Mike Riley at Gillette Stadium/ Credit: Courtesy Mike Riley

Mike Riley, or “Sarge” as Needhamites know him, has traveled down Interstate 95 south to Gillette Stadium countless times. The Needham native has been the public address announcer for the New England Patriots and Revolution for more than four years — it’s his baritone, with just a touch of a regional accent, announcing touchdowns, goals and victories in Foxborough. 

Even after all this time, Riley feels like he needs to pinch himself every time the stadium comes into view.

“I’m so lucky,” he said. “I love what I do every single day.” 

Every year, Riley brings his announcing skills home, adding a professional gloss to the Needham Education Foundation’s Trivia Bee — a fundraising event in which students, families and community members can compete, raising money for programs and initiatives in the Needham Public Schools.

“Gillette Stadium holds 68,000 people, but it’s the same energy you get at the Trivia Bee,” he said. “Giving back and doing something like this here for the community and letting people have some fun, helping put a smile on someone’s face — that’s what I get the most out of the whole NEF trivia.”

Mike Riley at last year’s Trivia Bee/ Credit: Courtesy Mike Riley

The event, originally a spelling bee, started in 1992. Riley remembers watching his brothers participate at the Newman School. Like many of the students and community members who will be competing in the bee this Thursday, Riley grew up in the Needham Public School system, graduating from Needham High in 2002. 

When the NEF approached him about hosting the first trivia competition in 2021, he jumped at the opportunity. Riley has become a regional go-to guy for hosting trivia events and was in many ways a natural choice.

“After a lot of extensive meetings with everybody dealing with it, we did virtual trivia,” Riley said of pivoting due to the pandemic. “In 2022, we were able to do it in person, and that was just a thrill. Being at the Needham High cafeteria — the place was packed, it was a tremendous crowd.”

“The folks at NEF do an outstanding job of bringing up the fun for everybody,” he said. “It’s now about bragging rights. The last couple of years, I’ve seen the defending champs there and they brag about it, so it’s cool to have some fun with that. [I’ve also heard] some other people trash-talking like: ‘We’re gonna win this year.’”

The bragging has even seeped outside Needham High’s cafeteria. It’s not completely out of the ordinary for Riley to hear trivia boasts at the grocery store or even at church.

“You can talk the talk, but in the end, you have to walk the walk,” he said.

The rivalries are all in good fun, Riley said. “It definitely brings the community together, and it’s true pride, if you will.”

Riley will once again host this year’s Trivia Bee on Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Needham High School cafeteria. Teams of up to six members will compete for prizes, answering questions in categories ranging from academia to sports.

Cameron Meyer and Charlie Moore are Boston University journalism students

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