One night recently I
was browsing the Internet looking for quotes
and other interesting factoids to use in
upcoming columns when I found myself on the
Yahoo! sports server. They had web sites for
pretty much most of our easily recognized
sports and sports news magazines, however, I
saw something that began to raise my
curiosity. Yahoo! listed six sites devoted to
the great sport of Tug-of-War.
I started investigating and soon
discovered that Tug-of-War is such a big darn
deal in Canada, Europe, Australia and South
Africa that is apparently reached semi-pro to
professional status, although, I must admit,
I'm not quite sure. None of the sites were
very clear on exactly what the status of the
sport is, except that it is growing, albeit
quite slowly in some places.
Now, the very idea that tug-of-war could
be taken so seriously is fascinating. I mean,
the only time I've ever seen tug-of-war is at
family reunions and the old Battle of the
Network Stars TV specials. Incidentally, the
CBS team always won because they had Lou
Ferrigno (the Incredible Hulk) as their
anchor man. However, this is hardly a frame
of reference for understanding the passion
and nuances that make this a serious sport,
but, apparently it is. I printed off a copy
of the TWIF newsletter a couple of days ago.
What does TWIF mean? Why, the Tug-of-War
International Federation of course.
This site hasn't been updated recently,
so the most recent report was on the World
Championships from back in February. Thirteen
nations took part in four weight classes for
men and two for women in England. Athletes
traveled thousands of miles from nations like
China, Taipei, Japan and Italy in order to
yank on a rope. Inconceivable.
Despite the rise in popularity of TOW in
recent years, especially in youth leagues,
the sport has not caught on as other sports
have, even though the good folks at TWIF tell
us TOW was one of the original sports at the
first modern Olympiad. However, TWIF is
trying to make TOW the television spectacle
of the next millennium. Here is a quote from
a press release after the World Championships
"We don't blame the press for the low
publicity, as the Tug of War sport is very
much aware that sport needs an intensive
media . . . programme to obtain a higher
I'll tell you how this sport can gain
popularity in America. All TOW needs is
Michael Jordan. No, no, hear me out. What TOW
needs is a personality to identify with.
Someone tough and manly for guys to identify
with, and someone elegant, clean-cut and
handsome for the gals. (I'm sure most of you
can just smell the sarcasm at this point).
Fortunately for us, the official Canadian
TOW web site has plenty of photos of athletes
from various club teams to take a gander at.
One in particular stands out; Blain Pryce.
What a great name! Let me say it again,
"Blain Pryce." Pryce
"pulls" (I love the tug-of-war
jargon) for a club called the Bluewater Team.
I won't take the time to describe him to you,
he looks exactly like what a Blain should
What the sport needs to gain acceptance in
America is to get him a high publicity
endorsement deal. I can see it now. Slow
motion shots of sweaty Blain pulling his soul
out, hands sticking out of his frayed,
fingerless gloves followed by a shot of him
in a tuxedo ready for a night on the town.
Then, the camera gets a close-up of his
hands. It is then you realize he is wearing
the Blain Pryce special edition Isotoners. He
turns dramatically to the camera and says,
"I pull no one's rope, unless I'm in a
pair of Isotoner gloves." All kidding
aside, the enthusiasm and support I've seen
on the internet for a sport as simple as
tug-of-war is incredible. American culture
seems to have lost a sense of participation
for the simple enjoyment of the sport. How
you look is about as important as how you
perform, and, with little or no chance of
exposure in sport like Tug-of-War, it appears
this sport has little to no chance of growing
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