I’ve written about this before. It bears repeating.
A few years ago, I started competing in Highland Games. Oh sure, I had done a Highlander a couple of years before that in Texas. That was fun. People were awesome and I think I PR’d my deadlift that day out in the Texas heat. Matt was there, healing from his first bicep tear. So he was put to work, judging our group. And we learned that Matt judging a group that I’m competing in wasn’t going to happen again. Heh.
I came into the Games with help from the likes of Brittney Boswell (whom I get to compete with in Minnesota again in a few weeks and hopefully more often since she’s made the trek up north); Sara Fleming; the Icelandic duo of Svavar and Lilja, and many others who were both helpful AND competitive. I liked that. That’s when I got the bug that this throwing stuff might be for me.
My almost full Games was here in Waukesha where I got help from another group such as Craig Smith; KO, and Mark Valenti. Soooooo, not too shabby of a group of throwers. Heh. They encouraged me enough to make me want to do more and I tried to find as much video during that winter to try to figure out what this throwing stuff is aboot. (Old dog, new tricks. Yowzer.)
That March, after an AMAZING trip to Finland for Bigg’s Iceman Challenge with Champions League, we hit my first FULL Games down in Springfield, Il. We started out with this Sheaf thing. W!T!Fffffffffff! You want me to do what with a pitchfork? The whole thing was bizzarro and truth be told, I’m still trying to put some consistency to the event. Of course, out of the larger group of Women, I was first up. Uhhhh, no clue dudes. Maybe I could watch someone do it?
Nope. It’s go time. I think I cleared 10′. Maybe. Now, in the meantime, there were a few folks who took charge in helping the noobs with the Sheaf in hopes that we don’t kill them, or ourselves. I thought that was nice, even if their delivery was a little baffling to me. One person got really frustrated with me that I wasn’t listening to her. IT’S LIKE A CHECK MARK…JUST DO IT LIKE A CHECK MARK!!! (Which actually is STILL something I stay away from telling new throwers. Anyway.) While it wasn’t helpful, and I was more than a little baffled why she was getting so mad, I played nice. Cuz I’m the new kid, and I don’t know what I’m doing.
And guess what? The next year, I was still the new kid. Now, I was able to pick up on some things that were helpful in throwing and I had those awesome novice gains (GAINZZZZ) throughout that first season. But that didn’t mean I knew what I was doing NOR did it mean I “ruled the field” in any way whatsoever no matter how small the venue or how large the Games. That would be poor sportsmanship. That would be rude. That would be unacceptable.
The Games field does not belong to one person and if it did, it would be to the Athletic Director who works tirelessly to let us just show up and play. If it did, it would belong to the fans. No matter how small or how large that group of folks are, they have invested their time to watch us play. If it did, it would belong to those judges who are most likely some of our pioneers in this sport and if you don’t know their names or how long they’ve built up Highland Games, you need to get on the Google and figure that shit out.
You need to talk to people. Hell, if I can talk to people, anyone can. I try to introduce myself to folks I don’t know. Most are pleasant, some aren’t. That’s on them. (I introduced myself to a man last year in Portland when we were standing around for the Sheaf challenge and I was needing a fork. He looked at me like I had two heads, like, why in the everlasting FOK would I talk to him. It was pretty awesome. And by awesome, I mean hey douche, don’t care if you’re a Pro thrower or not. If you’re not a decent person, you suck and I give less than half a shit which category your scores are posted in. True story.)
But most of all, I give respect to my fellow throwers. Whether you’re an elite/pro (hey I know, let’s just call the women Pro’s, k? Let’s just anti some couch change and make this a little more level playing field, k? Oh I know, budgets are tight but ya know what? The crowd like the women more, k?. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. Oh sure, there are many Pro’s out there that are quite awesome and some really nice eye candy-I’m talking to you Gilly- but the crowd see’s the gals turning those Cabers just like the big boys and that gets them ALLLLLL kinds of excited. k?) Anyway.
No, it doesn’t matter if you’re best or newest, you all get the same amount of respect. Now, I whill say that if you’re best, I’ll watch you a little closer and if an opportunity presents itself, I’ll ask a quick question and I am ALWAYS so thankful for their help. But if you’re newest, I’ll still holla out a, “Let’s go noob” before an attempt or shag their shit if they forget and always give them the benefit of the doubt if they act silly enough on the field that backs things up.
To. A. Point. If they’re not paying attention enough after a few events and we’re waiting a couple of minutes for every single one of their attempts, I’ll say something like, “just try to stay engaged, I know it’s a long day but the quicker we get through this the quicker you can hang with your friends or family.” There have been a couple of Games where we actually asked the judge to give a warning to an athlete because they kept wandering off while we were roasting in the heat waiting for them.
I know, all of this is new and fun. Putting on a little show before every attempt is fun for adults who never got enough attention in life. And we’re forced to stand there and watch it. Which is tons of fun for about never.
Look, at the end of the day, it’s up to the experienced to teach a little etiquette. That’s okay. It shows that the Highland Games isn’t just about throwing. It’s about showing respect. It’s about showing an ability to play nice with others. It’s about being amazed by OTHER PEOPLE’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS. (read: it’s not about you.) Encourage others to watch.
Watch how those who’ve been around for a few years behave. It’s likely they’re always ready to go for their attempt. It’s likely they’ll walk out even a little bit and grab the implement from the nice person shagging their shit. It’s likely they work the crowd and even put a smile on their face after a horrible throw (that one’s been the hardest for me to learn.) They support their other throwers. They play nice. They support their judge even when their judge is wrong. (Bwahahahhahaaaa, j/klol. Judges are never wrong silly.)
They are dialed in to their throwing without being dicks. Learn that. Don’t be a dick. (Also, please accept that folks dialed into their throwing is okay. They may not want to wear a Tiara from Claires for a good throw, they’re just happy enough to throw a PR. Okay?)
Here’s what you DON’T do, especially as a noob:
A. Bark at a Pro athlete. For anything. Ever. You may even be right in your idea of what “should” happen on a field. But you’re not. You’re so wrong and now you’re just an asshole who’s wrong and likely not to make friends with a Pro. (You should want to make friends with a Pro. Cuz they’re probably awesome and helpful and tons of fun in the beer tent.)
2. Tell someone how to throw. Look, here’s some harsh mommy words, “You’re a C, maybe B thrower at best. You’re just repeating stupid words that another noob doesn’t know how to perceive only to look like you know what you’re talking about. STFU.”
III Do not ever, EVER, EVER, hit a Pro. Even if it’s in jest but not really because you connected and at it’s lightest, is so obnoxious and wrong in so many ways that you and I mostly likely have just become non-BFF’s for life. You will cross a line that is a one way ticket to dicksville. (And by the way, if you and I don’t have any relationship at all and you’ve thrown attitude on the field all day and THEN decide to put your hands on me, it is game on. I will drop you. I promise. I’m an old lady but have enough piss and vinegar flowing through my veins to unleash some pent up frustration and if you open that door, I will close it.) Hashtag true story.
4. DO NOT behave in a way that makes it torturous for your group to be around you. Do not disrespect the Highland Games. Do not teach others to bring attitude and disrespect to the Highland Games or those participating in them. Don’t pout. Don’t temper tantrum. Keep your fucking kilt on. If you don’t like wearing it, go compete in Track and Field. They throw and don’t wear kilts. What a great fit.
Come to the Games. Have fun. Get better each time out. Learn to fail on the field (I went 2-6 on the weights this weekend, soooooo, kinda like a weightlifting meet.) Learn to support others. Learn to lose. Learn to win. Learn to show respect.
Cuz fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.
My name’s Pitt. And your ass ain’t talkin’ your way out of this shit.