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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sport or Spectacle: Full Metal Jousting

Sport:  (n)  an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment (Oxford Dictionary).

Most of us have watched some form of jousting.  Either at a Renaissance festival or at a Medieval Times dinner theater or in the movie Knight's Tale.  This winter, the History Channel, presented jousting in a different format during the series Full Metal Jousting.  Under the leadership of  Shane Adamshost and arguable the founder of competitive jousting, the History Channel gathered sixteen men together to compete in a $100,000, single-elimination, jousting tournament.  The men came from a variety of backgrounds.  Several were theatrical jousters.  Some were Marines.  Others were horse trainers or rodeo competitors.  The men learned together, practiced together and lived together in a big house with a large common area and kitchen.  In a way, Full Metal Jousting was a cross between between Real World/Road Rules Challenge and The Contender ... except with horses and armor.

Under the format of this particular tournament, jousts consisted of ten passes.  Jousters were awarded point one point for striking their opponent on the grand guard of their armor.  Five points were awarded for a strike that resulted in a broken lance.  And ten points were awarded for an unhorsing.  No matter what happened to the opponent or the lance, a jouster could only get points if he struck the grand guard.  If a competitor was unable to get back on his horse within two minutes of being unhorsed, that person is eliminated.  Otherwise, the jouster with the most points at the end of ten passes wins and advances.

Throughout the series, Shane Adams repeatedly referred to jousting as an ancient sport.  Adams' background is in theatrical jousting, but he has previously arranged full contact jousting tournaments where prize money was awarded.  Whenever Adams was talking, it was obvious that he was hoping the exposure from the Full Metal Jousting series would be a spring board to launch jousting to greater prominence as a legitimate sport.

I enjoyed the series quite a bit.  But, as I watched the show and listened to Shane Adams, I kept thinking to myself, "Is this really a sport or a just spectacle?"  In the end, I decided that it really didn't really matter.  Full Metal Jousting was fun to watch.  And if History Channel airs a second season, I will watch it again.  That being said, it is hard for me to picture jousting ever showing up on SportsCenter.  Without the editing and the cut-away interviews, the actual competition became a bit repetitive.  However, watching cars turn left for four hours is undoubtedly repetitive, and many of us plan our weekends around watching that.  So, who knows what the future may hold?