Editorial: Everyman Games
The Chill of Victory
We have found ourselves both bedazzled and befuddled while watching the Winter Olympics this month: bedazzled by the acrobatic athleticism of the competitors; befuddled by the exotic, not to say foreign, nature of some of the events, which bear little relationship to the ones we watched back in the days of our squandered youth. It occurs to us that many Americans of a certain age might share those sentiments, and thus we propose that the Olympic Committee add an event next time designed to reconnect the Winter Games with ordinary people who cannot imagine soaring many feet off the ground with boards of some sort strapped to their feet, but who still feel the thrill of competition (if more often the agony of defeat). Call this new event the Everyman Combined, to consist of five separate disciplines undertaken consecutively.
The first is speed shoveling, conducted over a 50-meter course and consisting of two heats. In the first, competitors use conventional snow shovels or the push variety to clear their lanes of 8 inches of light fluffy snow while high winds blow it back in their faces and down their necks. In the second, the depth is reduced to 6 inches, but water is sprayed on the snow to produce a sodden mass just this side of slush.
The second part of the Everyman Combined consists of roof raking, again combining tests of agility and strength as competitors render the buildings of the Olympic Village safe from collapse. In the first heat, they hang onto the roof with one arm while perched precariously on a ladder, using the free arm to chip ice from the gutters with a hatchet. In the second, they use roof rakes from the ground to pull the snow off. Points are deducted for dislodging roof shingles, smashing the gutters, or burying oneself under the displaced snow.
Competitors race from there to a frozen pond for the next event, which puts a premium on the patient exercise of mental and physical discipline: ice fishing. Actually, we have very little idea of what this sport consists, but we assume that staying alert in the wicked cold while waiting for fish to bite is a supreme challenge to mental acuity and the physical instinct to survive in more congenial surroundings.
Dog walking on ice is the penultimate discipline in the Everyman. Participants must circle the ice arena on foot with their canine partners on leash, while small animals dart in front of them and bits of carrion are thrown just outside the lanes within which they must stay. Obviously this is a highly dangerous and difficult enterprise, and one dependent on style points awarded by the judges, who deduct not only for outright falling but also for competitors who look like drunken buffoons while trying to keep their dogs under control. This sport would require the development of a sophisticated anti-doping regimen for testing the dogs, especially because the well-known canine propensity to ingest just about anything, no matter how repellent, may make it difficult to distinguish legal from illegal substances.
The final event is winter driving, conducted on a closed course winding through city streets. We think of this part of the Everyman as having a permanent venue in Lebanon, if for no other reason than to give purpose to the decision apparently made several years ago to no longer plow the streets soon after snowstorms. Imagine the thrill of racing down snow-covered Mechanic Street or the Route 12A strip at 10 or 15 mph while trying to keep your vehicle pointed in the direction you were originally headed.
Somehow we cannot picture the medalists in the Everyman mounting a podium to celebrate their victories. Maybe a warm couch and a cold beverage would do to pay homage to their efforts.