Obscure Sports Weekly: Caber Toss

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While Americans have football, soccer, basketball and baseball, the people of Scotland gather, cheering fans and all, to watch their strongest participants compete in the Caber Toss. What is the Caber Toss, you may ask? With its name coming from the Gaelic word “cabar” or “kaber”, meaning beam, the sport has elusive origins. Some believe that the event was originally developed through the tossing of beams across streams during wartime, while others say that the first Caber Toss was loggers hurling giant portions of trees into the river to be sent downstream. However complicated the history may be, there is one extremely important fact for those considering a place in the fandom: you get to watch giant Scotts throw logs through the air.

It is difficult to take seriously the idea of throwing logs across a field. However, the caber toss requires far more skill, strength and thought than I initially assumed. The tosser begins by selecting one of the available logs, which has been rounded at one end for gripping, and leaning it against his body. Weighing up to 180 pounds, these logs are more than difficult to balance. Any minor mistake in adjusting the log will completely ruin the throw. The individual then takes the 20-foot long log and begins to run forward as quickly as can be safely managed. Once the necessary speed has been reached, the thrower lifts the log from its base and begins to flip it over its top. Because the log is so large, it is necessary to allow gravity to push the log. This allows the thrower to avoid using up strength in a vain attempt to push the log outward.

The caber toss is a game of accuracy. If the thrower is facing directly forward, the goal is to have the caber land in a straight line in front of him. The toss is scored by the degree to which the caber lines up with the thrower.

It is difficult to grasp the skill associated with landing a “perfect” throw. The mix of strength and instinct necessary even to lift and balance the caber, much less throw it, completely escapes me. However, that does not mean that I cannot enjoy the spectacle, especially through the countless videos documenting the sport online. As popular and entertaining as our American sports may be, it is worthwhile to explore new sports that could draw in even more U.S. enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/3415460772

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