Matt and I were hanging out last weekend after a hard afternoon of patio drinkin’ and Highlander Burger eatin’ and decided to watch some of Beth Burton’s live video from the 2016 Portland Highland Games. The video’s were tons of fun and Beth’s play by play was better than anything you’d get off Fox Sports North during hockey season. Add in many cameos by folks we’ll miss seeing this year AND Jay “Big Daddy” Oneill’s announcing and color commentary and it was a pleasant way to continue avoiding anything and everything around the house that needed to be done.
When we sat down, Beth had the women’s WOB live streamed (finally, something useful out of the Facebook) so we hunkered down with our drinks; cigar, and fags. There were some great throws; many side swings and spinning magic and it hit me that WOB is a pretty fun event.
Except for when it’s not.
The first time I ever threw the weight over the bar was in Wichita Falls, Texas at my first Highlander. Texas belle, Brittney Boswell, guided me through to a 13′ clear. That was kinda fun. It took me another four or five Games to clear 13′ again, that was less fun.
And that’s WOB. While nothing in athletics is ever a guarantee, nowhere in my experience in competing in many different sports is that fact more visible than WOB. One day you could clear 15′ (my personal best) and the next day completely bomb out (as in, fail. You have failed to make your opening height and you do the walk of shame back to your chair while wondering what in the everlasting FOK just happened. Guess how I know.)
Once I hit my stride in WOB, it was a given (in my brain anyway) that this was solid. I went Games where I’d throw 4 good attempts from 12-15, hit the bar at 16′ and call it a happy day. And then in Minnesota a couple of years ago, I bombed out at 12′. Uhhhhh, huh? Yup. I was throwing the implement at least a couple of feet higher than the bar, the problem was that it didn’t go over. That’s when advice started coming from all sides of the field and with each attempt, the advice got more frantic and more confusing. By the time I got up to the standards on my 3rd attempt not only was I in my own head, I had too many people yelling at me from the peanut gallery. (I’ve written about this before, a lot. This is why I’ve come to LOVE throwing with Katie Crowley. She’s calm and methodical and stays off to the side when 2nd and even 3rd attempts are being contemplated. She’s matter of fact in her delivery of ONE cue and I have yet to not be calmed by her advice. She’s the shitsznizzle.)
Anyway. After that, I struggled with WOB. My confidence was shot. While I “felt” as if I were doing the same thing just like the good ‘ol days of WOB, I clearly wasn’t which made me all the more frustrated which makes a person all the more tight and all the more miserable. I struggled with WOB at my next Games in Enumclaw and while I did okay with the lighter weight in Scotland, I was still off my game. Have been, quite honestly, inconsistent and that drives me crazy.
Now, some folks have been kind enough to suggest the side swing to me for consistency but here’s the deal, I don’t wanna. It’s just not in me to want to add the need for lateral space to be covered in an event where vertical success is needed. I know, there have been some amazing throws from the side and I believe these amazing throws from amazing people are rock solid. But I just can’t get behind adding another element into an already tough event, especially on a 3rd attempt. For me. Sorry not sorry.
And then this last May I got to watch some great WOB throws in Victoria and something just clicked. Watching the back and forth of Spencer Tyler and Andy Vincent along with the smooth power of Olivia Tyler and shit made sense. For me, it’s a dip and drive. So many people were telling me to A) bring the weight waaaaay back between my legs and then 2. USE my legs on the push. And while this may make sense to others, it never clicked with me. The further back I would bring the weight, the straighter my legs would have to be in order to achieve it. And while my legs are completely straight as the implement is coming forward, at some point folks wanted me to “use them.” WTF? I would be told again and again I’m not using my legs and I’d get frustrated as fok and all would be lost (I needed to add drama for effect.)
However; weight back comfortably and a solid dip (think Jerk dip) that loads the legs and a nice drive as the implement is coming back up. Dip and drive, that’s what works for me. Lastly, and here’s where I always thank Steve Conway (in my head) when I accomplish it, keep throwing. Steve noticed in Portland last year that I was doing all of the hard work for a great toss but then just releasing it into the air instead of continuing to “throw” it higher. I don’t know if that makes sense reading it but it my mind it does and I throw better when I remember that cue.
Things have been going better since I started thinking about WOB this way and even the Bigg guy hit an easy 15′ his only time out this year with the 56# in Illinois last month when I gave him this cue.
Anyway, back to last weekend. While we were watching, there were a couple of surprises in that a few ladies struggled where they don’t usually and shit would come down to a 3rd attempt. And I wondered, what is it about a 3rd attempt WOB that makes it so mind-fuckingly difficult to just relax and do your thang. Now, admittedly, this could just be me. It could be all others in the Highland Games world approaches a 3rd attempt with the same confident ease of a first attempt. But I don’t think so. I’ve watched the body language of some of the World’s best after a missed 2nd attempt and it changes dramatically. Especially at lower heights (“lower” is relative. I get that.) I tried to equate it to a baseball player who is up to bat with a full count, bases loaded and two outs trying to stay calm to get that hit or at the very least get the walk and a score. But not really, cuz if you don’t get that hit or even strike out, you keep playing. With the WOB, you’re done. You’ve just became a spectator for the remaining throws and if you don’t want to be a spectator at 12 feet, you’re in a world of suck for the next hour. True story.
At the end of the day, this is just one of the reasons the Scottish Highland Games are fun AND don’t necessarily get the respect it deserves (or even requires. I’m always a little surprised when folks see how much fun we have and decide to get involved in the Games and upon the first practice realize this is actually kinda hard and bail.) You need the mental fortitude of a golfer (come on, 18 holes for four days in a row?); the strength and athleticism of a weightlifter; the endurance of a marathon runner; the physical capabilities of a New York City garbage man, and the sense of humor of Rodney Dangerfield. Show me another sport where you’ve got all this fun rolled into one ball of awesome. I DARE YA!
At some point, we all are forced to deal with that 3rd attempt WOB. If you’re reading this, my hope for you is that it doesn’t come until a PR or a World Record attempt. If you’re not reading this, fuck it, I hope it happens in warm ups. (But not really, I’m needing to ride the Karma train for the next few months so I’m wishing everyone success and the lightness of fairy wings for you all.) How’s that for fucking Karma??
My wife met me at the door the other night in a sexy negligee. Unfortunately, she was just coming home.