Column: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Illinois Valley

In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a man named Arthur Dent hitches a ride with a spaceship moments before Earth is destroyed. In order to survive, he must rely on a book with all the useful information in the universe — “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

This is a marvelous idea.

If only I had something like this when I moved here a year and a half ago. Then maybe I’d known that bocce wasn’t the Illinois Valley word said when somebody sneezed.

In fact, it’s such a marvelous idea I’ve decided to come up with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Illinois Valley Sports.” The following are a few of the entries:

Bocce – “Leonardo Da Vinci invented bocce many, many years ago when trying to develop a weapon of mass destruction. It was not one of his more successful inventions. Unlike pizza, this Italian concoction has not become especially popular in the United States and is played mostly by people who have not heard of real sports like basketball and baseball. Bocce is similar to lawn bowling, a sport in which wooden balls are thrown. One should not throw the wooden balls at others as that will result in a penalty and possibly a lawsuit.”

Bookered – “This is what happens to opposing coaches after losing to the La Salle-Peru baseball team. As in, ‘After losing 16-0 to the Cavaliers, German National Team head coach David Hasselhoff admitted he was Bookered.'” Also see: Bellinoed, Bodined, Keeganed, Delinskied and Jenkinfied.

Curling – “This sport gained international fame during the Winter Olympics as the activity most likely to put an audience into a boredom-induced coma. The Waltham Curling Club in Triumph, Ill., is the oldest curling club in the state, according to its Web site. A Scottish man introduced curling to the area in the winter of 1884 after losing a bet that he could catch a polar bear. Little did he know that polar bears can’t be found in the Illinois Valley. Curling involves pushing heavy stones down ice with a broom, and every time a heavy stone gets pushed across Illinois Valley ice, a Scottish man get his wings.”

Euchre – “The only card game in which euchring an opponent is legal. The verb ‘euchre’ means to deceive by sly means. The verb ‘bushwhack’ means to deceive by dumbfounded means. Euchring an opponent in either poker, hearts or spades will result in a tipped-over table and a barroom-like brawl. While this is great fun for the people involved, think about the poor tipped-over table. Do you think it wants to be upside down, revealing its underside to the whole world? Of course not.”

Mutton busting – “A sport in which young children race each other while riding on top of sheep. Mutton comes from the Medieval Latin word ‘moton.’ Unlike Motown, a highly successful recording company, moton (mutton) is another word for the flesh of a sheep. This makes the word ‘mutton racing’ really, really gross. The reasons for this race are unknown, but they are believed to have derived from some mother’s need to put her children in ‘cute’ cowboy and cowgirl outfits and have them ride a calm animal best associated with lamb chops.”

NASCAR – “An auto racing league that is quite popular in the Illinois Valley. NASCAR drivers are typically people in automobiles with cluttered paint jobs that race around a track in circles or ellipses at dangerous speeds. Sadly, there are no sheep involved in this type of racing.”

Synchronized swimming – “It is quite unlikely this word has ever been mentioned in the Illinois Valley. Other sports that have never been seen in this area of the world include water polo, ice dancing and quidditch.”

Of course, these are just a few of the many entries in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Illinois Valley Sports.”

In an area rich with sports I’ve never heard of before coming here, it’s been fascinating to find out exactly what is what.

And then to run and hide from the wooden balls flying toward me.

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