Jousting as a sport?
"Is jousting the next extreme sport?" The New York Times asks. Some professional jousters - they wear full armour and have unscripted tilts with real injuries - see it as potentially an arena sport. In January, Times reporter Dashka Slater attended the international jousting championships in Florida and saw a competitor be hit squarely in the chest and sent flying. "It was as if someone had sent an electric current through the arena's aluminum bleachers. Men leapt to their feet with their fists in the air. Teenage girls clutched one another's arms. [The unhorsed competitor]lay on his back on the ground flanked by two squires and didn't move for a full minute. When the squires pulled him to his feet, he stumbled and nearly fell again before limping off. 'I want to see another guy get paralyzed,' a boy in front of me squealed, waving a toy sword."
Cheaper ways to be a fool
Not every Globe reader owns a suit of armour that still fits. Here are a few dangerous British competitions from the "olden days" that can be managed on a budget.
- Shin-kicking: This dates back four centuries. Two competitors grasp each other's shoulders and try to unbalance their opponent with hacks to the shins. A referee, or stickler, enforces the rules: no kicking above the knees, best of three falls. A BBC blogger who competed last year told The Sun newspaper: "I could not wear socks for a month afterwards."
- Dwile flonking: This English pub game encourages speed drinking. Two teams take turns (snurds) dancing in a circle around the other. The non-dancing side scores points by flinging (flonking) a beer-soaked rag (dwile) and hitting a dancer; the penalty for missing is having to drink ale from a chamber pot (gazunder). Teams are penalized if, after the game (four snurds), a player is still sober. A dull-witted person, chosen as referee, decides the first team to flonk by tossing a sugar beet. This ancient pastime is perhaps 40 years old. Nowadays, non-alcoholic flonking is the safe alternative.
Other source: news services
"Sabre-toothed cats might be most famous for their oversized fangs, but scientists now find the feisty felines had another exceptional feature - powerful arms stronger than those of any cat alive today," Charles Choi writes for LiveScience.com. "Commonly known as the 'sabre-toothed tiger,' the extinct cat Smilodon fatalis roamed the Americas until roughly 10,000 years ago … The most recognizable features of the sabre-toothed cat - giant, dagger-like canines - were also perhaps its most puzzling. The fangs would have been excellent at inflicting deadly slashing bites to its prey's throat, but their size and shape would also have made them highly vulnerable to fracturing compared with modern cats. … That's where the powerful arms come in. These predators might have pinned victims down with their heavily muscled forelimbs to protect their teeth from fracturing as they bit struggling prey, [Julie]Meachen-Samuels said." The researcher is a paleontologist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C.
Other dangerous sports
- Cheerleading: This sport has the second-highest rate for concussions and traumatic brain injuries in high-school sports, behind only football, according to a U.S. study released last year by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reports.
- Rock fishing: "Fishing is considered by many to be one of the most relaxing pastimes," Australia's Seven network reports. "But rock fishing, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous sports in Australia. In the last seven years, 98 Australians have been swept off rocks to their deaths."
How's my driving?
"Intelligent cars fitted with aircraft-style black boxes that can send video footage and information about driving behaviour during accidents to the police and insurance companies are being developed by computer scientists," The Daily Telegraph reports. "The car, which is being developed by researchers at computer-chip giant Intel, will record information about the vehicle speed, steering and braking along with video footage from inside and outside the vehicle. This would be automatically sent to police and insurance companies in the event of an accident to make it easier to determine the cause of car crashes and identify the person responsible."
Women on top
From a Wall Street Journal review of What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female-Friendly by Paco Underhill: "Mr. Underhill notes approvingly that, in Holland, female-friendly parking lots feature spaces defined as boxes, not simply parallel lines. 'Perhaps because of biological imperatives, Dutch designers have found that females are more comfortable positioning themselves - and their small cars - over something rather than within two defined lines.' "
Thought du jour
"Ferocity and cunning … are useful to the individual only because there is so large a proportion of the same traits actively present in the human environment to which he is exposed. Any individual who enters the competitive struggle without the due endowment of these traits is at a disadvantage, somewhat as a hornless steer would find himself at a disadvantage in a drove of horned cattle."
- Thorstein Veblen