How hard can it be?
I enjoy sports that you can smoke and drink while playing, like bowling, darts, billiards, Formula One Racing, golf, that sort of thing. And so when I discovered the hot new German sport of Masskrugstemmen, I was absolutely smitten. Tania and I were at the Red Lion, the well-known German bier garden in Silverlake, when we noticed the placard on the table: Masskrugstemmen, the traditional Bavarian bier stein holding contest, June 18, $20 entry fee.
“What the shit?” I said. “You mean that fucking Oktoberfest thing? I’m entering!”
I was very excited because Masskrugstemmen has got to be the best—and by best, I mean dumbest—sport I’ve ever had the joy of encountering. The rules are so simple:
Competitors lift a Maß of beer (1 liter/33.8 fl oz., about five pounds) straight out with their arms fully extended and parallel with the floor, and hold it there for as long as they can. The last competitor still standing in that position wins.
Easy enough. How hard can it be?
It’s actually very hard. From what I’ve gathered online, the world record is around 19 minutes, but, in most of my research, I found that competitions were won with times well under ten minutes. For practice, I picked up a dumbbell (a little less than ten pounds) and had Tania time me. I didn’t even make two minutes. “Fuck,” I said. And that was the end of my training regimen.
When we arrived at the Red Lion on the day of the contest, the nice bartender lady told me that I was the only entrant. I was expecting a stage, and a big line of people wearing lederhosen and silly hats, but, no, it was just me. “I know, I was expecting the a big turnout,” she said, “but it’s just you. So, do you want to enter?” she asked. I did. Then she explained that the Red Lion contest is part of a bigger, international Masskrugstemmen contest circuit.
“If you win this,” she explained, “then you have to come back here on July 2 for the Los Angeles finals. If you win that, we fly you to Vegas for the regional finals. If you win that, we fly you to NYC for the national finals. And, if you win that, you go to Munich for the World Championships.”
Free trips to Vegas, NYC, and Munich just for holding a mug of beer? Like I said, I’m really liking this sport. And my odds of winning were looking good. Except the other drunks at the bar began to take interest and the bartender began trying to coax them into entering. I think she even called one of them a “pussy.” Fortunately, there were no takers, so I was considered the favorite in the field. It was very exciting to hear everyone talking about me like I had already won the contest.
My goal is to become the Michael Jordan of the new and exciting sport of Masskrugstemmen.
“Why are you even going to try?” one man with a thick German accent asked. “All you have to do is lift it up, then put it back down, and you still win.”
He was right—so practical the Germans—but I’m a very competitive person and I wanted to see how long I could actually do this with a regulation mug. I obviously need the practice for all of these international tournaments I’m going to be entering. “Fuck you, you fucking fuck,” I said. “Carnie’s not taking a dive!”
“You ready?” the bartender asked with her finger over her cell phone stopwatch. I grabbed the handle, and she said, “Go!”
I lifted the mug over the bar and held it straight out. “This is a sport,” I thought to myself. “The greatest sport ever because, even when I lose, I still get a liter of beer.”
The clock had barely ticked off twenty seconds when the lady sitting next to me said, rather loudly into her phone, “You just really need to have sex with somebody.” I laughed and almost dropped my mug. Realizing everyone heard her, she made, “Oops! Sorry!” face. (We later learned that her friend on the phone is apparently “the sweetest guy in the world,” but he has a disability that impairs his ability to walk, so “he doesn’t have much luck with the ladies.” But she still recommends that he have sex with someone, anybody.)
The small crowd around the bar that was rooting for me tried to tell some bad jokes to take my mind off the burning in my arms, but they didn’t really get very far into their act because my arm started shaking almost immediately. “Ow,” I whimpered. By the two-minute mark, the mug was drooping and my buttocks had begun to rattle against each other. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I could hold it no more and I put my Maß of beer back down on the bar.
“WOOO!” the bartender squealed. “YOU WIN!” I took a swig from my liter of Hofbrau Beer and everyone applauded me. Ah the sweet taste of victory—which actually doesn’t taste all that sweet when you get down to the bottom of a liter of it on a warm day, but whatever, I fucking won. “What was my time?” I asked.
“Two minutes and 46 seconds,” she said.
“Scheisse,” I said. That’s not very good. In fact that sucks. A time of 2:46 isn’t going to cut the mustard in Munich, so I plan to train hard from here on out and spend a lot of time with mugs of beer. My goal is to become the Michael Jordan of the new and exciting sport of Masskrugstemmen. Why didn’t they offer this sport in high school? I totally would have played high school sports if there had been a Masskrugstemmen league.
All photos via Dave Carnie. Repurposed from Kindland with thanks.