Largely the Truth

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Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em - The 2010 Highland Games

23 May 2010  ·  by Brennan Storr  ·  Be the first to comment!

Tagged under Events Festivals, events, and conferences Victoria Highland Games


It's the May long weekend, and that of course means half the city has gone camping. For those of us left there's no shortage of things to do: there's the Steampunk Convention, the Highland games and, of course, my favourite pastime, wondering how, with half the population hiding in the bushes huddled over portable ranges from MEC, there is still a thirty minute wait to get into the Blue Fox. Last year was my third in the city and our first attending the Highland Games at Topaz Park. Under a pitiless sun we drank beer while Nicky and our friend Joline drooled over men that looked and sounded like Shrek. This year we'd planned on checking out the Steampunk Convention but last weekend's walk on the Lochside had left us a bit tanned and thus no longer pale enough to fit in amongst fans of Victorian England, alternate-reality or no.

We arrived at Topaz about noon and made a beeline for the outcropping of concession tents. We had designs on a hamburger from the Lions Club but I was waylaid by a woman selling candied nuts. When I was living in England I would make trips to London as often as I could, frequenting a hostel in Lambeth on the Thames’ south bank. The closest bridge to the Journeys London Eye is Westminster Bridge and during the summer there’s usually at least one vender there selling fresh candied peanuts. Every time I passed I couldn’t help but drop £2 on a steaming paper cone full of delicious sin and once I saw the candied delights on offer today I exhibited the same level of self control. If you’re there tomorrow I suggest you do the same. Try the pecans.

Last year we came away from the Highland Games with impressive sunburns but this afternoon the sun kept disappearing behind bruised clouds that threatened rain so we weren’t sure what to expect. After being fed we made our way through the crowd towards where the hammer throw events were taking place. We got to our seats just as the announcer, who couldn’t have been more Scottish if he had been headbutting an Englishmen, was telling the crowd the history of the hammer toss. I missed the details but assume that it began as a way to stun runaway sheep on the rural Scottish dating circuit. The athletes began warming up, spinning in place with the hammer and I heard a woman behind me say, “It seems like all they do is warm up, how long does it take?”, as though doing the hokie-pokie with sixteen pound weights was something anyone could do so long as they took a deep breath first.

Yes, he's wearing a skirt.
Call him on it, see what happens

I firmly believe that if the throwers had been closer to the stands she wouldn’t have dared make any complaint. Why? Because men who are capable of enormous feats of strength, like throwing around sledgehammers or strapping on harnesses and pulling semi trucks never look like the people in your local gym or pilates class. Instead they look like the people at your local truck stop, the hairy ones ordering another piece of pie and peeking up the waitress’ skirt.

The protein monsters that frequent most gyms specialize in awful noises. Noises that would make a rampaging bull in the next room say, “There’s something serious going on over there.” Those noises are a soft snore compared to the unholy din made by the hammer-toss competitors. One of them, Larry Brock from the U.S.A., made such a tortured sound every time he threw the hammer I worried he would suffer a prolapse. Mind you his first throw went 137 feet, 4 inches, setting a new field record, so maybe there was some kind of scientific theory of sound-wave propulsion behind it all.


When the Englishman Scott Rider took to the trig I confess to being a little confused; I didn’t think that the steady English diet of steamed bother and boiled hat could produce men of the dimensions necessary for the Highland Games. True to my expectations Rider was of a smaller stature than his better fed counterparts; part of me worried that when he tried to let go of the hammer the force would detach his torso and send it sailing. It remained attached although his throw probably would have been more impressive if it hadn’t. At the end of the day he wasn’t at the bottom of the scoreboard but I took great delight in pointing out to my English rose that he was far from the top.

As the competitors went through their first round of throws Nicky asked me why the scorekeepers bothered keeping track of the half-inches. Now my wife isn’t naive, but I knew then that she understands nothing about how men think. Just then an American competitor stepped up to the trig and the raucous applause of the people sitting next to us saved me from an awkward explanation that would have ended with me being swatted. When they were done braying they turned to us and explained, at a decibel level only slightly less than that of the average megaphone, “We’re American.” You don’t say?

Dear reader: this is not a paid
Dear Wannawafel: but it could be.

At the end of the hammer toss Larry Brock, Prince Prolapse himself, was the winner with his throw of 137'4". Second was the Scottish Craig Sinclair at 131'6" and third was another American, Harrison Bailey, with 129' 7.5". By then we’d had our fill of testosterone and started to pick our way out of the crowd. The stands were dotted here and there with gym rats trying to puff their chests out in a feeble attempt to retain some masculine pride. They knew as well as I did that if they picked a fight with Larry Brock he would strangle them with their own bulging veins and nothing, not Superman, Iron Man or a binding U.N. resolution could save them, but they tried anyways. Myself, I buried my masculine insecurities in a delicious waffle from Wannawafel. If there is a better way to end an afternoon watching burly men toss I don’t know what it is.

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