Tank-topped teams compete in spoof sporting event in Florida

24 February 2024, 18:44

Competitors battle in a muddy pool at the Florida Man Games
Florida Man Games. Picture: PA

The Florida Man Games poke fun at the state’s reputation for bizarre stories.

An event that treats evading police and wrestling over beer like they are Olympic sports has been taking place in the US.

Dozens of caricatured competitors in tank tops and cut-off shorts were in Florida for the event promoted as “the most insane athletic showdown on Earth”.

The Florida Man Games poke fun at the state’s reputation for bizarre stories that involve brawling, drinking and other antics carrying a risk of time in jail or intensive care.

The games kicked off on Saturday with the Star Spangled Banner played on electric guitar. Then spectators crowded around a tent to watch competitors eat a plateful of barbecue pork and a pair of sausages to see who could finish first.

Guitarist playing the Star Spangled Banner
The games kicked off with the Star Spangled Banner played on electric guitar (Russ Bynum/AP)

James Gordon, of DeLand, won the meat match by a fraction of a second, then drank a beer to celebrate.

Several thousand people paid money to cheer a dozen teams at the debut event in St Augustine.

“I have an absolute disregard for self-preservation. I will do anything,” said Larry Donnelly, 42, who serves as captain of the five-man team Hanky Spanky. “When I was in the military, I did a little alligator wrestling.”

To train for the games, he rode a bicycle around his neighbourhood with a second bike strapped to his back. His event on Saturday: A race requiring competitors to switch between bikes while toting a catalytic converter and a handful of copper pipes, common items in Florida theft stories.

Competitors push a trailer during a relay race at the Florida Man Games
Competitors push a trailer during a relay race at the Florida Man Games (Russ Bynum/AP)

Other events involve contenders wrestling sumo-style while holding pitchers of beer, or running from actual sheriff’s deputies while jumping fences and avoiding obstacles. Some signed up to duel in a mud-filled pool, while others faced a scramble to grab cash flying in simulated hurricane winds.

Florida Man Games organiser Pete Melfi said he was stunned to find nobody else had beaten him to the ripped-from-headlines idea for a spoof sporting event. He expected more than 5,000 spectators to join the fun.

“We kind of give a person an opportunity to live a day in the life of Florida man without ending up in a cop car,” said Mr Melfi. But he had to tone down some racier aspects of the Florida Man mythos to obtain a permit.

”There’s typically drugs and nudity,” he said. “But the city frowned on it when I asked for drugs and nudity.”

The “Florida Man” phenomenon seeped into the nation’s conscience thanks in part to a Twitter account that started in 2013. The account touted “real-life stories of the world’s worst superhero”, sharing news headlines such as “Florida Man Bites Dog to ‘Establish Dominance’” and “Florida Man Tried to Pay for McDonald’s With Weed”.

By Press Association

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