Friday, March 11, 2005

The World's Strongest Man

DQ reader Mike Kolar sent me a note about Ivan Putski (mentioned in a post last week):
Ivan Putski turned up on the "The World's Strongest Man" on ESPN one year- in one event there's a particularly gruesome incident where he's doing a 50-yard dash with a refrigerator on his back, and his knee completely gives out. His leg basically collapsed sideways, still gives me the willies just thinking about it.

In 1979, when I was eighteen and a freshman in college, I saw ESPN for the first time. The idea of a channel dedicated twenty-four hours a day to sports was the most fantastic thing I could possibly imagine. As a note for younger readers, this was before the Internet, incredibly, and we spent many, many hours watching ESPN in the dorm. And given that this was 1979, there weren't that many sports programs to show, and ESPN couldn't afford the rights fees for any of the higher-profile sports.

Then they found The World's Strongest Man competition, and a perfect marriage was born.

I'm sure I'm not remembering this accurately, but for several years it seemed like they showed The World's Strongest Man competitions about twelve hours a day (with the other twelve reserved for replays of "The Superstars.")

[And as a total digression, the funniest moment in the history of The Superstars was when Joe Frazier tried to swim one length of a pool. Frazier was an amazing athlete, but he swam like a boat anchor, and watching a world champion boxer try to dog paddle, and badly, was slapstick comedy at its best.]

Everyone in the World's Strongest Man competition had this bulging, outlandish physique that couldn't possibly be supported by the human skeletal system, and the events themselves involved activities like towing planes and carrying cars (I'm not joking). The refrigerator carry that Mike mentioned was a staple, and picking up a platform with people on it was also a real crowd pleaser. Combine the events with the steroid enhanced physiques and every contestant was a second away from tearing an ACL or blowing out their shoulder. If you're carrying a refrigator or towing a plane, you don't strain muscles--you obliterate them. So part of the ritual of watching the show was trying to figure out who was going to have some horrific injury.

That whole concept would have made a great children's toy. Load up Marty McAgony with a refrigerator and a railroad car and a bus and at some point, he'll explode. Don't be the last one to give him a tanker to carry!

And there was always somebody from Iceland, or Sweden, named Magnus V. Magnusson or something like that. Sturdy people, the Swedes.

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