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Friday, April 4, 2008

Alternative March Madnesses: 9 Tourneys TV Isn’t Covering

After the first week of the NCAA basketball tournament, only sixteen teams still have a shot at the title. Your bracket is probably in disarray. March Madness has brought you nothing but anguish and pain. What’s a fan to do? Cheer up, March isn’t just about hoops. Here are some great March championships you may have missed, and some you can still catch if you hurry. Here are some of our favorites you might have missed:

1. The World Coal Carrying Championships

acoal.jpgThat’s not a misleading title. It’s an actual championship where people carry coal, and you just missed its most recent running on Monday. The contest started in 1963 in Gawthorpe, a small village in British coal country. Two friends, Reggie Sedgewick and Amos Clapham were enjoying a brew when a third man, Lewis Hartley teased Sedgewick that he looked a bit worn out. A vigorous debate over the two fellows’ relative fitness ensued, and it was decided that they would run a race on Easter Monday while carrying large sacks of local coal.
Since then the event has gained fame, but the same basic idea persists: competitors are given a 50-kilogram bag of coal and told to run from The Royal Oak to the village’s Maypole, a distance of 1108.25 yards. The world record is held by David Jones of Meltham, who made the spring in just over four minutes in both 1991 and 1995.

>>8 more after the jump.

2. West Virginia Pinewood Derby Championship

a.pinewood.jpgThe NASCAR and Formula One seasons may be heating up, but some racing purists still prefer to see cars that are carved out of a block of balsa wood and run only on that cleanest-burning of all fuels: gravity. If you’re one of those fans who can’t wait to see how a little graphite lubricant will affect a pair of tiny plastic wheels, get to Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport, West Virginia on March 28th and 29th for a two day blowout featuring as many as 600 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts racing their creations. If you can’t stand to be a spectator, there’s also a Mom’s and Dad’s Division; just tell the organizers that your kid is “that one over there in the Cub Scout uniform.”

3. FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championships

a.fly2.jpgShould you find yourself on New Zealand’s North Island between now and Sunday, you might want to consider checking out the 28th World Fly Fishing Championships. The event, which began on March 22, is challenging some of the world’s top anglers to pull in brown and rainbow trout from Lake Otamangakau and Lake Rotoaira. Working in five-man teams, the anglers fish in five three-hour sessions, then have their catches scored by judges. The team with the highest overall score is the winner. The real winners, though, are the fish. Wait. No. They’re the losers.

4. Pan Jiu-Jistu Championship 2008

a.jiu.jpgBrazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art based on ground fighting and grappling. One of its tenets is that a smaller, weaker person can defend himself against a stronger attacker by gaining a dominant position through leverage, then applying a series of joint locks or chokeholds. Sounds pretty entertaining to watch, right? Get to California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, California by Friday to see some top-flight grappling.

5. World Championship Cheese Contest

a.cheese.jpgSadly, we already missed the 2008 edition of this classic, but there’s no harm in getting excited for the next running of the biennial event, is there? The host of the event, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association describes the event like so: “This contest is an objective assessment of cheeses and butters and awards gold, silver and bronze medals to the finest products in 79 classes.” So if you’re tired of overly subjective judging of dairy products, this could be the championship for you to watch. Kudos to Michael Spycher of Kaserei Fritzenhaus in Switzerland; his “Le Gruyere Switzerland” took home the honors as the world champion cheese.

6. Cowboy Action Championship

Another one that’s already passed, but man, do we ever wish we’d seen it. Each year the Single Action Shooters Society holds Winter Range, a national championship to discover who is in fact the fastest, most accurate gun in the West. Using only single-action firearms, the older “cowboy” style of gun that must be manually cocked between each shot, competitors ride horses through obstacle courses while shooting balloons and stalk through fabricated old-time towns to shoot at model silhouettes of varmints. Next year’s competition if March 4th-8th near Phoenix. Buy a six-gun and book a room now. This video from this year’s competition should tell you all you need to know:
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7. National Shag Dancing Championships

a.shag.jpg“Shag nationals,” as they’re known, have been held in Myrtle Beach since 1984 as a celebration of the swing-dancing variant. The championships allow both professional and amateur shaggers to be judged on the basis of smoothness, degree of difficult, togetherness, execution, and repertoire. Each couple’s dance must display a number of compulsory steps, including a duck walk, a boogie walk, and a belly roll with a male lead. If you know what any of those phrases mean, you should certainly find your way to Myrtle Beach for next March’s annual showdown.

8. Microsoft Server Championship Competition

a.server.jpgMarch Madness meets American Idol meets IT guys in this fourth annual championship, which takes place on Saturday at Microsoft’s Hong Kong office. Three-person teams of programmers meet with a “customer” who gives them a business problem. The team must then use Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 to craft an answer to the problem. The winning squad gets HK $10,000 apiece, free HP laptops, and the most coveted server-guru plum of them all: a job interview with Microsoft.

9. American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

a.tyler.jpgCrossword enthusiasts’ annual answer to the World Series was featured in the great documentary Wordplay, and this year’s contest came to a close on March 2nd with a familiar result: Tyler Hinman, just 23 years old, won the tournament for a fourth time. The annual competition, which is organized by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, sees top puzzlers attempt to accurately complete eight original puzzles as fast as they can. The grand prize winner takes home $5,000 and the adoration of puzzle enthusiasts everywhere.

Original here

Memphis Players Have Long, Complicated Explanation Of How They Are This Year's 'Rumpelstiltzkin' Story


SAN ANTONIO—Although no Cinderella teams made it to this year's Final Four, the Memphis Tigers held an extended press conference Wednesday to explain to the press and public that they are in fact the "Rumpelstiltzkin" of this year's NCAA basketball tournament.

"Okay, now, pay attention, because this is pretty complicated," point guard Derrick Rose said upon opening what was to be a three-hour marathon of explanations, questions, and folkloric interpretation held in a conference room at the at the team's hotel. "Okay, we can't be Cinderella, because we're a No. 1 seed, right? But of all the No. 1 seeds, we were the one people expected to lose. So we're like the girl in the story who starts out as a miller's daughter but right away she becomes a princess. And she—we—only got this far because we can spin straw into gold, but it really isn't us, it's this magic dwarf. Okay, then, is everybody following so far?"

Rose, talented but undersized at 6'0", then proceeded to explain to reporters that he was not, in fact, either calling himself or comparing himself to a magic dwarf.

It is unknown how Rumpelstiltzkin, the Germanic folk tale in which the mysterious title character agrees to help a commoner-made-princess by turning ordinary straw into gold in exchange for her firstborn son but is undone when the princess guesses his secret name, was adopted by Memphis as a symbol for their tournament appearance. However, the players and head coach John Calipari all took turns attempting to explain what they insisted were close similarities.

"In a way, you see, having a game plan is like having a secret name," a visibly exasperated Calipari said midway through the second hour of the press conference, his suit jacket long since abandoned, his tie loosened, and his shirtsleeves rolled up. "Now, if we can guess the other team's secret name, then we'll be victorious, and we'll get to keep the gold—be the champion. Right? Everyone got it?"

Calipari then attempted to explain exactly who the prince would be, why he had lied about being able to spin straw into gold in the first place, whether the fans or the media were the firstborn son, and if he was claiming he had spied on other teams to steal their game plan.

"Okay, let's get this straight," said defense-minded power forward Joey Dorsey, who spent most of the day denying that he was a friendly troll, a brave knight, or even an evil ogre. "The point is, there's this thing that's hard to do and there's more than one part to it, like spinning straw into gold while trying to outwit evil magic gnomes or like trying to win the basketball tournament while everyone says you're not good enough. So you have to be crafty, like saying you can do something you can't while someone who can do the things you can't does them until you outfox them and then you're a princess… or the champion… Wait. No, you're both. Right?"

"I've got to pull down as many rebounds as possible, anyway," Dorsey concluded. "Rebounds are important."

"I can see what Memphis is trying to do here," said Washington Post sportswriter Adam Kilgore, who said the press conference was the most baffling basketball-related event he had ever witnessed. "But I don't think it works. What does the straw represent? Why did they lie about making gold in the first place? When Memphis lost to Bill Walton's UCLA team back in 1973, was Bill Walton an angry giant? Is there a moral to this story?"

"I guess it's something to think about," Kilgore added. "I just wish they'd gone with the metaphor of The Big Dance."

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McNamee selling Clemens mementos

Brian McNamee was planning to dump all his mementos of his relationship with Roger Clemens.

Then a friend persuaded him to think better of it.

Now the former personal trainer who claims he injected the seven time Cy Young Award winner with steroids is selling dozens of personal items in an online auction, and donating the profits to his juvenile diabetes charity.

A baseball signed by Clemens and McNamee that started the day Wednesday at $38 was bidding $4,000 by late afternoon, said Phil Castinetti, a friend of McNamee's and owner of SportsWorld in Saugus who is handling the sale.

At Castinetti's suggestion, McNamee turned over 50 to 60 items including hats, uniforms, balls and pictures of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco -- "all the steroid guys," Castinetti says.

To make them unique, McNamee also signed them, and managed to take a dig at Clemens at the same time. Clemens often signs "Cy 7" after his name to denote his seven Cy Youngs.

McNamee signed some of his "Ly 0," -- as in zero lies.

The first auction will end Friday.

Sorry, no syringes.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Original here