Pull on a rope
August 4, 2012 1:43 AM   Subscribe

Tug of War is in decline. Once a proud Olympic event, (who can forget the Sweden vs. Great Britain match of 1912?), it may be that some of the tactics will be forgotten completely.
posted by twoleftfeet (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

My favorite Tug of War tactic is: Pull up if I pull up.

Either team can use it because it works the same from both ends.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:22 AM on August 4, 2012

If they had that event today, all of the athletes would be 300 pounds and have arms like Popeye. The guys in that video look like they had rowed in college a few years before, and were rounded up and given matching sweaters just before the event. Different era indeed.
posted by Forktine at 2:58 AM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Tug of War is in decline.

Not in my village. If you want to put together a team and have a go next July, you'll be more than welcome.
posted by pipeski at 4:00 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ensure that there is an adequate supply of fluids for contestants and spectators. A Beer Tents would usually meet this need, but warn the operators about the number of people taking part so that they have sufficient staff, pumps and beer/larger/cider available. A good supply of soft drinks should also be available for children. You will also need to be sure that the tent is licensed to operate at the event and that people are allowed to drink outside of the tent (try telling them that they are not).

posted by alasdair at 4:02 AM on August 4, 2012

the music sounds entirely period accurate
posted by camdan at 5:09 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Different era indeed.

Not so different. Stockholm's 1912 Olympic Stadium remains in use - and looks exactly as it does in that clip. This year they held a Jublilee-Marathon over the original Olympic course and encouraged participants and spectators to dress in period dress.
posted by three blind mice at 6:34 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my part of the US, tug-of-war is for grade school kids, closely supervised to prevent injury of course, or for community festivals where local officials and celebrities, generally well-lubricated of course, try to pull their opponents into a mud hole. In both cases, hilarity ensues.
posted by tommyD at 6:52 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The guys in that video look like they had rowed in college a few years before, and were rounded up and given matching sweaters just before the event.

And fine moustaches.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:59 AM on August 4, 2012

I don't miss it. The Olympics should be all about sports that ordinary people can't possibly perform, like the pole vault.
posted by tommasz at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2012

I dunno, if there were widespread interest and high-level professional competitive tug-of-war it would probably be a fairly dangerous sport. The men and/or women would be beasts and the amount of tension on the rope and the bodies of the pullers would be massive. I would watch it/participate in it (until I got injured). They could even have weight classes.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:40 AM on August 4, 2012

(tommasz: and running?)
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:41 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is Rope Pissing still in demo?
posted by clvrmnky at 8:45 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can we also have Olympic egg-and-spoon races, Olympic pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and Olympic piñata?

In complete seriousness, I would love to watch the world's greatest athletes play the world's silliest party games in an ultra-competitive spirit.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:48 AM on August 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

Tom, I was a pole vaulter in high school and I'm hella ordinary.
posted by saul wright at 8:57 AM on August 4, 2012

The Olympics should be all about sports that ordinary people can't possibly perform, like the pole vault.

The sunday times crossword! In ink!

also vacuuming that far corner all the way underneath the bed, who can even do that? no one that's who.
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

they didn't show the part where the losing team all falls down.
posted by sweetkid at 10:37 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just discovered that there's trampoline in the Olympics. If there's room for that, there's room for tug of war. And cheese rolling.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:54 AM on August 4, 2012

We used to play tug of war in grade school gym class and at summer camp. I was always pathetic at it.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:47 PM on August 4, 2012

It's all fun and games until someone loses an arm.
posted by billyliberty at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2012

Tug-of-war is a great physics lesson. According to Newton's third law, both teams will feel the same tension in the rope. It's not the team that pulls the hardest on the rope, it's the team that pushes hardest against the ground. Friction, not tension, is what wins the contest.
posted by sciencejock at 3:32 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

At college there was a yearly tradition of tug-of-war with dozens of people on each team. The other team had the bright idea of surreptitiously tying their end of the rope to a lightpole. Predictably they lost and the lightpole was easily felled by 50 swarthy engineering students pulling on a rope.
posted by Authorized User at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

they didn't show the part where the losing team all falls down.

Tonight, Eyes on the Action 54 takes a look into the darker side of what highschoolers are calling "wartugging." A muddied teenager awkwardly tells us his story and raises bruising questions that have state lawmakers fracturing their legislative femurs into a *quagmire* of controversy.
posted by passerby at 10:53 PM on August 4, 2012

I'm just disappointed that Tug of War isn't an Olympic sport anymore. I mean, what event better typifies the spirit of Olympic competition? All the nations on the planet come together and compete. All nations pull on a rope. The bigger, perhaps fatter, nations win. This is how it goes.

The Olympic Tug of War was cancelled just after the revolution in Russia and the emergence of Communism in China. There was a sense that War, or even Tug of War, was counter-productive.

The Communists were terrible at Tug of War. If I remember correctly, Mao wrote that Tug of War exemplifies the eternal struggle between the proletariat and the elite. He wrote a small red book entirely devoted to Tug of War tactics (if I remember correctly.) His ideas were apropos at that particular time, but they led to horrible Tug of War teams. There was the silly idea that both teams should strive to maximize benefit for all, which meant that the bigger fatter team at one end should drop the rope and join the team at the other end. Needless to say, the spectacle of two teams heaving a heavy rope with absolutely no resistance on the other end did not capture the amusement of the global populace, and consequently that approach has been completely forgotten.

I have great hope that Tug of War will re-emerge as a global sport. I think we're ready for that. As one former Tug of War Olympiad told me: "When we can't make both ends meet, we can yank each others' chains."
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:41 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, or maybe the other end, I believe that advances in String Theory may pay off in advances in Rope Theory, which could illuminate Tug of War.

It's a pretty intense game, and there's a lot at stake. We don't want to remember the losing Olympic teams, but they exist. If I may be so bold, I would venture to say that for every winner there is a loser. It's a hard reality of life. Or at least of basic logic, what with the binary winner/loser thing.

But Tug of War is something special. Who can forget the memorable loss that the Japanese team suffered during the Olympics of 1920? So humiliated were they that they committed ritual suicide as a team, some of them hanging themselves while others pulled on the rope.

People don't realize how intense Tug of War can be. It's not like other Olympic sports. East is East and West is West and never the twine shall meet. That pretty much sums it up for me, because I think that in the future China will dominate Tug of War. They're already ahead in noodle technology, and noodles are basically ropes.

On the ohter hand, or at least the other end of the noodle, there is the hope that Tug of War isn't something people should do anyway. Maybe this game of pitting opposing teams against each other isn't really necessary. Maybe the rope we hold isn't an actual thing. Maybe we just made up that fiction so we could get things done.

Of course, that's complete nonsense.

I think anyone who doesn't appreciate the intense serioussness of Olympic competitions has just hit the Snooze button on geopolitical reality and needs to wake up in five minutes. It is War. And not just a Tug. (Really? A tug?? How can you just have Tug at war? Shouldn't it be at least a full on pull?)

The Olympics are a pretty important socio-economic-anthro-psychic-historically-mathematical-physical-quantum-sudoku-rabelaisian-quasi-conformal-np-complete-totally-def-polymorphically-heterogenous-evanescent-endoscopically-effervescent-interrogatoy-expectoration, and anyone who doesn't understand that will never understand it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:00 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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