Article About My Fun Competitions
This Guy Enters More Contests Than Anyone in Hampton Roads
by Mike Gruss
Michael Croland has played in five air guitar contests, tried to write a novel in 72 hours, sculpted peanut butter twice (once into the shape of George W. Bush), competitively husked corn, written a one-page play, submitted an entry for a tanka poetry contest and been in the running for "Best Human" at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
He is a walking entry form. He has read, understood and agreed to accept the rules and regulations of some of the oddest contests on the East Coast. He begins each outing knowing his chances of going home with hardware are slim. But when the judges start announcing the winners, something inside Croland believes he may have won.
And of course, he hasn't.
Take last month for example. Croland, 24, of Norfolk, drove to the Fayetteville, N. C., area to enter the National Hollerin' Contest.
The contest is aimed at highlighting a skill set from our agricultural history, and Croland, dressed in a pair of oversized overalls loaned by a friend, made a noise that was a cross between a painful scream and out-of-tune yodel.
And somehow - probably because there were only 10 contestants - he finished in the top 10.
Shockingly, he had never hollered before.
As a society, we are focused on superlatives and showing the best in everything. Most people will settle for being the best at anything, no matter how small. (Heck, I spent a couple of summers in a pizza shop and am convinced I'd make some sort of Hall of Fame for my work at the oven.)
The adoration's fine. Niche is nice.
But there's no way to tell what we're good at until we know what we're absolutely horrible at.
Croland says that learning process plays out as "comic absurdity" in everyday life.
Now he's eyeing Weird Contest Week in Ocean City, N. J., where participants can sculpt french fries, mold taffy and toss wet T-shirts.
In the long term, he'd like to visit Finland, where people compete in swamp soccer, sauna endurance, wife carrying and the world air guitar championships. It is, in a way, a mecca.
Because he is a vegan ... don't look for him at the Roadkill Cook-off in West Virginia or the Wooly Worm race in North Carolina.
Has he learned any practical skills?
Probably not, he said. Well, maybe. But the more he thought about it... from a practical sense? Worthwhile skills?
Croland's purpose in all these shenanigans is twofold.
First, in a way, he's out to gain a superlative and identity for himself. I think he's already done it.
He's probably the dude who enters more weird contests than anyone else in Hampton Roads.
Second, Croland's aim is to show the humor in what the organizers are doing. Certainly, many of the contests are fun or, better yet, funny. Many of them have a history that is respectable. But it's easy to take them seriously and lose perspective, which actually happens, frighteningly enough.
"It's probably funny to an outsider. I've tried to bring a spirit of lightheartedness," he said. "When you're determined to win, it crosses the line of fun - and sanity."
He's right. The fun is not in winning. The fun's in playing the peanut-butter-carving, air-guitar-playing, cornhusking game.