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The Grad’s Mr. Monday Night

Emcee Will Arnold (Right) has been working as a mainstay at the Grad since August 2010.

My name is Paulo Camacho, and this is Macho Sports.

“That is a quarterback sack …”

“So, for this trivia question …”

“And, with that touchdown, we’re going to enact the Mercy Rule …”

If you went to the Davis Graduate on a Monday night this past fall, these phrases should be quite familiar to you. As one of the best places in Davis to watch sports, the Grad has recently gained a reputation for hosting Monday Night Football, the culturally iconic “game of the week” during the NFL season. With intriguing matchups and a bevy of storylines, the games on Monday nights should be enough to keep people coming out to watch them at their favorite sports bar. One man, however, has managed to put a little spice into Monday nights.

He is a rather unassuming fellow, but regulars to the Grad know him, and his baritone voice, all too well. He sits at the end of the bar, with a microphone in hand, ready to give away free drinks, food and prizes to anyone who can answer his endless array of trivia questions. You may know him as “that guy” at the Grad on Monday nights. His name is Will Arnold.

Arnold, who turns 32 on Tuesday, is an avid sports fan who grew up in Davis. He got his start running trivia challenges, called “Pub Quizzes,” and hosting events at the now-defunct Duke’s Sports Bar and Grill in 2006. President and owner of the Grad, Charlie Swanson, was looking for an emcee to do a similar event at his establishment. He brought on Arnold to host his unique Pub Quizzes on Sunday nights, starting in the summer of 2010. With the success of the Pub Quiz, Swanson took the idea further to Monday nights. “Charlie came to me with the idea that he wanted to do something for Monday Night Football,” Arnold explained. “[It] included some trivia, some drink specials, and other types of deals.”

Arnold was intrigued by the idea, and soon after began his emceeing job, at the start of the 2010 regular season. Hesitant at first about how the specials, deals and prizes would work out in a room full of sports fans every week, he was no doubt looking forward to it.

“[Charlie] had the list of things that would happen during the game, and the associated drink specials, which [I thought] was pretty hilarious: Kamikazes for quarterback sacks, and the slippery nipple shooter for a fumble,” Arnold recalled. “Sometimes, you would announce it, and nobody would want a Kamikaze at the time. Sometimes, the bar would line up, and he would sell a bunch of drinks, just because they fumbled the ball, or the [quarterback] got sacked.”

And so, it went, every Monday night in the 2010 NFL season. A typical Monday would see an announced pregame special, $1.75 quarter-pound “Undergrad” Burgers and fries, a half-hour before kickoff. Afterward, for the duration of the game, Arnold would be in charge of trivia questions, keeping track of drink specials, and various other duties by the bar. One unique bar special, the “Mercy Rule”, was meant to be rarely enacted through the course of the season. “The deal was, pretty much everything except for top-shelf and super premium micro beers was $2.75 whenever a team was up by 22 points,” Arnold said. “It will [also] last as long as the team is up by 22 … if [a team] goes up by 22 in the first quarter, then, [potentially] for the next two-and-a-half hours, you got people drinking pretty cheap.”

The trivia questions were a big part of the festivities, and would always pertain to the teams participating in that week’s game. For example, in the Week 2 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints, questions would focus on players, coaches and achievements from those two teams. Arnold would read the questions, identify the first person to answer it correctly, and give out the prize. The questions, themselves, however, also fell on him to formulate. In any case, the origin of his trivia questions come from a criticized, albeit obvious source.

“Literally, 99.9% of the trivia that I come up with, not just for Monday Night Football, but for the Pub Quiz, is from Wikipedia,” Arnold explained. “For instance, in terms of Monday Night Football, if you’re looking up history of the Chicago Bears, sure: there’s probably volumes of books published – I just don’t have them in front of me. … As far as categorized, codified information, there’s nothing compared to what they have on Wikipedia.”

He went on to explain that, while Wikipedia articles can be edited, they are heavily policed and scrutinized, and are the best sources of coming up with trivia questions on the fly. “The easiest way to make a trivia question is take the first sentence of a Wikipedia article, and change the proper nouns into interrogative pronouns,” he said. “For example, ‘John Wayne is an American actor, famous for such-and-such films.’ You would just cut ‘John Wayne’, put in ‘Who’, put a question mark at the end, and you now have a trivia question. I hate to pull back the curtain.”

While Arnold primarily held the responsibilities as host during football season, he also relied on the aid of the staff at the Grad. Holding a symbiotic relationship, especially the staff posted behind the bar, he could count on them to keep up with the hectic environment on Monday nights. “They hire good people at the Grad,” Arnold insists. “The bartenders are all really good. I know we give them a little extra work on Monday nights … They have to be paying attention to me and my shenanigans, so I’m telling them to ring the bell because there’s a touchdown … so they’re very nimble, smart and able to handle that, and that’s to a person. I haven’t had one experience where somebody couldn’t figure it out, or something.”

At the same time, he insists on making the staff’s job as smooth as possible, giving them a heads-up on drink specials and giveaways. The camaraderie between him and the staff grew as a result. “I’ve gained some friends – that’s probably the best takeaway from Monday Night Football, no doubt about it,” Arnold said. “They are really nice and smart people, [and] fun to hang out with.”

All this led to a season that brought in many patrons to the Grad. On a given night, the establishment will have a number of fans, supporting a wide array of teams – not just the 49ers. “The West Coast matchups, like Oakland [vs.] San Diego, brought in a bunch of people, because there’s a lot of San Diego transplants, who went to school down there,” Arnold said about the various crowds. He also admitted that the number of fans who would show up in jerseys representing teams from Tennessee, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Pittsburgh was surprising. It added to the excitement of the Grad experience.

However, ironically enough, it was the Monday nights that happened to neglect football that were possibly the most exciting of all. Arnold explained that the Grad was at its most boisterous and electric on the Monday nights he attended when the San Francisco Giants were in the midst of their amazing World Series championship run. “Ultimately, they [won the title] on a Monday night,” Arnold recalled. That will probably be the takeaway from 2010 Monday nights; I don’t even remember what the football game was during Game 5 of the World Series, because no one was watching that game … I think I was asking Giants trivia questions, so it really turned into Monday Night Baseball.”

Given his history as a Bay Area sports fan, there was no doubt about his appreciation for the Giants’ World Series title. His father made his way as a police officer in San Francisco in the 1970s, and patrolled the area of Ingleside, a stone’s throw away from Candlestick Park. Subsequently, he was raised a 49ers and Giants fan, and, by the time he was 16, was a bit spoiled in terms of his fan favorite’s success. “I had a birthday party where [the 49ers] were winning their fifth Super Bowl,” Arnold recalled. “So, a third of the Super Bowls I was alive for, they won … [which] makes it pretty easy to be a fan.”

In fact, tonight’s BCS National Championship game holds a strong significance for Arnold. “I went to the University of Oregon, so I am a Duck,” he said. “I had the benefit of watching their ascension into national football prominence … [Historically] the mentality in Eugene, among the locals, was ‘Oh, they’re the Ducks. They’re always going to disappoint you.’ And, that changed in the years that I was up there, such that in January 2002, they went to the Fiesta Bowl, and ended up the #2 team in the nation.”

He still vividly recalls Heisman Trophy candidate QB Joey Harrington’s run in 2001; Akili Smith and the Yellow-helmeted Ducks’ strong years, capped off with a Rose Bowl appearance, in 1997 and 1998; even the infamous “Cade McNown-throwing-up Game” against UCLA. Even now, with this year’s team going against an SEC powerhouse in Auburn tonight, he is looking forward to an exciting game with high-octane offense. “It’s two incredible offenses, and there’s a chance it’s going to be very high scoring,” Arnold said. “And, when that’s the case, it usually means whichever defense steps up, and makes a few stops, forces a few punts, or forces a turnover, that team will probably end up winning the day.”

In any case, Will Arnold will be at the Grad, hopefully watching his Ducks do just that. As a mainstay on Monday nights, even he admits, “this is the place to be.”

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