Last week I told you about the Modern Drunkard magazine convention in Las Vegas and promised to share the story about The Clash of the Tightest-the three-day-long drinking contest that served as the centerpiece of the convention. So, here ya go:
Sunday, May 16-Clash of the Tightest (Final Round):
On stage are a small, square table and two empty chairs. Beside each chair is a large trashcan. Behind the table are two commentators sitting on a raised bench. They introduce themselves as Nick and Sid Pink. The crowd goes wild as Sid Pink brings on the first contestant, a guy named James who works the Drinkingstuff.com vending booth. James is trim and handsome. Then Nick, the other commentator, says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, contestant No. 2... Oggar!"
And the crowd goes nuts. Because here comes this burly brute with a big, bald head and a foot-long goatee bleating down to his knees. Oggar (pronounced Ogre) is 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 350 pounds and is a bouncer at a strip club in Minnesota called Mettlers. He climbs onto the stage and raises a fist to the crowd, and the Oggar fans chant, "Oh-Ger! Oh-Ger!"
The rules of the bout are simple. Contestants take turns choosing a cocktail, which they both must drink within 10 seconds. Then each contestant must perform a simple dexterity test: they drop a ping-pong ball into the top of a tube and catch it below. The contest is over when someone either fails the dexterity test, or vomits-giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Throw in the towel."
In the Clash of the Tightest Semi-Finals, Ogre out-boozed Bruiser, a curly-haired behemoth also from Minnesota. Bruiser was even bigger than Oggar, but after 23 rounds later, Bruiser barfed. James got here by defeating the only female in the tournament, a Las Vegas local called Molly Brown, who tapped out after eight or so rounds of pure rotgut hell.
Round 1: James orders a White Russian, no ice, which both contestants finish and complete the dexterity test with ease.
Round 2: Oggar turns to the crowd and says, "Bring on the Brutal Hammer," and the Oggar fans howl, "Brew-Tull. Brew-Tull," because they know it was the Brutal Hammer that put down Bruiser in the prelims. The Brutal Hammer is half red-wine, half vodka in a 10-ounce glass, no ice.
Round 3: James calls a tequila limejuice. Sid Pink whispers into the microphone, "He's banking on the limejuice," and Nick whispers back, "That's right, Sid, he's hoping it'll curdle with the milk." The contestants guzzle and perform their dexterity tasks.
Round 4: Oggar again orders the Brutal Hammer.
Round 5: James calls for more tequila lime.
Brutal hammer. Tequila Lime. Brutal Hammer. Tequila Lime-back and forth, back and forth, and James is showing signs of stress. He's turning yellow and rocking in his seat like somebody is inside his body yanking out nails with the claw end of a Brutal Hammer. Which is to say, he's coming apart.
Brutal Hammer. Tequila lime. Brutal Hammer, and James nearly coughs it back. The ref is counting, "10... 9... 8..." James takes another sip and gags again, "6... 5... 4..." James drinks again, fist clenched, head swaying, "3... 2... 1..." and just in time he slams his glass onto the table.
But the Oggar fans are howling, "Foul!" They claim James did not finish the drink. Indeed, there is a considerable amount of Brutal left in his Brutal Hammer. But it doesn't matter. Before any ruling can be made, James drops to one knee.
It's between him and Christ now.
Into the garbage pail he points his beak, like a bird preparing to feed her hungry chicks. He's still on one knee, hugging the trashcan like the trashcan is all he has left in this miserable, rotten world; like if he ever makes it out of this mess, he would make that trashcan his bride, and take that trashcan places that no trashcan has never seen. Finally, James tumbles over, bringing his beloved trashcan down with him-a lover's leap, to be sure-both of them lying near-dead on the floor while the ref holds Oggar's fist high in victory.
And that's that. After the crowd clears out, I find James collecting himself against a wall. I shake his hand and say, "A helluva try, man." He looks at me with the sort of cold, blank stare you get from the undead, and I fear that he broke something inside that he's gonna need later in life. Then I go over to Oggar. He's there with some friends sharing his prize-a 750-milliliter bottle of absinthe. I am in utter awe of him. He just finished a drinking contest that left his opponent lobotomized, and now he's drinking from a 150-plus-proof bottle of that bitter green deathjuice from hell.
"Any parting words for my readers?" I ask Oggar as he passes the bottle to me. "Sure," he answers, "Clash of the Tightest seems like the sort of thing that should only happen once in a lifetime.... But, God willing, this is going to happen every year."
To see pictures of Oggar, Bruiser, The Clash of the Tightest, and other convention highlights, e-mail email@example.com.