The Odd Sports Indoctrination
Wife carrying, bed racing, chess boxing, and more
By Carly Yansak, 3:00PM, Wed. Mar. 6
I don't know anything about sports. My recent writing concerning the subject has been done in a state of Google searching, term defining, and statistical confusion. Which is why, in the spirit of this education, I'd like to impart some new information on the already sport-savvy.
For example, did you know "wife carrying" is a sport?
Welcome to the Odd Sports Indoctrination.
Held once a year in Finland, the Wife Carrying Competition is a battle of domestic strength. Started sometime in the 1800s, the contest consists of a man carrying his "wife" (they don't have to be married; she just needs to be older than 17 and at least 108 pounds) piggy-back through a course made of sand, fences, and random pools. The contestants race two at a time and the person with the fastest time may claim the spoils of either a cell phone or his clung-on partner's weight in beer.
Next we move westward to the English town of Ashton, where, every second Sunday in October, you can find people competing to be King and Queen Conker in a tradition started when fishermen – bored from being stranded on land by inclement weather – began trying to smash each other's nuts. If you're done giggling, I'll proceed.
The tradition is conker smashing and the nuts in question are horse chestnuts (aka conkers). The smashing occurs by running thread through each nut and propelling it at your opponent's. The contestants alternate swings and take three turns each. Whoever smashes the other nut wins, but if both smash at the same time then they'll do it all over again.
Staying in the original colony, you will also find the sport of bed racing. Once only open to Army, Navy, and American Marines, the now mixed-demographic competitors create teams of six to push, maneuver, and haul a four-wheeled bed (decorated for the yearly theme) through a designated course.
"We wanted to build a bridge between laziness and sportsmanship," is what I imagine an Englishmen would tell us were he discussing the event.
Moving down under, Australians deserve special recognition for their affinity for speed. Just in the town of Queensland you can enjoy cane toad, camel, cow, sheep, or cockroach racing. Unfortunately, however, one of their most unique sports has been banned at the behest of certain human rights groups – dwarf throwing.
Although dwarf throwing sounds like something elves of Middle Earth might play, it was actually a sport enjoyed in northern Australian towns. Not much is known of the origins, but the actual action consisted of putting a dwarf in a type of slingshot harness and launching him as far as possible. Despite providing soft landing places, the event was eventually deemed … wrong. Just wrong.
Our next two sports transcend placement. Held in many countries, hairiest back competitions are almost exactly as they sound. It's not just about who has the most hair, though, but also about crowd approval. If you can make your pelt "interesting," your odds of winning the hair removal laser treatment package are much greater. Then for those with masochistic instead of showmanship tendencies, there is the sport of shin kicking. Each time a kick makes an opponent fall to the ground, you get a point. Defense is in the form of straw-padded shin guards.
While these worldly games are more on the informal side, there is one boasting the class of both black-tie Vegas and mahogany-shelved libraries. The ultimate battle of brain and brawn, the physical manifestation of pen vs. sword, a fluid union of fist and brain known as chess boxing.
Taken out of a French graphic novel, Le Froid Equateur, the concept was imagined by cartoonist Enki Bilal and brought to life by Dutch artist lepe Rubingh. There is no actual combination of the games, rather an alternation; competitors take part in six, four-minute rounds of chess and five, two-minute rounds of boxing with a one-minute break between sets to cool down and change gear. The matches are decided by a win on either end of the spectrum; a knockout or checkmate.
Chess boxing events have taken place in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Calcutta. The contestants boast names such as Anti-Terror, the Beast, and the Priest. As a requirement, all are Class A expert level chess players. As a nonrequirement, all are balanced hybrids of intellect and vigor.
And thus, we conclude this Odd Sports Indoctrination. You've carried wives, smashed nuts, and hauled beds. No offsides or yellow cards existed in this world and now the next time you see someone punt a field goal, you can ask yourself, "but how far could that man kick a dwarf?"
Post Lesson Discussion Questions:
1) Do you find dwarf throwing inappropriate even if the dwarf willingly participates?
2) What would your chess boxing name be?
3) Would you rather see a knockout or checkmate?