This story from the Palm Beach Post reads like a Rick Reilly column, who is one of my favorites. I had to pass it along to you all in some form or another. Enjoy.
Kooky competitive sports
By Cox News Service
WEST PALM BEACH , Fla. Coney Island
WEST PALM BEACH
Amid the festivities, the International Federation of Competitive Eating, Inc. - yes, that’s what it’s called - will remind us it’s doing all it can to “ensure that the sport remains safe,” because heaven forbid someone eats 53 hot dogs in 12 minutes and puts their health at risk.
A strange sport? Surely you digest. In the world of competitive eating alone, hot-dog contests are small potatoes.
Kobayashi, for example, once ate 57 cow brains in 15 minutes, Patrick Bertoletti downed 177 pickled jalapenos in 15 minutes and, in the ultimate please-give-this-woman-some-space performance, 105-pound Sonya Thomas required just 2 minutes, 47 seconds to polish off 8.4 pounds of baked beans.
But if you think Nathan’s hot-dog eating contest, or any other gluttonous game, is the ultimate in weird sports, well, meet Paul Beech. He’s the longtime champion in World Toe Wrestling - “The Toeminator.”
Not bizarre enough?
How about coffin races to honor a dead guy whose descendants keep him packed in ice?
Or toilet-seat horseshoes at the Redneck Games?
Boeing engineers doggedly creating the ultimate contraption to catapult fruitcakes where no fruitcake has gone before?
Golfing down a rattlesnake-inhabited New Mexico
If that sounds like a lot of carrying on, try the World Wife Carrying Championships. They’re celebrated every July in Finland
Given that the Finns also host something called the World Sauna Championships, you might think all Helsinki Finland Manitou Springs , Colo.
Poor Emma, dead as she is, would be relieved to know these two events are not held simultaneously. (In Manitou, you never know.)
”There’s a long-standing expression here in Manitou, “ says Floyd O’Neil, special-events coordinator at the local chamber of commerce. ”You’ll see it every once in awhile on bumper stickers and T-shirts. The statement is real simple: ’Keep Manitou weird.’ “
Crawford moved there in the late 1800s, thinking the weather would help her beat tuberculosis. It didn’t. After she died, her fiance rounded up a dozen men to fulfill her wish of bringing her atop the 7,200-foot Red Mountain
It turned out to be a temporary stop.
Years of storms, not to mention questionable burial techniques, sent Emma’s remains on a rollicking ride down the mountain in the early 1900s.
Hold that image as we turn to equally unfortunate ”Grandpa “ Bredo Morstol, who in 1989 was brought from Norway Nederland , Colo.
Then things got weird.
Grandson was deported. Grandpa’s daughter was evicted from the home where he was being kept on ice. The city passed an ordinance preventing people from freezing people. Then the city added a grandfather clause, allowing the Frozen Dead Guy to be packed away in a new shed, in temperatures that would chill the hearts of Ted Williams and Walt Disney.
Another coffin race was born and now Manitou and Nederland
”They race a coffin in our event, we race one in their event, “ O’Neil says. ”And we are the undisputed champions. “
Dead Guy race rule: ”Dropping the coffin is very bad form and may disqualify your team ?”
Alas, the only thing that could kill the spirit here is the occasional dead heat. L.J. Werner is director and founder of Nederland
Actually, Werner says: “With the kids, we don’t use the word ‘coffin.’ We’re kind of like, ’Oh, we’re painting the ’sled,’ or ‘the thing that L.J.’s going to ride in for the race.’ ”
At least L.J. isn’t getting thrown over someone’s shoulder in a mad dash to the finish line.
That might be one technique at this weekend’s World Wife Carrying Championships.
Craig McMahan is preparing to haul his wife, Natalya Pushkina, who apparently has her race face on.
”I am a husband who has a wife with a similar sense of humor, so it wasn’t a hard sell, “ says McMahan, a 35-year-old musician from Pawtucket , R.I.
There’s a variety of strategies. Will it be the fireman’s carry? Piggyback? Or the ever-popular, aerodynamic Estonian-style (woman dangles upside down with her legs around his shoulders and her arms around his waist)?
”We haven’t experimented that far, “ McMahan says.
They have tried the occasional dry run. McMahan paints the poetic scene:
”There’s a woman playing Frisbee with her dog, father playing with kids, husband carrying wife around football field ? “
With the race falling three days after their anniversary today, they couldn’t resist entering, especially with such a refreshing first prize.
”You just spent the day carrying your wife, “ McMahan says. ‘’You might as well drink her weight in beer. “
Beer became a critical factor in the Fruitcake Toss, reports Joe Carberry, 41, one of a handful of Boeing engineers who thought they were hot stuff early in the competition’s history with a giant slingshot generating ”700 pounds of force, “ Carberry says.
Then what happened?
”We got our rear ends handed to us by a team of Girl Scouts. “
It was very cold that year and the slingshot suffered elasticity breakdown.
So the Boeing guys drowned their sorrows and came up with something ”we lovingly call the Omega 380 Fruitcake Launch System, “ Carberry says.
”Our reputation precedes us: ’You’re the fruitcake guys?”’ Carberry says, repeating the common refrain. “’Yeah, we’re the fruitcake guys.”’
Basically, the Omega 380 is an exercise bike connected to a compression pump connected to an air cannon. Pedal for 10 minutes to charge up the air tank, aim, fire. Best of all, it’s all-weather ? they thought.
“We had a 15- to 20-mile-per-hour tailwind, so it took it farther than we expected,” Carberry says. “We basically were raining fruitcake down on an unsuspecting neighborhood. Several calls to the police were issued.”
When the event moved to the foothills of Pikes Peak
Years ago, O’Neil received a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Fruitcakes. Check that. It actually it was a fruitcake company not pleased with the way its product was being hurled.
O’Neil claims they hurl responsibly.
“We have some fruitcakes that are 12 years old,” he says. “The 12-year-old ones are basically petrified. They are so hard it is scary. A fruitcake generally will harden in about three months to a rock. They get a delightful shade of battleship gray once they’re aged 10 years or more.”
If flying fruitcake is your thing, your list of things to do before you’re as dead as The Frozen Dead Guy surely includes the Interstate Mullet Toss.
Held every April on the Florida-Alabama border, this competition features flying fish - not hair. The mullet toss got off to a sobering start when local guy Ken Stabler, the ex-Raider and veteran Dolphin-killer, attempted to throw one like a football.
“He put his fingers into it,” says Pat McClellan, co-owner of the Flora-Bama Lounge & Bar, which holds the event. “Got his fingerprints and impressions on the fish. You can’t throw a spiral with a mullet. That’s not the way to throw it.”
Who doesn’t know that? You have to crunch it up in a ball and throw it headfirst so the fish slowly unfurls in midair. When throwing headfirst, one’s mullet should first have a head, as one contestant discovered.
“He bit the head off,” McClellan says. “He got disqualified.”
So not everyone can be a world-class mullet-tosser. Perhaps the Elfego Baca Golf Shoot is more up your alley. Held in June in Socorro , N.M.
A few stats on the hole: Starting elevation is 7,280 feet, atop the Socorro Peak
Hazards? How about 100-degree heat, slippery shale, cactus, cicadas that sound like rattlesnakes and rattlesnakes that sound like they’re not fond of golfers.
“One of my scorekeepers rolled into some cactus,” says Dennis Walsh, 32, this year’s proud champion. “He had the option of landing in the ravine or the cactus. He chose wisely. He spent half an hour with his pants down (removing thorns). I always bring tweezers. Sure enough, we needed it.”
Walsh won with a score of 16. That’s 13 strokes, plus a penalty for each of the three balls lost in a ravine.
Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly thought this sounded like fun, at least until one of his balls landed near a rattler.
“You all are crazy,” Reilly announced at the awards ceremony, where he nonetheless claimed second place.
Ferrets, not rattlers, are the star attraction every August in Eugene , Ore.
The U.S. Olympic Committee trademark police doesn’t think it’s cute. They threatened a lawsuit over the event’s original name, “The Ferret Olympics.”
“I’m like, ’Dang!’ ” says Melanee Ellis, president of the Lane Area Ferret Lovers. Because the Agility Trials are a fund-raiser for the local ferret shelter, Ellis changed the name, unable to stomach the thought of homeless ferrets clutching roadside signs (”Will burrow for food “).
The hard part was telling her ferret, Spaz.
”He was very disappointed, “ Ellis says. ”He really wanted to say he participated in the Olympics and won a medal. “
Won a what?
”We have a medal ceremony, “ Ellis says. ”I’m not kidding. We create these medals. They’re actually 2 1/2-inch buttons. We string a little ribbon around it, so it’s something we put over the ferret’s head. We put whatever medal he’s won on, then I shake his paw and say congratulations. It’s just a silly little thing that we do. “
And the rest of the day isn’t silly?
”Of course not, “ Ellis says. ”The ferrets take it very, very seriously. And ferrets never take anything seriously. “
Hal Habib writes for the Palm Beach Post. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org