Wednesday, September 25, 2019


“It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” -Socrates

‘This was supposed to be easy,’ I thought, having heard the challenges and feats expected in the competition. Sure, there were a few ordinary games one might play drunk in the small courtyard - beer pong, darts, and cornhole among the most conspicuous - but the announcement of feats of strength, dexterity, and constitution threw most of the crowd for a loop. Instead of nice, leisurely turns-between-sips, we’d be expected to haul kegs, balance beers, and hold a “cheers” pose for as long as possible. It was absurd.

There was a fair bit of agitation as the crowd digested the rules. Each member of the four-person teams had to participate in at least two events, with the feats being performed simultaneously (meaning each had to be assigned to a different team member). For us, Cindy was the obvious choice to attempt the feat of dexterity; a dance instructor, she would certainly be able to navigate an obstacle course with a full plastic pint balanced on her head. Dani was more than happy to leave the other two tasks to Jack and me. After a coin flip, we determined Jack would try to move the most kegs across the courtyard in the time allotted while I would be holding a liter of beer straight out, elbows locked, trying to be the last contestant to spill a drop. As I was so ill-acquainted with the gym I’d probably call it “James”, I merely hoped I wouldn’t be the first to spill my beer.

The contests began in earnest a few minutes later - pairs playing beer pong and cornhole brackets, singles playing darts and checkers and other small games of skill or chance. The first team to be eliminated from both team games occurred at around the twenty minute mark and the crowd got its first demonstration of the feats. The guy moving the keg did fairly well - moving a handful before time was called. Unfortunately his teammates did not fare so well - a stumble after a dozen steps and a muscle spasm after a half minute set the bar fairly low for the rest of us.

By bad luck or lack of skill I knocked two opponents’ bean bags in the hole and eliminated our team from cornhole fairly early on. I won some points back in the strategy games while Cindy and Dani dominated the beer pong bracket. As no team was a contender in both doubles tournaments, we were one of the last four teams to be fully eliminated (winning beer pong!).

Each of the four teams presented their champions. I had been watching the other beer holders for the past few rounds in the hope that I could redeem myself for my previous failure. Focused intently on the beer stein in front of me, I locked my elbow and hooked my thumb around the rim - the technique of the guy with the longest time.

Second by second my world focused in on each burning strand of muscle. I was taking gulps of breath trying to steady my shakes as shoulder, arm, elbow, and wrist rebelled. My teeth were squeaking I was grinding them so hard - I barely heard the jude announce the failures of the other three as their beer sloshed over the side of their mugs. It took three taps on my shoulder to draw my attention.

“I didn’t spill!” I protested, bringing the beer to my chest.

“No, you won!” the judge held up a stopwatch. I left the bar a newly-minted champion.

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