WHEN I THINK OF croquet, I imagine elderly men ambling around a level green field, swinging rainbow-colored mallets and engaging in polite conversation with competitors. Extreme croquet is like that, but for people who take life less seriously.
While croquet-like games are thought to have been played in France about 600 years ago, the first example of extreme croquet didn’t appear until the 1920s. Newspaper editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Herbert Swope played a jazzed-up version of the game at his Long Island estate, with no boundaries and few rules.
According to mystery writer Rex Stout, who had a ball thrown at his head during a game in 1937, croquet with Swope could get rough.
“Croquet is not for sissies,” Stout said.
Today, extreme croquet usually takes place in one of three environments: woodland areas, stream beds, and railroad tracks. All fields must be irregular and at least 50 yards long, though they are often much longer.
The aim of the sport seems to be to play in the silliest fashion possible. Some players go by nicknames like Dr. Punish and Steakboy. The most amusing part of the game, is the house rules. Here are a few of the best ones:
Hit the Beer – Hitting another player’s drink will give you two extra turns. Hitting your own drink will result in “a berating from the other players for wasting precious resources i.e., beer or brain cells.”
Dogs and Children are Permitted on the Course – Regardless of distractions or interferences, the ball must be hit from wherever it lies, even if moved from its original position. The rules note that “the training of dogs/small children for this purpose is legal but frowned upon.”
No Show Tunes – Singing show tunes or songs in the style of show tunes on the course will result in physical violence.
Be Quick – Anyone moving about the course with exaggerated slowness “will be tackled enroute and beaten with mallets.”
Balls Must Be At Least 52% Through the Wicket – Otherwise, you forfeit your turn. If a ball passes all the way through and then backwards through the wicket again it can be considered a made wicket, but the event “must be witnessed by a fair and impartial judge in a bunny suit, who will certify that their findings are without bias or malice.”
In summary, it doesn’t really matter if you can bench press 200 pounds or run a five-minute mile. If you have a sense of humor and a case of beer, you could be the next extreme croquet superstar.
What defines a sport, anyway?
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