Welcome to the Armchair Decathlon
Two days. Ten events. No cigarette breaks. A one-man track n' field-oplooza, the Olympic decathlon has long bestowed the title of "world's greatest athlete" upon its winner.
But is really worth the trouble? Or even relevant to modern life?
Think about it: competitors are outdoors. They're standing up. They have to wear (and look good in) a tank top.
For that matter, consider some of the events. 100-meter dash? Too much chance of rupturing an Achilles. 400-meter dash? Odds are you'll be breathing heavily. Shot put? Isn't this why God gave us the T-shirt cannon?
Still, the notion of a multi-skill competition is appealing -- provided we leave the sweating to the professionals. Which is why Page 2 came up with a decathlon for the rest of us. A competition that not only measures some of contemporary society's most respected skills, but also allows participants to spent most of their time indoors and on their La-Z-Boys.
Welcome to the Armchair Decathlon.
Here are our events:
Take a good look at Brett in his macho glory, because it was all downhill from there.
• 40-Ounce Sports Drink Dash
• Sports Movie Marathon
• "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith"
• NFL Fantasy Stat Line Quiz
• Name That Athlete
• Nintendo "Wii Sports"
• World Series of Pop Culture
• Hot Dog Eating Race
• "Madden NFL 09"
To illustrate, Page 2's Mike Philbrick and Patrick Hruby have completed this rigorous test and detail their exploits (and the rules) below. We encourage readers to follow suit, challenge friends and family, strive to embody the spirit of our pseudo-Olympic motto: Rested, Seated, Useless.
Not since Dan and Dave's Reebok marketing flameout in 1992 has a decathlon been so overwhelmingly meaningless.
PHILBRICK VS. HRUBY
1. The Wonderlic Exam
Objective: Tackle the general aptitude test the NFL combine made famous as a measuring stick of your value on this planet.
Requires: Vocabulary skills, math skills, logic skills and other stuff that may or may not relate to football.
Event Summary: Sure, successfully reading a Cover 2 weakside blitz while angry and/or while Charles-Haley-crazy, 300-pound men are attempting to play Jenga with your spinal column is nice -- but what really separates stars like Peyton Manning from busts like Ryan Leaf is the ability to solve for X in a simple algebraic equation involving two trains heading for the same station from opposite directions.
Ground Rules: You only have four minutes to finish (Patrick and Mike took a longer, eight-minute version). Oh, and if you're sitting next to a running back, trust us, you don't want to cheat off him.
Doping Violations: Attending even one class at any non-BCS school.
For Added Difficulty: Take the test with eight gold medals around your neck and Lindsay Lohan blowing up your inbox (Michael Phelps only).
Philbrick's Take: Whenever I have to do something I have zero desire to do, I develop a temporary form of attention deficit disorder. Standardized tests are definitely on that list. Back in high school, I hated having to sit down for hours on a perfectly good Saturday morning and let my scribblings on a Scantron sheet determine my future. All of this made me fear the Wonderlic and its dreaded timer. When it started, I thought I would be fine after answering a few softball questions that my college-educated brain could handle. Then I got some math thing (damn you, math!) about tires and profit. I took too long. I panicked. I didn't just skip it, and in the end, the clock ran out with a few questions I never even got to see. If only the Wonderlic went with "Double Dare" rules -- I totally would have gone with the physical challenge.
Hruby's Take: I once was an excellent student. And I absolutely crushed standardized tests, Usain Bolt-style. However, that was then. In the here and now, I'm approaching 10 years of working as a sportswriter -- nearly a decade of absorbing silly statistics and cliched quotes while pondering the deeper meaning of grown men chasing balls while wearing clownish numbered pajamas. Consequently, I feared the Wonderlic would expose me. How moronic had I become? Turns out I was stupid to fret. The test was an eight-minute lark, a mix of elementary logic, junior high vocabulary and basic algebra. (Honestly, Sudoku is more taxing). When I finished, I wasn't exactly ready to cash a pro football signing bonus -- but I was supremely confident in my ability to tackle ninth grade.
Final Score: Hruby 32, Philbrick 26.
HRUBY LEADS 1-0
2. 40-Ounce Sports Drink Dash
Objective: Drink as fast as you can.
Requires: Speed, explosive gulping ability, electrolyte deficiency, willingness to sweat neon yellow.
Can you overdose on electrolytes? Hey, let's find out!
Ground Rules: Competitors must load novelty beer helmets with 40 ounces of brightly colored "-ade" (Gator- or Power-). Clear liquids and/or fitness water, whatever that is, will result in immediate disqualification.
Doping Violations: In keeping with the spirit of armchair athletics, competitors may NOT increase their starting thirst by engaging in any physical activity more strenuous than remote-control button-pressing for 60 minutes prior to competing. (However, eating a bag of tortilla chips is both acceptable and encouraged).
For Added Difficulty: Stand on one leg while guzzling Gatorade Tiger.
Philbrick's Take: When I finished, my brother-in-law asked me if I used two separate 20-ounce bottles, or if I put the Gatorade in one giant container because that would make you way faster. In the future, Greg, unless you have a DeLorean and a flux capacitor, keep your genius to yourself.
Hruby's Take: Waterboarding by lemon-lime is still torture.
Final Score: Hruby, 43 seconds; Philbrick, 48 seconds.
HRUBY LEADS 2-0
3. Sports Movie Marathon
Objective: Stay awake.
Requires: The ability to lie down on a couch and operate a DVD player;
BitTorrent a Netflix account or Blockbuster card.
Event Summary: We have sanctioned a list of 11 sports movies embodying the valor, wry humor and never-say-die triumphalism of the American spirit. Watch all of them in a row without falling into a coma.
Ground Rules: No sitting upright. "Just resting my eyes" is grounds for immediate disqualification. Don't even think about the Ludovico Technique.
Doping Violations: Red Bull and/or communication with other human beings.
For Added Difficulty: Throw in the Kevin Costner classic -- and yes, we use the term loosely -- "For The Love Of The Game." If you make it through the opening credits, consider yourself an elite movie marathoner and a good candidate for a manned mission to Mars.
Philbrick's Take: Couldn't get through "Bull Durham." Knowing that "Waterworld" and "The Postman" exist likely rendered my brain unconscious as a self-defense mechanism. Sort of like how you often don't remember being in a horrific car accident.
Hruby's Take: Watched 'em all. Nothing like a plucky underdog triumphing over adversity while making the audience believe in the power of believin'. My favorite part was when Corbin Bernsen won a bicycle race up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum with his hands wrapped in foil, then punched that pesky gopher right into the exploding lights at Notre Dame stadium before playing catch with his ghost dad while all the fans chanted his name. I laughed and cried and hoped for a tie-in NHL franchise. Power of the human spirit and all.
Final Score: After hiring IRS agent Jeff Novitzky to go through Hruby's deleted cache it was determined that he only checked out a couple of clips on YouTube, because he was "too busy" with "The Hills'" marathon on MTV. The event goes to Philbrick.
HRUBY LEADS 2-1
4. "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith"
Objective: Rock out!
Requires: Hand-eye coordination; functioning eye cones and rods that can discern between green, red and yellow. And sometimes blue.
Why spend years learning how to play a real guitar when you can rock out like Aerosmith in under five minutes?
Ground Rules: Pick three songs. The first to two wins is the champ and is also probably three people short of being able to fill his cell phone's Fave 5.
Doping Violations: Failure to disclose that you can play a real guitar.
For Added Difficulty: Play under the same influences as Aerosmith in the '70s. Unless, of course, that makes you better at the game. Which is entirely possible.
Philbrick's Take: I have no words. How could I do this to the band that formed mere miles from my childhood home? How could I have fallen for Hruby's "Huh, I don't know what I'm doing" routine? I have officially gone soft. When I turn on the game now, virtual Steve Tyler can't even look at me. I just hope after learning of this, my grandfathered citizenship in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts isn't revoked -- because it should be.
Hruby's Take: I expected my own private Waterloo (the military battle or the ABBA song, take your pick). For one, I'm not a fan of Aerosmith unless Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone are involved; more to the point, I'm the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer of Guitar Hero. Never played it, save 20 fumbling, forgettable minutes failing my way through the basic in-game tutorial. But a funny thing happened: I got the hang of it. And I won. I have to hand it to Philbrick, who pretty much beat himself by showing me how to switch the on-screen notes to accommodate left-handed players. Made all the difference in the world. The lesson? Never extend a hand to a fallen opponent, lest he yank you to the ground and stomp on your kneecaps. Put that in the Olympic charter.
Final Score: Hruby takes the event with wins in "Sweet Emotion," "Walk This Way" (with Run DMC) and Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You."
HRUBY LEADS 3-1
5. NFL Fantasy Stat Line Quiz
Objective: Based on last season's stat lines, guess the player.
Requires: The emotional empathy to be so moved by someone's 1,000-yard season that you committed it to permanent memory, replacing the last fleeting images of your wedding day.
Event Summary: Who won? Who lost? Who cares? Fantasy points über alles.
Ground Rules: Guess away with no time limit -- but let's be honest, if you don't get these in 30 seconds you probably
have a girlfriend won't get them at all.
Doping Violations: Going to Google or being Matthew Berry.
For Added Difficulty: While competing, tell your friends and co-workers that riveting story again about the time you won your fantasy league. Then duck.
Philbrick's Take: Hruby would later tell me that he knew one of the answers because the day before he looked up one of the players at his wife's request. Sure. It was just the other day my wife was asking me to look up fantasy stats while we were taking a break from throwing out most of her shoes and black pants so we could have more closet space for my DVDs and T-shirts from college that I refuse to throw away. These home improvement ideas were of course at my wife's request. If anyone gets all of these right, you're wasting your time with fantasy sports. Go count cards in Vegas.
Hruby's Take: First of all, my wife wanted to know if Terrell Owens was any good last year, which came up while we were watching his shirtless slo-mo beach jog during "Hard Knocks." Looking back, she probably just wanted me out of the room. Anyway, I wanted to cheat on this one. I wanted to cheat so very badly. Problem is, doing so would have required spending actual money on an actual fantasy football magazine -- and frankly, I'd feel less sketchy going on eBay to bid for the Greg Evigan issue of Playgirl. I didn't recognize any stat lines outright. Which left me making educated guesses.
Final Score: Hruby 5, Philbrick 4.
HRUBY LEADS 4-1
6. Name That Athlete
Objective: Guess the guy in the picture. Yes, it's that simple.
Requires: Having vision.
Event Summary: Some of sports' greatest players wore different uniforms than the classic throwbacks you remember. Take a look at our 10 to see if you can name that dude.
Ground Rules: None of the athletes have faces, so you'll have to figure things out on team and number alone.
Doping Violations: Having an RSS feed to Paul Lukas' Uni Watch blog.
For Added Difficulty: Do it blindfolded.
Philbrick's Take: Athlete No. 1 set an ominous tone (got that one wrong), but the rest were right in my wheelhouse. Don't be frightened, no Michael Jordan photos were used in the execution of this event.
Hruby's Take: Never mind identifying numbers -- in a spasm of inexlicable carelessness, I mistook an old Braves uniform for an Orioles jersey, even though THERE IS A GIANT TOMAHAWK DECAL PLASTERED ON THE FRONT. Next thing you know, I'll be talking about the Iraq-Pakistan border and the time I came under sniper fire at a Bosnian airport.
Final Score: Hruby 6, Philbrick 9.
HRUBY LEADS 4-2
7. Nintendo "Wii Sports"
Objective: Make your little on-screen Mii dance to the happy happy victory chimes.
Nintendo of America
One arm. That's all you need to be a high-level Wii-lete.
Event Summary: Once upon a time, a man needed to know how to throw a javelin -- both for war (hostile tribesmen) and dinner (woolly mammoths). But today? You're better off mastering "Wii Sports." After all, what is modern life if not the endless manipulation of handheld pieces of plastic to produce favorable results on nearby display screens?
Ground Rules: Competitors must play nine holes of golf, three games of bowling, three rounds of the home run derby and three best-of-five tennis matches before the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. Best average scores win. For tennis, it's your skill level at the end of three matches using a Mii that starts with a rating of zero.
Doping Violations: Having your child hit the tennis power serve for you every freaking time is not allowed. Have a little pride, OK?
For Added Difficulty: Invite your significant other to watch. Try not to look like a complete doofus.
Philbrick's Take: Forget about Tiger Woods; I need to give respect where respect is due, and Hruby's ability to successfully navigate the 40 mph crosswinds in Wii golf is impressive. As far as bowling and tennis, I have to tip my hat to my son and training partner, 5-year-old Aidan -- whom I have never beaten in either of these events. Which wouldn't be nearly as embarrassing if he would just stop doing that dance every time he rolls a turkey. Seriously, I'm never buying him a car. Take that!
Hruby's Take: I now have Wii tennis elbow and much more sympathy for Joel Zumaya.
Final Score: Tie! Hruby wins home run derby (21 HRs) and golf (par for nine holes). Philbrick wins bowling (197.6 average) and tennis (skill level 328).
HRUBY LEADS 4-2-1
8. World Series of Pop Culture Questions
Objective: Demonstrate that while anyone can deconstruct "Ulysses," it takes a rare intellect to determine which fictional college Denise Huxtable attended on "The Cosby Show."
Requires: Memory, focus, supreme self-confidence that you have not, in fact, wasted most of your life and almost all of your neurons sitting in front of a television set and -- hey, look "Roadhouse" is on again.
Event Summary: We're not allowed to endorse beer pong. So this is what you get.
Ground Rules: Competitors must answer 50 questions covering the entire classical spectrum, from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song to "American Idol" Season 1's co-host.
Doping Violations: Just as Tour de France riders are not allowed to inject EPO, "Trivial Pursuit: Totally '80s" may not be used as a training aide.
For Added Difficulty: Use your television's V-chip to block VH1.
Philbrick's Take: Finally an event that justifies all the beautiful summer days spent watching marathons on MTV, all the classes blown off to watch reruns of classic sitcoms, all the responsibilities shirked in order to get in just one more show on TNT. It's moments like this that my parents can't believe I convinced them to send me to a private college.
Hruby's Take: Socrates once said the unexamined life is not worth living. After answering 50 questions from the World Series of Pop Culture, I'm not sure the examined life is worth living, either. After all, should I be proud that I remember Will Smith's parting shot to the cabbie during "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song -- or just deeply disturbed? Fact is, I can't recall 20 words from "Moby Dick," can't calculate the momentum and acceleration of a falling apple, can't locate two-thirds of the countries in Africa on a map. But I can tell you, definitively, whom Donald Trump once called a "big, fat pig." Hooray for me! And congrats to Philbrick for blowing me out.
Final Score: Hruby 36, Philbrick 48.
HRUBY LEADS 4-3-1
9. Hot Dog Eating Race
Objective: Don't hurl.
Requires: Jaw strength, esophageal flexibility, scented candles and a well-ventilated bathroom (following the competition).
A hot dog in the summer is delicious. Eating three as fast as possible is not.
Ground Rules: Eat three hot dogs and buns as quickly as possible. In accordance with official International Federation of Competitive Eating bylaws, what goes down must not come up.
Doping Violations: Imodium A-D is strictly prohibited.
For Added Difficulty: Add condiments.
Philbrick's Take: Eating three hot dogs as fast as you can is not as easy as you may think. In fact, it's much like the stages of grief. Denial: When you take the first bite you think, "this isn't going to be too bad." Anger: In the middle of dog No. 2 you start to get mad at anyone who agreed to this. Bargaining: If I can just swallow what I have in my mouth, I won't boot. Depression: When you finish there's really no pride in what you just accomplished. Acceptance: This is a little easy to achieve because when you eat this kind of crap this fast, you end up feeling drunk. Seriously, try it.
Hruby's Take: En route to his record-setting performance at the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps reportedly consumed 12,000 calories a day, gorging on five-egg omelets, chocolate-chip pancakes, energy drinks, pizza and pasta by the pound; in winning the 2008 Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, competitive eater Joey Chestnut ate 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes -- and five more wieners in a 50-second overtime -- which amounts to roughly 19,000 calories in about the time it takes to award Phelps a gold medal. Why am I mentioning this? After scarfing three dogs in less than three minutes, I know who has my vote for sportsman of the year. And it ain't the guy in the Speedo supersuit.
Final Score: Hruby: 2 minutes 33 seconds, Philbrick: 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
ALL TIED: 4-4-1
10. "Madden NFL 09"
Objective: Crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women wait. Hold up. We're talking about playing Xbox. Scratch the "women" part.
Requires: Iron bladder, opposable thumbs, willingness to scour online video game message boards for the very best exploitable defensive line blitz glitches, even though you have a job and family and are a grown-ass man who ought to be mowing the lawn or something.
Event Summary: How do professional athletes pass the time between real-life games? Same way you do: by playing digital make-believe in "Madden," a video game franchise on the verge of becoming older (20 years) than some of the players in the actual NFL.
Ground Rules: Just win, baby. (Or yank your Internet connection out of the wall if you're about to lose, then blame it on "network interference.")
Doping Violations: Custom franchise-mode teams that would never, ever exist in real life -- for example, your Tom-Brady-and-Adrian-Peterson-led Arizona Cardinals -- are not permitted.
For Added Difficulty: Invite your significant other to watch. Try to initiate intimate relations any time in the next week.
Philbrick's Take: Fine. I had Brett Favre and the Jets, and Patrick had Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (in Lambeau). Yeah, I lost. Awesome. First off, I'd like to thank Brett Favre and John Madden for making this complete humiliation possible. Hey gunslinger? Two picks in the end zone? Really? Oh, and when the game has "Ask Madden" as an option, apparently that's short for "Ask Madden to make you look like a total ass." The only other thing that threw me off was Hruby talking to his dog that I'm not even sure exists. See that, kids? You want to grow up and be a sportswriter for a living? This is what you have to look forward to -- pretend conversations with fake dogs. Whatever. Hey Brett may the curse be with you.
Hruby's Take: As Page 2's resident sports video-game expert -- and yes, my parents are very proud, downright delighted they spent the GDP of a small island nation sending me to college and grad school -- I simply couldn't let myself fail. Not an option. I settled on a simple game plan for our Jets-Packers matchup: Don't let Aaron Rodgers beat me. As such, I ran the ball. Controlled the clock. With the exception of one long bomb, I threw nothing but short passes over the middle (20 years of Madden, and tight end crossing routes are still money. Oh, EA Sports, will you ever learn?). All the while, I ignored new play-by-play guy Cris Collinsworth, who after one busted running play mentioned that "you see counters less and less, because defenders are so fast these days." Oh, great -- now you tell me.
Final Score: Hruby's Packers 19, Philbrick's Jets 7.
HRUBY WINS 5-4-1
What to do if you and your opponent are tied after 10 events? You go to the tiebreaker!
"Madden 09" Bench Press
Face off one more time on Xbox LIVE in the most monumental minigame ever created -- The Bench Press. Extra points if you get a friend or family member to encourage you with yells of "Ugh! Ugh! Come on! Come on! You got this, hoss!"
Scoring: If you end up with the most points, you lose. Obviously, you took this whole decathlon thing way too seriously.