Single page view By Jeff Merron
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EDITOR'S NOTE: The Super Bowl. The World Series. The NBA Finals. Page 2 has covered those championships over and over and over again, and we'll continue to do so. But we're branching out, too, into the championships of … oh, say, cow-chip throwing and wife carrying. Yes, those lesser-known and goofy sports are coming to Page 2 in a series of stories we're calling SportsOFFCenter. Today, Jeff Merron tells us all about a certain competition where vocal cords rule.

SPIVEY'S CORNER, N.C. – When I checked in at the press and contestants booth for the 37th Annual National Hollerin' Contest and identified myself as a writer for, I was handed a sheet of paper with "Rules and Regulations." The first rule read:

"I will not participate while under the influence of alcohol or drugs."

Well, OK, I thought. I'm not Hunter S. Thompson, so that won't be a problem. But something seemed off. "These are rules for the press?" I asked.

There had been a mistake. There were no rules for the media -- except to provide as much coverage as possible. The local news crews were there. CBS Radio was there. The Dunn Daily Record was there. Even a station from Belgium had sent over a TV crew.


It was a cloudless afternoon, a relatively comfortable 85 degrees or so, when the hollerin' got under way. The contest took place on a large, griddle-flat field behind the volunteer fire department. If you wanted some shade, you needed an umbrella.

The media
As you can see, it wasn't exactly a mob scene.

It wasn't a big crowd -- Wayne Edwards, the event coordinator, estimated it at 1,200 to 1,500 people -- way down from the 5,000 to 10,000 people that used to show up, sometimes a day early, for the festivities. There was plenty of room to park, set up your picnic blanket, portable chairs and umbrella, and be guaranteed a good view.

The contest is really a set of four events -- one for juniors, one for teens, one for women, and the big enchilada, the men's contest.

The kids got things started at 4 p.m. sharp, and for sheer entertainment value, the kids were the best -- a few barely got off a little hoot or scream before exiting the stage quickly, while others used up a few minutes telling stories about how their dads and moms hollered at them, or how they would holler at their dogs.

The men's contest, though, was a disappointment -- there was a thin talent pool, according to the judges and others who'd witnessed previous contests. The previous year's winner, Kevin Jasper, was ineligible to compete because of a new rule prohibiting repeat champions. And some other former victors on hand chose not to take the stage.

Hollerin's ailin', and it shows.


Jeff Merron at the National Hollerin' Contest ESPN Motion

Larry Jackson, an old-school hollerin' vet, won his fifth national championship, and his disciple, journalist Joshua Foer, came in second (click the ESPN Motion link at the right to watch their performances). That a beginner -- even a well-coached one -- came in second says something.

Foer didn't have a clue about the hollerin' arts when he and a friend first entered the contest, on a whim, in 2002.


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