A Sporting Chance

Friends had many fine corrections for my tirade last week about the legislature.

Liz Moore gently reminded me that the category of “mental illness” already carries a stigma that makes it hard for people to ask for help. While some mental illness can lead to violence, it isn’t helpful to include all the good folks with different forms of mental illness in any list of gun violence perpetrators: terrorists, domestic abusers, and the heavily inebriated. Thanks for the very important reminder, Liz.

Ron Waterman wrote, “I believe the motto for the session was ‘If it ain’t broken, break it.’ There was no fixing in any of their actions.” His two lines would have been an excellent replacement for my whole blog.

Mark Hampton bettered my four-point plan for improving politics with this:
1. Establish a generous salary for legislators, and then deduct $10,000 for every new law enacted.
2. Establish a lean salary for the Governor, and then add $10,000 for every new piece of legislation vetoed.
3. Require every elected official to personally attend continuing education instruction every month; three hours each on constitutional law, ethics, and sensitivity training.
(A passing grade of 2.0 might be a stretch, however.)
4. Go back to no highway speed limit for legislators and have them take driver training on the West Boulder Road.

Mark, that has a sporting chance of Making Montana Great Again.

Did I mention sports? Good, because that’s more interesting than politics. I simply cannot wait until the restrictions on spectators are such that my brothers and I can attend high school and college sporting events together in person again.

I do realize that we are sports-deprived in Montana, as almost everywhere else in the US, even when we aren’t in a pandemic. We have to make do with football, basketball, track, hockey, baseball, soccer, golf, rodeo, and car-racing. In Montana you can add fishing tournaments and the annual bets on whose truck will go through the ice on Canyon Ferry Lake in the spring.

Still, we lack the glorious variety of sports found in more civilized countries in the world. For instance, our athletes never get to participate in the Gloucestershire (probably pronounced “Woostershur”) England annual Cheese Rolling festival. The contestants gather at the top of a very steep hill. A large slab of cheese, looking much like a giant hockey puck, is rolled down the hill. The goal is to catch the cheese, which is impossible, because the cheese has a one second head start and can attain a speed of 70 miles per hour, enough to seriously injure spectators. For that reason, the cheese has been replaced in recent years with a lightweight foam rubber disc, but the injuries to competitors racing down the steep and uneven hill continue unabated. Good fun for all.

Not to be outdone, Finland holds the annual Wife Carrying Championships. In a grudging nod to women’s equality, the spouse can be male, but they aren’t changing the name yet. There are no weight limits, and apparently the spouse doesn’t have to be your own. I expect that, like many sports, fights occasionally break out, when some spectators realize whose wife is being carried and where.

Finland used to hold the Annual Sauna World Championships, where people sit in a steaming hot room until they give up or pass out. The starting temperature for the men’s competition was 230 degrees Fahrenheit. I am not making this up. The competition was suspended after 2010 when a competitor died, even though prosecutors decided not to charge the event organizers with negligence. Perhaps the non-prosecution had to do with the deceased being a Russian.

I haven’t even mentioned tuna throwing (as big as a normal adult male human) in South Australia or Hurling in Ireland. No, not hurling in the pubs. It’s a form of field hockey but more dangerous.

Perhaps the sport with the fewest rules is Haxey Hood, played between the towns of Haxey and Westwoodside in England. The Sway (the mob of people around the hood) tries to get the hood (a piece of rolled canvas or leather) into one of four pubs in the two towns, followed by heavy drinking. Women and children usually do not play, I have read, because there is no time limit, and there is only one other rule. The hood cannot be thrown or carried, but must be pushed by moving the whole Sway toward one of the pubs. There are no organized teams. Injuries to participants, spectators, bushes, trees, and even walls are not uncommon. We have a similar game in Helena with just as few rules. It’s called the legislature, but it’s not as much fun and has more long-lasting injuries for spectators and the environment.

Last year Haxey Hood was canceled for the first time in 100 years because of the Covid pandemic. Too bad we didn’t do the same in Helena.

About admin

Rusty Harper is outrageously happy because he is retired and living with the love of his life, Pat Callbeck Harper in Helena, Montana. So why does he inflict these ramblings on the rest of us, you ask? Because you deserve it. If you aren't smart enough not to read this stuff, then you have to suffer through it. Maybe that builds character, though I doubt it. Think of all the positive things you could do with the time you are wasting on things that occur to me in the night and then sound strange even to me when I write them down in the morning. Bake a cake. Complain to your Senator. Run for Congress. Do something.
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