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The National Egg Toss Championship is unique among most national championships. Unless you can name one in which some of the opponents are sleeping together.
In a few hours, Carie and I will say goodnight to Mike and Jodie and we’ll retire to separate rooms in a Baltimore hotel, like proper married couples.
But shortly after the Hagerstown Suns wrap up their game against the Hickory Crawdads tomorrow afternoon, we’ll all take off our wedding rings. The move will be equally functional and symbolic. Functionally, it makes no sense to throw eggs with a piece of metal attached to your hand, no matter how precious the metal may be.
The symbolism is probably more meaningful.
Once the egg toss starts, the only partner I’ll have eyes for is a 5-foot-10 father of two who mows grass for a living and thinks formal attire is a collared New York Giants shirt paired with a fitted Mets hat. Likewise, I imagine that Carie will feel the same way about Jodie, her egg tossing partner. Yesterday, in fact, I spotted a particularly cocky exchange between Carie and Jodie on Facebook.
Jodie Rivers Hepp: National Egg Toss Championship this weekend… Carie and I might get to see our husbands cry when we take them down.
Carie Page: I have big news on this front…. a friend of mine gave me a sure thing tip today. And I’m not telling the boys!
Jodie Rivers Hepp: new egg strategy- nice carie!
Enraged, I immediately started to respond. I nearly fired off, “Here’s a tip, sweetheart: learn how to catch.” But I knew better. The last thing we needed the night before a 6-hour road trip was an all-out war. Hours later, I settled on a more democratic response.
Jon Page: I’ve got a great tip for you ladies. Find a bookie and bet next month’s mortgages on Jon and Mike.
The thing is, Carie might have a lucky streak going. We’re at a Baltimore Orioles game right now, but we came here early so we could watch the US-Ghana World Cup game with our good friends Dave and Diddy. Against my advice, Carie wore a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt into Baltimore Ravens territory. Miraculously, however, midway through the US game, two complimentary chicken wing baskets were delivered to our table. Minutes later, our waiter appeared. He seemed furious. In a bar full of screaming fans, he had to yell at us.
“Who here is from Pittsburgh,” he demanded.
All eyes turned to me.
Cowardly, I pointed to my wife and her incriminating shirt.
“That’s awesome,” he said, excitedly. “Where exactly are you from?”
Again, all eyes returned to me.
“Ummm. My mom is from Pittsburgh, actually,” I said. “She’s from Wilkinsburg.”
“Cool. I’m from New Kensington. That’s why I gave you guys the wings.”
I just hope I’m not as much of a coward tomorrow. And I hope Carie takes me back once this thing is over.
To read more about our intra-marital egg tossing rivalry, click here.
Behind every great champion, there is a greater coach. The Green Bay Packers had Vince Lombardi. The UCLA Bruins had John Wooden. Bill Russell had Red Auerbach. Michael Jordan had Dean Smith and Phil Jackson. Rocky Balboa had Mickey.
Unfortunately, Mike and I have no coach for Sunday’s National Egg Toss Championship.
I know what you’re probably thinking: You throw the egg. You catch the egg. Who needs a coach for that? It’s true. Egg tossing is quite simple—when you’re practicing in your friend’s front yard for an audience that includes a three-year-old, a chocolate lab, and various confused neighbors. But who’s to say what it’s actually like to compete for a national championship in egg tossing? Surely, the past five winners of the National Egg Toss Championship do, but they’re hard to track down. Mainly because the Hagerstown Suns, the Class-A Minor League team that runs the contest, doesn’t keep records for egg tossing with the same diligence they display for baseball stats. And, yes, I realize that this might be a tip-off that the National Egg Toss Championship isn’t quite on the same level as the Final Four or even the National Hollerin’ Contest. But it’s still a national championship. You can’t argue against that.
Then again, at least I could turn to some former champions for advice before competing in the Hollerin’ Contest last week. Up until this week, the best advice I’d received from anyone about egg tossing came from the President of the World Egg Throwing Championship—a similar event taking place across the pond in England on the same day as the National Egg Toss Championship. Unlike its American counterpart, the World Championship features multiple egg-related events and boasts a history of egg throwing dating back to the Middle Ages. While President Andy Dunlop was nice enough to answer some questions for me, he seemed more interested in making witty jokes at my expense than offering actual advice.
Unfazed and without proper guidance, Mike and I persevered, maintaining a rigorous schedule of two practices each week. Soon, the hard work paid off. Each time out, we consistently completed throws of more than 60 feet—more than we would have needed to win the event last year. But then I competed in the Hollerin’ Contest, where I learned how pivotal a role experience can play in a national championship. Each of the participants who placed in the Hollerin’ Contest were former champions. While I was simply happy to complete my routine without vomiting on stage, the top three competitors had polished strategies. Furthermore, they seemed to have a mental edge. That’s exactly what Mike and I needed for the National Egg Toss Championship.
Having exhausted my options in the egg tossing community, I decided to broaden the scope of my search for an egg tossing mentor. Honestly, all we really needed was a mental mentor. And then it hit me. A great coach is a great coach, no matter what sport he or she is coaching. So instead of chasing after egg tossing coaches, I set my sights on the three greatest current national champion coaches that came to mind.
From Duke University, four-time NCAA champion/Olympic-gold-medal-winning basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
From the University of North Carolina, two-time NCAA champion basketball coach Roy Williams.
And from the University of Alabama, two-time NCAA champion football coach Nick Saban.
(I left Urban Meyer off the list because he obviously hates the media.)
I drafted a short, simple e-mail and immediately sent it to each coach’s media contact. Here’s what I wrote:
Dear (Media Guy),
I have a rather odd, yet entirely genuine request for you. I’m on a quest to compete in at least one obscure/wacky/ridiculous event each month. Along the way, I’m blogging about the entire experience.
I’m writing you because I have a question that I think Coach Krzyzewski/Williams/Saban can help me with. Like I said, I realize this isn’t exactly a normal request. But you’ve got to admit, this might be fun for him to answer. For starters, I guarantee that no one has ever asked him this:
Coach, I’m getting ready to compete in my second national championship in as many weeks. Last week, I fell short in the National Hollerin’ Contest. This weekend, however, I think I have a good shot at the National Egg Toss Championships. My partner and I have been practicing for weeks, but I’m afraid we’ll crack under the pressure come game day. As someone who’s won multiple national titles, can you give us some words of wisdom?
Was it a long shot? Sure. After all, I’m not a five-star recruit, and these guys have no obligation to respond to a schmuck like me. On top of that, consider the fact that there are beat reporters at reputable newspapers covering these coaches’ actual sports—not egg tossing—who would trade a month of pregame complimentary buffets for just one exclusive interview. But that’s exactly why I liked my chances of getting an answer. While Joe Q. Reporter might have been looking for answers about a possible recruiting violation, I was asking a single innocent question about a popular breakfast food. What was the harm in that? I imagined it would be a great question to ask while the coach was on his way from his office to the practice field, or on the golf course.
Alabama Media Guy: OK, Coach Saban. Before you tee off on the back nine, here’s something to think about. A guy from North Carolina needs some advice in preparation for the National Egg Toss Championship.
Coach Saban: Well that’s easy, Media Guy. Each play has a history and a life of its own. How is that play going to be remembered? If you’re focusing on that play and what you have to do that single play, usually you’ll do pretty good on it.
It would literally be that easy. I hoped.
So much for that.
Alabama Media Guy was the first to respond. Coach Saban, he said, was on vacation for the next couple of weeks. Upon his return, he said, “I’ll have quite a few things to go over with him. To be honest with you, I don’t think this one will make the cut.”
Fair enough, I thought. I’d heard that Saban has never been much of a media darling, anyways. Surely, however, I might have some luck with Coach K and Coach Williams. They are, after all, right in my own backyard here in the Research Triangle Park.
Again, I was wrong.
According to Carolina Media Guy, Coach Williams is apparently “on the road until August,” where I’m led to believe he has no access to phones, e-mails, or old-fashioned snail mail. Coach K has an even better excuse, as he is preparing the U.S. basketball team for the World Championships.
Alas, it appears that Mike and I face an uphill battle to join the ranks of the Packers, the Bruins, the Russells, the Jordans, and the Italian Stallions.
So be it. The truly great champions don’t even need a coach.