In a few weeks, I’ll compete for the top honors in the National Egg Toss Championship at a minor league baseball game in Maryland. Last year, a throw of 40 feet was good enough to win the fifth annual event. I know this, not because the event has its own federation and web site or because it received worldwide media attention.
Nope. It has none of that.
I know this because I recently spoke to Reed Hunley, Director of Entertainment for the Hagerstown Suns. The Class-A team hosts the event in conjunction with the Maryland Egg Council, which also doesn’t have its own web site.
Meanwhile, on the same day as our American championship, people from all over the world will flock to Swaton, England, for the World Egg Throwing Championship (WETC). Unlike its American cousin, the WETC is run by an official governing body—the World Egg Throwing Federation (WETF). According to President Andy Dunlop (yes, it even has a president), it’s bigger than the World Series. There, winning throws are more than 200 feet. And unlike the National Egg Toss Championship, which Hunley tells me was nothing more than a zany idea cooked up by his predecessor, the WETC has roots nearly a millennium deep. That’s right, Swaton boasts written records of egg throwing dating back to 1322.
Today there’s more than just one event. In addition to Egg Throwing, there’s the Egg Static Relay, Egg Target Throwing, the Egg Trebuchet Challenge, and the Russian Egg Roulette.
Oh, and I almost forgot that the WETF even has a Tweeting cockerel named Mo.
Unfortunately, Mo was unavailable for an interview, but President Dunlop agreed to answer much more than five questions about this ancient art.
Anyone Can Enter: In the States, we generally refer to this practice as egg tossing. In England, you all call it egg throwing, which seems much manlier. Is there a historical reason for this semantic difference?
Andy Dunlop: In the UK, tossing is a phrase not normally used in polite company. Try a Google definition for tosser or tossing. Plus, of course, egg toss is carried out by big girls over short distances. Real champions, such as our two New Zealand turkey farmers, throw eggs. We are also aware of the unfortunate practise of egg throwing by yobs in your own country.
(Naturally, after reading Dunlop’s response, I felt like an idiot. I’ve heard people referred to as tossers and wankers for years. Then again I’d never bothered to learn what the words actually mean. I just assumed they meant idiot or fool. So I looked it up. And I was horribly wrong. And I now understand why an Englishman wouldn’t want to toss an egg, in public, with one of his mates.)
Anyone Can Enter: According to Wikipedia, the longest egg throw was 323 feet (in America, by the way). It was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records and remained undefeated until at least 1999. Since 2000, however, the feat is no longer listed in the book. Any idea what the current record is? If not, what’s the longest anyone has thrown at your event? And have you lobbied the Guinness folks to get this back into the book?
Dunlop: Of course we are aware of the claim by the two American chaps but unsure if they used throwing sticks or catching mitts. Both are of course banned in the true sport of egg throwing. We are also aware of the recent claim by another American to have thrown further. Video clips on the net show some of his attempts breaking up. We can only presume he’s not using good quality eggs for the event as we achieve over 120 mph and much greater distances when using a trebuchet. We haven’t approached the Guinness people but have done the Olympics in an effort to get it used as a demonstration sport in 2012.
Anyone Can Enter: You mention that competitors at the WETC regularly complete throws of more than 200 feet. How is this humanly possible?
Dunlop: Our contestants are very good.
Anyone Can Enter: Do you boil the eggs?
Anyone Can Enter: Allow participants to get silicon implants in their palms?
Anyone Can Enter: Are the shells of English eggs particularly strong?
Dunlop: Probably. Free range organic from happy sustainable sources. We favour cockerel eggs when available.
Anyone Can Enter: Am I just incredibly naive?
Anyone Can Enter: The throw or the catch: Is one more important than the other?
Dunlop: Equally important but a failure on the latter is more entertaining for the watching crowd.
Anyone Can Enter: Is there a trusted method for catching? For example, two-handed vs. one handed?
Dunlop: We find that rising to meet the egg and falling back allows a better braking system. You should remember that we play cricket and that ball is somewhat harder than your softball thing.
Anyone Can Enter: What is the stance of the WETF on the timeless debate of which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Dunlop: Hmmm………… I’ll have to ask Mo.