Nothing phone-y about this competition

(Reprinted from Sept. 13, 2012)

  Alexander Graham Bell is probably turning over in his grave right about now.
  Then again, maybe he’s known about this for a while and already completed his post-burial, human tilt-a-whirl reaction. After all, the activity that would cause such a dramatic response has been going on for over a decade.
  News of it has only recently come my way, which I’d normally be embarrassed to admit. However, there’ve been more important stories to pursue, and even the most intrepid news gatherer can’t be everywhere at once, can he?

  Anyway, this latest tale involves a bizarre endeavor, one that takes its rightful place among the ever-growing list of so-called “sporting competitions” that are wrongly categorized. Through the years, readers familiar with this column have been told of many others — lawn-mower racing, iron-man ironing, pole dancing and beer pong, just to name a few — and, in case you haven’t heard about it before, mobile phone throwing now can be included.
  If you’re like me, you actually appreciate the general concept. To truly capture the public’s full attention, though, there should be a stipulation that, in order to be declared victorious, participants must toss both a mobile phone and the gadget’s high-decibel user as far as possible.
  Mobile phone tossing would seem a rather new phenomenon, but, in fact, it dates back to 2000, when some Finnish folks beset by boredom decided this was something they simply couldn’t live without any longer. Had it not extended beyond the city of Savonlinna, phone tossing probably would have remained a mystery to normal folks to this day.
  But for some inexplicable reason, a regional endeavor went national a few years later. And in 2005, the first winter championships were held in Switzerland, with the competitive field comprised of first-place finishers in various national events, which by that time included a number of European nations besides Finland.
  Interestingly, the grand prize for winning the world championships is — you guessed it — a new mobile phone. And so the cycle begins in earnest.
  What’s even stranger is that the competition encompasses more than just your basic heave-and-retrieve exercise. According to its entry in Wikipedia — now that’s scary — mobile phone tossing can be broken down into several divisions.
  Personally, I like what is called “freestyle.” Entries in this category get points for “aesthetics and creative choreography.”
  Choreography? I don’t believe that was even a part of the judging for pole dancing, which, if you recall my previous column on it, has had some people lobbying for its inclusion in the Olympics. That was right before those same individuals excused themselves to take cold showers.
  So how exactly does one combine choreography with mobile phone throwing? Does executing a pre-toss pirouette, for example, accumulate style points for the participant or simply make him the object of manly ridicule? How about if someone slow-dances with the mobile phone before deciding to hurl it through space or goes under the limbo bar while shouting, “How low can I go in embarrassing myself?”
  As for the creative part, I suppose just about anything should be allowed. After all, nothing can be sillier than the main activity.
  But why stop at tossing mobile phones? Let’s make the contest more challenging by having competitors yank out pay phones from no-longer-in-use booths and then see how far those can be thrown. The winner gets to keep whatever coins are still inside his phone.
  And let’s look beyond phones. Build the competition around all items that society has deemed past their prime and ready for the scrap heap. Think of the possibilities:
  • The cassette-tape roundup, where contestants try to rope a small animal using only the material found inside what was once considered a cutting-edge recording device. (Eight-track music tapes and Beta videocassettes may be substituted when attempting to tie up larger critters).
  • Incandescent-bulb juggling, where participants seek to keep as many government-disapproved lighting sources balanced in the air without having any of them break.
  • Typewriter Scrabble, where competitors must break off machine keys and form as many different words as possible in a predetermined time limit.
  • The analog-TV obstacle course, where contestants are made, at various junctures, to sidestep, hurdle and disassemble television sets that are no longer operational.
  • The 45-record distance fling.
  You get the idea. The above suggestions may seem outlandish, but no more so than many of the activities already masquerading as “sports.”
  I guess I can’t blame anyone for developing something they think might intrigue more gullible factions of the public, nor can I fault the latter for trying their hand at an endeavor that offers prizes. There is only one thing I ask:
  If you ever take part in an incandescent bulb-juggling contest, please remember it was my idea.