The story behind The Diner Quiz

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As more American states legalize sports betting, there’s a trend that’s becoming evident. When they launch sports betting, each state seeks to find a sporting celebrity to place the historic first bet.

Illinois went with former Chicago Blackhawks forward and current NBC horse racing analyst Ed Olczyk. Michigan brought Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders in to do the honors. In Colorado, Chauncey Billups, Mr. Big Shot himself, cast the first bet.

When the time comes to pass that Maryland sports betting is legalized, there will be options. Perhaps former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Maybe a Baltimore Orioles star like Jim Palmer. Or they could reach back into the legacy of the Baltimore Colts and go with someone like Tom Matte.

It says here that any of those stars would be fine choices. It also says that they would be the wrong choices.

There can be only one correct selection for this honor, and it’s a reunion of the cast from the 1982 film Diner. Imagine Modell (Paul Reiser), Shrevie (Daniel Stern), Boogie (Mickey Rourke), Timothy (Kevin Bacon) and Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) coming together to lay the first bet.

After all, there’s been no cinematic work that combined Baltimore, sports and gambling in a more iconic fashion than Diner.

David Simon, John Waters, Barry Levinson, Elvis Mitchell at 2009 MFF Fundraiser

The Quiz

There’s plenty of reasons to admire the 1982 Barry Levinson comedy-drama, a coming-of-age story set in Baltimore in 1959. It spawned so many sensational acting careers. Tim Daly and Ellen Barkin were others who got their first screen credit in the film.

In 1959, the NFL’s Baltimore Colts were just about to win their second straight NFL Championship and there’s no bigger fan of the team than Eddie, Guttenberg’s character. In fact, he’s such a fanatic Colts supporter that prior to his wedding, he demands that his fiancee, Elyse (played by Sharon Ziman), complete a 140-question quiz to test her knowledge of the beloved Colts.

As Modell, Reiser’s character sarcastically points out, “Most marriages depend on a firm grasp of football trivia.”

Out of the 140 questions on the quiz, just six are heard during the film. Here they are (we’ll give you the answers at the end of this story).

The Colts Quiz From Diner

1. George Shaw was a first-round draft choice. True or false?

2. Before the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL, they were in another league. What was it called?

3. Buddy Young played for a team that no longer exists. What was the name of that team?

4. What was the longest run from scrimmage by a rookie in his first game?

5. The Colts signed him. A Heisman Trophy winner who decided to play in Canada. Now, however, he plays for the team. What’s his name?

6. The Colts had a team here, lost the franchise, then got one from Dallas. What were the colors of the original Colts team?

The Answer Man

The film crew wanted the questions to be super tough, so they went directly to the source. They contacted the Colts for help.

Given responsibility for compiling the quiz was then Colts assistant general manager Ernie Accorsi. He’d later serve as GM of the Colts, as well as the Browns and New York Giants. His work for the film goes uncredited but without Accorsi’s effort, the test would’ve been laughed at by true Colts fans.

The original quiz included such questions as what were the Colts’ team colors.

“It was too easy,” Accorsi told the Baltimore Sun. “It would have gone over in Topeka, but not Baltimore.

“I made it a lot harder. I made it tough so she could have flunked it. But they weren’t going to let her flunk it.”

Actually, in the film, Elyse does fail the test. But proving that love conquers all – even a lack of knowledge about the Colts – Eddie forgives her and doesn’t call off their wedding.

The screenplay won writer/director Levinson an Academy Award nomination. ESPN named the quiz scene as runner-up to the football game played in the movie M*A*S*H among the best sports scenes in a non-sports movie.

Colts Quiz Answers

1: False

2: All-American Football Conference

3: New York Yankees football team

4: Alan Ameche. Opening day, 1955, 79 yards.

5: Billy Vessels 6: Green and gray

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