Dave Barry Reviews Sports from Hell
Dave Barry is a humor columnist. For 25 years he was a syndicated columnist whose work appeared in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and abroad. In 1988 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Many people are still trying to figure out how this happened. Dave has also written a total of 30 books, although virtually none of them contain useful information. Two of his books were used as the basis for the CBS TV sitcom Dave's World, in which Harry Anderson played a much taller version of Dave. Dave lives in Miami, Florida, with his wife, Michelle, a sportswriter. He has a son, Rob, and a daughter, Sophie, neither of whom thinks he's funny. His new book I'll Mature When I'm Dead will be published in May 2010. Read his review of Sports from Hell:
When you rank the greatest sportswriters in the world today, one name stands alone at the top of the list.
But this review is not about him. This review is about Rick Reilly, and his excellent new book: Sports from Hell (long subtitle alert): My Search for the World’s Dumbest Competition. Not only is it hilarious, but it also raises some important questions, the main one being: Reilly got paid for this?
Yes, he did, and I applaud him for it, especially if he also claimed his expenses as tax deductions. And there were a lot of expenses, because to write this book Reilly roamed the globe in a two-year quest to find the world's most idiotic sports.
"Wait a minute," I hear you saying. "If he was looking for idiotic sports, why didn't he just stay in America and write about professional lawn-mower racing?"
Because in the pantheon of international sports stupidity, lawn mower-racing is nothing. Reilly found sports that make professional lawn-mower racing look like the Indianapolis 500. The World Sauna Championships, for example. This is a competition held in Heinola, Finland involving saunas set to 261 degrees, which is basically your daytime high temperature on Mercury. Reilly was able to sit in one of those saunas for four minutes before his fillings started to melt. The winner made it 13 minutes, emerging victoriously to raise the stumps of his hands in triumph while Finnish firemen extinguished him.
Among the other highly entertaining, if not uplifting, sports that Reilly participated in were: ferret-legging, in which contestants put a live ferret down their pants and see how long they can keep it there without qualifying for a completely new section of the choir, if you get my drift; women's professional football (I don’t want to ruin it for you, but their idea of "holding" is entirely different than ours); and Australian nude bicycle-racing, one of the few sports in which you run the risk of Death By Chafing. (Warning to Australian citizens: Reilly's bike was rented.)
My point is, if you enjoy--And who doesn't?--reading about other people’s pain, then you are going to love Sports from Hell. It's the wittiest sports book out there. And if you don't agree, you don't know wit from Heinola.
Look Inside Sports from Hell
(Click to Enlarge)
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|Bull Poker: |
The inmates of Angola (La.) State Prison engage in a healthy use of taxpayer money with a game of Bull Poker. The last man to jump out of his chair and flee the scene as the bull smashes the table is not just the winner of the jackpot but also separated from his pancreas at no extra charge.
|Chess Boxing Friends: |
In this deliciously dumb mishmash, Reilly observes that the best strategy is to play chess slow and box fast.
|Rock, Paper, Scissors: |
Reilly faces a momentary setback in Round One of the intensely strategic Rock-Paper-Scissors championship held annually in Toronto. There were injuries.
Reilly emerges--not victoriously but still alive--from a 261°F sauna after lasting 3 minutes and 10 seconds in the World Sauna Championships in Finland.
(Dave Barry photo © The Miami Herald, Sports photos © Cynthia "TLC" Reilly)
It’s always good when sports kookiness happens and Rick Reilly is there to cover it—and sometimes even join in. Fancy two ferrets running loose in your underwear-less sweatpants? Or playing chicken in a 264-degree sauna? Or risking life and limb on a three-mile-long (par 19) golf hole that starts on a scruffy, rattler-laden New Mexico mountaintop? Better Reilly than us. But since these are the “dumbest” and not just the most dangerous competitions, Reilly also includes baseball (huh?), nude bicycling, chess boxing, a drinking game whose winner is determined by the color and texture of his vomit, and bull poker, in which four prisoners (voluntarily) sit at a card table in the middle of a rodeo ring while an insanely angry bull charges them—the last prisoner to bolt from the table is the “winner.” Reilly brings his patented one-liner shtick to the proceedings, much of it LOL, some of it painfully old boy. But he knows and delivers a good story when he sees it, and beneath all the goofiness, readers can’t help but be touched by the sheer ingenuity of many of these games and the sheer courage of many of the participants. These 13 pieces are previously unpublished, all the more reason readers will be attracted to them. --Alan Moores