April 9, 2009

Inebriated Midget Tossing

Print More

Earlier in the semester I toyed with the idea of doing an expose of sorts on Ithaca’s most underappreciated athletic activities. I started off on the right-foot by writing about Greek Peak, but my lofty intentions of engaging in all kinds of other unusual athletic endeavors were quickly neglected when the frantic chaos known as “senior spring” picked up momentum.
Even though it is snowing in April, it is still not prime cross-country skiing weather, so that’s out. And I haven’t made it to the Lindseth Climbing Wall nearly as much as I planned, although I do love that place and everyone should go try it out. Without enough resources to conduct “in-depth research” on my original proposal, I decided to heed some unsolicited suggestions from the general community a.k.a my housemates.
Midget Throwing or Dwarf Tossing, an Australian sport, has been dubbed “the most bizarre and politically incorrect sport ever devised,” but in the interest of comprehending athletics on a global scale, it is worth figuring out what inspired our Aussie friends to come up with this humanitarian atrocity.
Like so many other great feats of athletic prowess, the birth of this innovative competition was the result of a few inebriated individuals. The first time such event that received any media recognition whatsoever occurred in 1986 and was dubbed the Dwarf Throwing World Championship. One can’t help but draw parallels between this and World Series Champions who claim global superiority despite the lack of participation by, well, the rest of the world. Still, what may have started as drunken debauchery is now a surprisingly organized spectator sport in which both the throwers and the throwees benefit.
Throwers can be either male or female, but it is crucial that the competitors must possess a considerable measure of physical strength. According to some very informative websites, the ideal physique includes big guns, thunder thighs, and a protruding beer belly. There was no research to support the importance of the beer belly, only the assertion that said alcohol-enhanced gut contained incomprehensible magical powers. Possessing no such prodigious gastric appendage and having never engaged in the throwing of anything much larger than a basketball, I take such midget throwing pundits at their word.
In the literature concerning this sport, there is no discernible distinction made between midgets and dwarfs, an oversight that is extremely confusing given the differences between these two groups. This leads me to believe that in their drunken stupor, tossers are unable to fully comprehend the physiological specifications of the throwees they employ.
Yes, that’s right, employ. A “throwing dwarf” (yes that is the job title) can make as much as a six-figure salary while on tour. The high premium on human athletic equipment is justified considering there is a high risk of personal injury to the throwees, even though they typically wear protective outerwear and headgear. Considering the offensive nature of this endeavor, it seems fitting that those dwarfs who are willing to be sent flying through the air in the interest of drunken entertainment, are compensated appropriately for potential physical and emotional harm.
The competition plays out as follows: select your weapon i.e. dwarf, take three running steps, and launch the human equivalent of a discuss (?) as far as possible. The human that flies the farthest is rewarded by the overwhelming joy of the victorious thrower, and of course, money. Apparently booze loving Australians are not alone in their appreciation of midget throwing. The Brits decided to join in with their competitive English spirits and incidentally it is not an Aussie but an Englishmen that holds the record of a 12 foot 9 inch midget throw.
Now all of this seems a bit offensive. Naturally, other people recognized that this sport is not only politically incorrect, it is extremely dangerous, not to mention cruel. Interestingly, however, since some dwarfs go on tour and are salaried throwees, it is difficult to decipher where the moral boundary lies. Apparently, some dwarfs are perfectly willing to engage in this practice, for whatever reason, and in that case I suppose they have the right to do so. That doesn’t change the premise of the sport, which to my mind, is inherently demeaning and dehumanizing.
As far as I know, Florida, New York, and Ontario, Canada all enacted bans on dwarf tossing thanks to groups that have come out against the activity. It is also banned in a small town in France where it had been gaining popularity. The mayor decided to prohibit the game on the grounds that it is disrespectful to human dignity and disrupts the public order. Without naming any names or perpetuating any stereotypes, the towns in which this endeavor share similar characteristics that include a pretty strong bar/pub culture. I think you get the idea.
The acceptability of this sport depends a lot upon the participants involved. If all parties agree to participate and are fully aware of the consequences, it is not really my place to judge them for being barbaric and discriminatory. Either way, I hope this short report (no pun intended) on surprising athletic sporting events broadened your understanding of sports around the world. If nothing else, this example shows that even if you are bad at football, basketball, baseball, etc. there may be athletic hope for you in other parts of the world.