August 31, 2009
Sports Trivia Buff a Diamond.....
By: Colin Hunter, Kitchener Record staff
KITCHENER — Before he could read – before he could even talk – Jeff Diamond would grab the sports section of the daily newspaper and toddle off to his room.
His little fingers blackened with newsprint, he would become transfixed by photographs of pro athletes, and try to make sense of the endless columns of stats.
As he got older, and as a social disorder made communication painful for him, he would find comfort and consolation in learning sports history and factoids.
Perhaps that’s why Diamond wasn’t particularly surprised to discover he had beaten 141,000 other competitors in an online sports trivia contest.
Memorizing game stats, team histories and athlete bios has always come naturally to him, and it has suddenly proven very handy. Next month he’ll be the sole Canadian competitor at the Sports Legends Challenge at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas.
“I’ve just got a pretty good memory for sports,” the 24-year-old understates between bites of a quesadilla at Zeke’s Feed & Fuel in Kitchener, where he competed in the video trivia semifinals two weeks ago.
He’s sitting at exactly the same table where, on Aug. 13, he blew away the competition in the NTN Buzztime 25 Years of Sports Trivia Championship.
He sat alone at Zeke’s that night – just him and the wireless terminal he used to punch in one correct answer after another. Nobody else in the bar even noticed he was playing, which was fine by him.
Social interaction has always been difficult for Diamond, who was finally diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, after he began studying computer programming at Conestoga College.
The relative anonymity of the video trivia games provided a comfortable outlet to demonstrate his seemingly limitless knowledge of sports.
“I’m a very intelligent person,” he says, “but I’m very awkward socially.”
But he is improving, and the all-expenses paid jaunt to the Bahamas – his first trip out of the province – will give him a chance to interact with plenty of people, including sports celebrities such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bobby Hull and Tony Hawk, who will compete with the finalists.
Diamond has a vintage Bobby Hull action figure (“In a Winnipeg Jets jersey,” he’s quick to point out) that he thinks would look great autographed.
He’s hoping to make some connections within the sports industry while in the Bahamas, since he’d much rather become a sportscaster than continue working as a floor clerk at a Kitchener department store.
For now, he’s enjoying his status as Canada’s video sports trivia guru, and spending his spare time, as always, adding more sports facts to his vast memory bank.
On request, he can recite every Stanley Cup-winning team – and who they played against, and how many games were in the playoffs – going back more than 50 years. And that’s just the easy stuff.
But he doesn’t like to brag. If people are going to notice him, he wants it to be for the right reasons.
“I’m trying to get people who are suffering like me to realize there are opportunities out there to prove you’re capable of big things,” he says. “Things can really pick up.”