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We did it! In a field of 20 teams at the National Egg Toss Championship in Hagerstown, Md., Mike and I each completed throws of more than 60 feet in a toss-off to win the national title.
More details to follow soon.
We just strolled into Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown, Md., where the 2010 National Egg Toss Chapionship will commence after the Hagerstown Suns play the visiting Hickory Crawdads. We arrived in the bottom of the fourth inning to find many fans leaving the stadium with the Suns down 4-0.
There are literally dozens of fans here. That’s it. Okay, maybe more like 300. But no more than that. Many of them were streaming out the front gate when we arrived.
My Uncle Jim, who lives in nearby Frederick, is here with us. He asked a few of them why they weren’t sticking around for the egg toss.
So maybe we won’t have an audience worthy of most national championships, but I’m fine with that. The less competition, the better.
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.
Now that I know what it feels like to get achingly close to winning a national championship, I’m not taking any chances with my next title shot.
If only I had been more prepared, maybe I could have won the National Hollerin’ Contest last weekend. I don’t want to be wondering the same thing after the National Egg Toss Championship on Sunday. That’s why Mike and I took egg throwing practice on the road tonight.
We’ve been fortunate to perform quite well in Mike’s front yard, but we needed to test our skills in a new environment. Since the National Egg Toss Championship will be on a baseball field (at the Hagerstown Suns’ stadium), we practiced on a nearby softball field. And since the Maryland Egg Council will be providing the eggs and we don’t know what kind of state they’ll be in, we practiced with eggs at room temperature (we have previously been practicing with eggs straight out of the fridge).
I’m happy to say that both variables did little to affect our performance. Just as we have in most of our recent practices, Mike and I consistently achieved throws of more than 60 feet, which would have been good enough to win last year’s contest by 20 feet.
However, I worry that there’s something we’re forgetting. Some mental strategy we’re overlooking. Some secret eggistential wisdom we’re missing.
Just in case there is something we’re forgetting, I recently requested some advice from several national champion coaches. With any luck, they’re reading this now. Coach K, Coach Williams, Coach Saban: Mike and I can’t wait to hear from you guys.
Training for two national championships that have absolutely nothing in common, except that they take place within a week of each other, may sound like a completely foolish idea. In fact, it probably is.
Or maybe it’s just plain brilliant.
Especially if you’re only half-decent in one event, half-awesome in the other, and there’s a chance that no more than 20 competitors will show up for each one.
I’d like to think that I’ve made some great strides in my preparation for the National Hollerin’ Contest. Unfortunately, I think that I’d simply like to think this. You see, until a few weeks ago, I’d never hollered in my life. And unlike my dad, who has international opera experience, I’ve never been much of a vocalist. So perhaps I was overconfident this weekend when I decided to perform a few intermediate-skilled hollers for Carie, which elicited the following reactions:
“You sound good, but maybe it would be a good idea if you asked your dad for some voice lessons.”
“It sounds sort of like someone is twisting your balls.”
Luckily, it doesn’t feel like that.
But here’s the good news. Not that many people usually show up for the Hollerin’ Contest. I’ve heard that several years ago, only four people competed. That means that there’s a somewhat reasonable chance that I could show up and have a 25 percent chance of winning. Maybe.
Even if I fail miserably, there’s another national championship opportunity awaiting me the next week. And there’s a reasonable chance that I’ll be part of the winning team. My partner Mike and I practiced again today, this time in a thunderous downpour. So far, we’ve completed 60-plus-feet throws in the following conditions: nearly dark, extremely hot, rainy, and slightly drunk.
On a side note, after Mike and I attempted a throw of more than 150 feet, count me in the party of folks who believe a successful egg throw-and-catch combination of more than 200 feet, let alone the alleged world record of more than 300 feet, is humanly impossible. Especially bogus, is this video in which a guy throws an egg as far as he can and watches it safely land on the ground. He might as well have been throwing that egg to Bigfoot. On Jupiter. With Elvis behind the camera.
But on the off chance that it isn’t bogus, and that this guy shows up at the National Egg Toss Championship with a blue-suede-shoed partner, I suppose Mike and I will keep practicing.
And I’ve scheduled a voice lesson with my dad for Tuesday night. I hope he’s ready to work a miracle.
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.
The National Egg Toss Championship (not to be confused with the more esteemed World Egg Throwing Championship) is still more than 3 weeks from now at a Class-A minor league baseball stadium more than 300 miles away. There’s no way of figuring how many teams will be competing. No chance of determining whether the competition will be weak or stiff, scrambled or sunny side up.
What I do know is this—a rivalry to rival the greatest rivalries in all of sport is hatching right before my eyes. It’s a rivalry closer than Duke-Carolina. Hotter than Yankees-Red Sox. Fiercer than Ali-Frazier.
That’s because my biggest rival sleeps next to me every night. Yes. My biggest rival in the National Egg Toss Championship is my beautiful wife, Carie Page.
It started about two months ago. After realizing that I didn’t have a prayer of finishing the CN Tower Stair Climb in record time, and still unaware that I would win a free painting of my dog, I decided that the egg toss might be the only event I had a chance of winning. To make it happen, I would need the perfect partner. Someone with hands as soft as his arm was sure. The choice was easy.
I’ve known Mike Hepp since we shared neighboring lockers during football season in eighth grade. As our go-to tight end that season, Mike led the Leesville Lions in touchdown receptions. Years later, those reliable hands combined with a strong arm helped him anchor third base on one of the best high school baseball teams in North Carolina.
Talent aside, Mike is a great friend, a former roommate, and I’m proud to be the godfather of his first child. Mike and I have also traveled together on countless baseball road trips for the past decade. Asking Mike to be my egg toss partner made perfect sense. Not only would we have a shot at winning the national title, we could also invite a few more good friends and make this an official summer baseball road trip. It would be just like the good old days. We’d all sleep over at Mike’s parents’ house to ensure an early start the next morning. Andrew and I, however, would lie awake on the Hepps’ living room floor until early in the morning, giggling and guffawing over a hypothetical situation involving an embarrassing act of sleepwalking and a grandfather clock. For the first 100 miles of our trip we’d blast Eminem CDs as loud as the factory speakers in my mom’s minivan would allow. Halfway to our destination, battle lines would be drawn, as we’d debate the identity of the best point guard in the ACC. Later that night, we would weigh the pros and cons of ordering X-rated pay-per-view movies to our room, even though that room was being paid for with Mike’s mom’s credit card.
At some point, we would even go to a baseball game.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer the summer of 1999. It might be weird if Andrew and I slept on the Hepps’ floor, especially since I have my own house a few miles away. And just like my mom’s minivan, those friends have matured. Just like us, they have other responsibilities, other promises to keep.
So for the first time in our lives, Mike and I did something previously unimaginable: we invited our wives to join us on a baseball road trip. Just typing that almost seems sacrilegious.
Yeah, we went on a Costa Rican vacation with Mike and Jodie this January. But that was vacation. This is a baseball road trip. There’s a huge difference.
The baseball road trip itself is essentially an anti-wife experience. For on a baseball road trip, we are free to be our pathetic, disgusting selves. We burp. Fart. Stare unapologetically at scantily clad Astros fans seated a few rows in front us instead of paying much attention to the game. We call each other cruel, terrible names. We drink $8 beers.
Simply put, we do things that wives simply don’t understand. Even the most loving, understanding wives in the world. Like ours.
And yet, there I was, just a few weeks ago, asking Carie to join us on our first co-ed baseball road trip. And here is where the problem started. This is exactly what I remember saying to Carie:
“So, Andrew can’t make the egg toss. Want to come with me? Mike’s going to ask Jodie, too.”
And here is what I believe Carie actually heard:
“So, Andrew is lame. Want me to make you a sandwich and give you a backrub? Oh, also, you’re my new egg toss partner!”
For the next week, lost in a splendid state of oblivion, Carie assumed we were partners. That is, until moments before we left for a cookout at Mike and Jodie’s house.
“We need to swing by the store before we go,” I said.
“Because we need some eggs. Mike and I are going to practice egg tossing.”
“What do you mean, what? He’s my egg toss partner. We need to practice if we’re going to win a national championship.”
“But you asked ME to be your egg toss partner,” Carie said.
“Um, no. I asked you to come with us—to hang out and maybe pretend to be our groupies. Remember?”
She didn’t. And she wasn’t happy. The ride to the store was completely silent. It wasn’t until we pulled in to Mike’s driveway when she finally spoke.
“Fine,” she said. “I hope you and Mike are really happy together. I’m going to ask Jodie to be my partner, and we’re going to kick your butt. You’re not the only one that can enter any old stupid event.”
And just like that, it was on. Ever since, I have endured a countless stream of taunts anytime I ask Carie a simple question.
“Want to go out for dinner tonight?” I’ll ask.
“What, your egg toss partner is too busy to go out with you, instead?”
“What do you want to watch on TV?” I’ll ask.
“What difference does it make? We’re just going to watch whatever you think Mike would watch.”
“Wow, do you think BP will ever figure out how to stop this oil leak?” I’ll ask.
“Look, Jon! If you love Mike so much, maybe you should have just married him!”
And on and on it goes.
Will this rivalry enjoy the endurance of Duke-Carolina? Only time will tell. But I’m pretty sure I made the right choice.
On Memorial Day, Mike and I perfected our form. Check out the following video to see us successfully complete an 80-foot toss. That’s twice as long as the winning throw last year and only 15 feet off a National Egg Toss Championship record.
Then, watch Carie and Jodie mercilessly kill baby chickens at close range.
Who would you want as your partner?
For the egg toss, I bought my tickets for the Hagerstown Suns’ home game against the Hickory Crawdads on June 27. I simply have to show up on the field after the game. It’s that easy.
The Hollerin’ Contest registration is slightly more involved, albeit relatively simple. I had to sign a registration form agreeing to conduct myself in a courteous manner, avoid making obscene remarks, refrain from using the stage to seek election, and do everything in my power—should I win—to promote the National Hollerin’ Contest throughout the year. Those all sound good enough.
However, I’m afraid I won’t be able to abide by the first rule listed on the registration sheet: I will not participate while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Give me a break, Hollerin’ Contest organizers—I’ve never even attempted to holler! How am I supposed to get on stage in front of an audience of hollerin’ connoisseurs without the slightest hint of liquid courage? Seriously. There’s got to be some kind of alcohol and drug exemption for first-time participants, right?
I know it might sound easy, but watch the following YouTube video and try to imitate some of these calls.
I just did my best. No sooner than I started, Lucy, one of our beloved mutts, awoke from a peaceful nap. She quickly sat up and, with a knowing gleam in her brown eyes, seemed to beg: Please, please, please stop. You’ll never be a hollerin’ champion, Jon. Never. You’ll never take down four-time champion Kevin Jasper. Not with that weak hollerin.’ No way, buddy.
Minutes later, I decided to give it another go. This time, Lucy didn’t even bother to awake from her nap.
Alas, I signed the form and will be mailing it along with a check for $10 to the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department, which runs the contest. I just hope they amend their rules to allow moderate pre-contest alcohol consumption.