A part of

Issue # 1 Thursday, Nov. 6, 1997

About the Author:

Charles Loyd McIntosh

In 1997 Charles Loyd McIntosh was a news writer for the Talledega Daily Home (www.dailyhome.com). He was a former reporter for The Western Star in Bessemer (a small city west of Birmingham), Alabama, and a former Sports Editor for the Clanton Advertiser. At the time he was writing for the Sideroad, Loyd was pursuing a Masters in English degree at the University of Montevallo, Alabama. An avid sports fan, soccer is Loyd's sport of choice, one he has been known to coach in the recent past.

". . .I'll tell you how this sport can gain popularity in America. All TOW needs is Michael Jordan."

". . .I won't take the time to describe him to you, he looks exactly like what a Blain should look like."


Tug of War

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.

No kidding.

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 last year.

"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 profile."

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 look like.

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 in America.

Next article > Korfball: The sport of the 90's!

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Text copyright Charles Loyd MacIntosh, 1997 - '98. Part of the original Sideroad ezine.
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