Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gentlemen, Please Let Go of Your Eels: Conger Cuddling Banned

A little piece of my soul just died. For more than 30 years spectators have come to Lyme Regis, a small English fishing village, this time of year, every year, to watch two teams of fishermen stand on wooden platforms in the harbor and engage in a true test of sportsmanship. Standing tall and strong, like Finnian heroes of yore (except English), these pillars of humanity have flung a dead giant eel at one another, attempting to knock the other team off. It's a sport they call conger cuddling. But this year, no eel shall be tossed.

Why, you might ask? An animal rights activist has threatened to bring negative publicity to the event, which has been a boon to local tourism and usually raises about $5,600 for Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat crews (I’m not making that up). I’m all for animal rights. Inhumane treatment of animals is cruel. I always demand my money back if I see a movie that doesn’t inform me that no animals were harmed in the making of that movie (ok, that I made up).

But the eel is DEAD! It’s like that old Robin Williams routine: “Why are you acting like an asshole trying to decide whether to get the red wine or white wine with the fish? The fish is dead, it doesn’t care!” The eel is dead. Let the fishermen toss it. As local resident, and spokesman for Lyme Regis lifeboat crews, Andrew Kaye put it: “It’s a dead conger [eel], for Pete’s sake. I shouldn’t think the conger could care one way or another.”

It’s a shame, really. This has all the telltale signs of a great fringe sport. Its fans are very devoted and have formed a tightly knit community. And the name can't be beat - conger cuddling is fantastic, and its the double entendre possibilities leave me speechless. The rules are fairly simple – two teams try to knock one another off wooden platforms by swinging a 25-pound eel. But that’s where the sport sucks you in – simple to learn, hard to master. Check out Mental_Floss for a great picture.

The irony, of course, is that the banning of this sport has been great publicity for the town and the event. If they rescheduled it for next week they’d draw twice the spectators they've had in the past. The town should do just that, animal rights activists be damned. That’s what I hope for anyway. Until then, my soul mourns.


Blogger eirishis said...

So here is what kills me, John - you got heat from Deadspin with a month old story. About slapping people with dead snake fish. Well done, sir.

11:05 AM  
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