If you’re not big into baseball, summer is a desert for sports. Nothing thrives but incessant contract talk, half-hearted hot takes and roughly 350 hours of analysis of the NFL schedule, with dozens of men in suits offering courageous commentary along the lines of “That game is sure going to be a good game.”
So let’s look beyond the professional realm and consider some of the lesser-known sporting events still to come this summer.
Finger Wrestling Championships, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Two lederhosen-clad competitors of similar age, weight and, in all likelihood, blood-alcohol level sit across from one another at a table. Each places a middle finger inside a small leather band. A single-digit tug of war ensues, giving new and painful meaning to the phrase “Pull my finger.” The match continues until one player has yanked the other across the table or succumbed to a broken or dislocated finger, or until Germany stops being weird.
According to organizers, finger wrestling originated in the 17th century as a way of settling disputes—apparently because no one had heard of fistfights or words. Everything I’ve read suggests the sport is actually taken fairly seriously. Perhaps there’s even a local sports network where the Bavarian equivalent of Skip Bayless spends 11 months of the year arguing that former champ Anton Utzschneider is “not elite.”
Skillet Toss, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. A highlight of the August agricultural fair, this annual event is “open to the world’s women aged 18 and over.” I’ve actually witnessed the skillet toss in person and can tell you it’s held in the oxen-pulling ring, just to the right of the manure pile. (For the record, the pile of manure is identified with a large sign that reads “Manure Pile.” You know, just in case there is any confusion—which, FYI, there never is.)
It’s a pretty intense competition. Scores of women gather to hurl the custom-made, solid-steel skillet for distance and accuracy while people in the crowd shout encouraging things like “Be the skillet!” and “Please don’t hit us with the skillet!” All the women pretend they didn’t practise for the event in their backyards even though they totally practised for the event in their backyards. For weeks beforehand, the island’s children are united in wondering: “Why is there grass in my pancake?”
Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships, Savonlinna, Finland. This country is probably more famous for its Wife Carrying World Championships, which take place in early July. But phone hurling is growing in profile thanks to what organizers describe as a yearning for “spiritual freedom from being available all the time.” In fact, chucking a mobile device is now more popular than Finland’s other main pastime: waiting patiently for death.
Since the event began in 2000, some competitors have managed to propel a phone in excess of 300 feet. But if you want to see real distance, organizers need to alter the format to allow competitors to throw someone else’s phone—preferably right after they take it out to check their email during dinner. That’s when your heart is really going to be in it.
Chessboxing Fight Night, Berlin, Germany. Here we have a test of brain and brawn, hunches and punches, drama and trauma. Each match consists of alternating three-minute rounds of chess and boxing. You can leave a winner by:
• judge’s decision
• not being seen by anyone you know
The only question I have is: Why are you not on my TV every week, chessboxing? Surely this sport has to be more entertaining than fat British men flinging darts. In fact, I’m willing to wager that chessboxing could set off a lucrative wave of televised sports hybrids. Mark my words: It’s only a matter of time until Sportsnet is backing the creation of leagues devoted to Tetris Arm Wrestling and, if we’re really lucky, Scrabble Slap-Fighting.