After the first week of the NCAA basketball tournament, only sixteen teams still have a shot at the title. Your bracket is probably in disarray. March Madness has brought you nothing but anguish and pain. What's a fan to do? Cheer up, March isn't just about hoops. Here are some great March championships you may have missed, and some you can still catch if you hurry. Here are some of our favorites you might have missed:
1. The World Coal Carrying Championships
That's not a misleading title. It's an actual championship where people carry coal, and you just missed its most recent running on Monday. The contest started in 1963 in Gawthorpe, a small village in British coal country. Two friends, Reggie Sedgewick and Amos Clapham were enjoying a brew when a third man, Lewis Hartley teased Sedgewick that he looked a bit worn out. A vigorous debate over the two fellows' relative fitness ensued, and it was decided that they would run a race on Easter Monday while carrying large sacks of local coal.
Since then the event has gained fame, but the same basic idea persists: competitors are given a 50-kilogram bag of coal and told to run from The Royal Oak to the village's Maypole, a distance of 1108.25 yards. The world record is held by David Jones of Meltham, who made the spring in just over four minutes in both 1991 and 1995.
>>8 more after the jump.
2. West Virginia Pinewood Derby Championship
The NASCAR and Formula One seasons may be heating up, but some racing purists still prefer to see cars that are carved out of a block of balsa wood and run only on that cleanest-burning of all fuels: gravity. If you're one of those fans who can't wait to see how a little graphite lubricant will affect a pair of tiny plastic wheels, get to Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport, West Virginia on March 28th and 29th for a two day blowout featuring as many as 600 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts racing their creations. If you can't stand to be a spectator, there's also a Mom's and Dad's Division; just tell the organizers that your kid is "that one over there in the Cub Scout uniform."
3. FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championships
Should you find yourself on New Zealand's North Island between now and Sunday, you might want to consider checking out the 28th World Fly Fishing Championships. The event, which began on March 22, is challenging some of the world's top anglers to pull in brown and rainbow trout from Lake Otamangakau and Lake Rotoaira. Working in five-man teams, the anglers fish in five three-hour sessions, then have their catches scored by judges. The team with the highest overall score is the winner. The real winners, though, are the fish. Wait. No. They're the losers.
4. Pan Jiu-Jistu Championship 2008
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art based on ground fighting and grappling. One of its tenets is that a smaller, weaker person can defend himself against a stronger attacker by gaining a dominant position through leverage, then applying a series of joint locks or chokeholds. Sounds pretty entertaining to watch, right? Get to California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, California by Friday to see some top-flight grappling.
5. World Championship Cheese Contest
Sadly, we already missed the 2008 edition of this classic, but there's no harm in getting excited for the next running of the biennial event, is there? The host of the event, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association describes the event like so: "This contest is an objective assessment of cheeses and butters and awards gold, silver and bronze medals to the finest products in 79 classes." So if you're tired of overly subjective judging of dairy products, this could be the championship for you to watch. Kudos to Michael Spycher of Kaserei Fritzenhaus in Switzerland; his "Le Gruyere Switzerland" took home the honors as the world champion cheese.
6. Cowboy Action Championship
Another one that's already passed, but man, do we ever wish we'd seen it. Each year the Single Action Shooters Society holds Winter Range, a national championship to discover who is in fact the fastest, most accurate gun in the West. Using only single-action firearms, the older "cowboy" style of gun that must be manually cocked between each shot, competitors ride horses through obstacle courses while shooting balloons and stalk through fabricated old-time towns to shoot at model silhouettes of varmints. Next year's competition if March 4th-8th near Phoenix. Buy a six-gun and book a room now. This video from this year's competition should tell you all you need to know:
7. National Shag Dancing Championships
"Shag nationals," as they're known, have been held in Myrtle Beach since 1984 as a celebration of the swing-dancing variant. The championships allow both professional and amateur shaggers to be judged on the basis of smoothness, degree of difficult, togetherness, execution, and repertoire. Each couple's dance must display a number of compulsory steps, including a duck walk, a boogie walk, and a belly roll with a male lead. If you know what any of those phrases mean, you should certainly find your way to Myrtle Beach for next March's annual showdown.
8. Microsoft Server Championship Competition
March Madness meets American Idol meets IT guys in this fourth annual championship, which takes place on Saturday at Microsoft's Hong Kong office. Three-person teams of programmers meet with a "customer" who gives them a business problem. The team must then use Microsoft's Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 to craft an answer to the problem. The winning squad gets HK $10,000 apiece, free HP laptops, and the most coveted server-guru plum of them all: a job interview with Microsoft.
9. American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
Crossword enthusiasts' annual answer to the World Series was featured in the great documentary Wordplay, and this year's contest came to a close on March 2nd with a familiar result: Tyler Hinman, just 23 years old, won the tournament for a fourth time. The annual competition, which is organized by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, sees top puzzlers attempt to accurately complete eight original puzzles as fast as they can. The grand prize winner takes home $5,000 and the adoration of puzzle enthusiasts everywhere.