Tonga: The Never-Ending Saga

(For the full story of how Tonga first came to be an important part of Williams Trivia, see the Giant Pygmies of Beckles contest from 12/86.)

Since then, one of the cherished traditions of Williams Trivia is the group anticipation building to the Tonga question: when will it come? When?

But as we'll see, asking Tonga questions wasn't nearly the instant tradition we imagine. The first four post-tiebreaker contests NOT hosted by the Evil Empire did not include a single Tonga question.

Really, we can all thank the Evil Empire for keeping Tongamania alive. (The fact that they won a pile of contests in a short period definitely helped.) After losing by the infamous "one-third of one-fifth of one point," truly a Tonga-sized margin, they won the following semester. Rather than shunning their Tongan terror, they embraced it. They cherished it. They exploited it. And they showed that a team can never slacken, never assume, never take a single misstep, or the Trivia Gods' wrath shall be swift and terrible.

Dec 1986  Giant Pygmies of Beckles

The question that started it all......

Tiebreaker Question #2 (of 5):
Question: What are Africa's only three countries ruled by monarchies?
Answer: Morocco, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

We Begin Bombing in Five Minutes correctly named all 3 nations. All The Sugar, Twice the Caffeine named 2 of 3, incorrectly guessing "Tonga" as the third country. This was the margin of victory in the contest: a third of a fifth of a point.

Vic Mather's personal account:

Tom Vitale and I returned to campus not knowing who we might play with. We ran into a friend, Erol Onel, and he invited us to join his team.

I'm pretty sure this year was the first Ultra Bonus. The answer was things Robin says: "Holy ----".

I, personally, figured this out after about 3 hours, scoring 5 points, and no other team got it. This will become important later.

This was the year of the infamous Tonga tie. The whole sordid tale has been documented all too well. What is not generally known is that I am the one who guessed "Tonga," costing our team the title. (Of course, if not for my Ultra Bonus answer we would have lost 5 points. So there.)

(ARCHIVAL NOTE: The broadcast of the Giant Pygmies contest has been unearthed, and its scores analyzed. Mather's "Holy ___, Batman!" answer was actually worth 7 big points to his team.)

The first intentional Tonga question was in December, 1987. Since 1992, few contests have omitted the obligatory Tonga reference. Though one of the tiniest nations on Earth, Tonga is bigger than all of us.

Trivia Main Page