American events from our list.

Eventually, we had a shortlist of five:

  • Election of Obama
  • Gulf War
  • Challenger
  • 9/11
  • Hurricane Katrina

We all agreed on 9/11, but the others were the source of much debate.

I firmly insisted on Challenger and Obama. I perhaps should have taken a hint when one of our team mates asked: “what is challenger anyway? Was it like a concert or something?” (Though in his defense he probably wasn’t alive at the time it happened.)

After much further arguing we submitted our final selection

  • 9/11
  • Election of Obama
  • Challenger

And, then we waited.

The results were in.

1. 9/11

Easy. One point secured.

2. Hurricane Katrina.

Damn it! But ok, we’ll still get the third one. Obama or Challenger.

3. OJ Simpson Trial.


The top three news events of the last 50 years include the OJ Simpson trial?

My faith in humanity dropped. My team mates were speechless, but on the bright side, almost forgiving for my Challenger contribution.

Nonetheless, despite our disastrous performance on that round, we still managed to recover, and somehow finish with a placement, getting to take home a rather eclectic collection of DVDs and some pub vouchers.

But the OJ Simpson Trial, seriously?!

As we wandered home, dazed and confused, we couldn’t but help collate our own top 20 list, before going to bed.

In chronological order, with my top three highlighted:

  • 2. 1963 JFK assassination
  • 1. 1969 Moon landing
  • 1973 Oil Crisis
  • 1980 Assassination of John Lennon
  • 1985 Rainbow Warrior Bombing
  • 1985 Live Aid concert
  • 1986 Chernobyl
  • 1986 Challenger
  • 1989 Fall of Berlin Wall
  • 1991 Collapse of Soviet Union
  • 1994 Nelson Mandela elected President
  • 1996 Cloning of first sheep
  • 1997 Princess Di dies (I hate to add this, but it was a pretty big news event)
  • 1998 Lewinsky Scandal (Again I feel a little dirty for adding this – but it did seem to create a media hysteria – and there wasn’t much else going on in the late 90s)
  • 2000 Y2K
  • 3. 2001 911
  • 2004 Boxing Day tsunami
  • 2005 Hurricane Katrina
  • 2006 Death of Saddam Hussein
  • 2008 Obama Elected President
  • 2011 Death of Osama bin Laden
  • 2011 Japan Tsunami

And for reference, here’s the list that the pub quiz question was referring to:

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