The Cajun Olympics
Everyone knows about the Summer and Winter Olympics, but did you know that Louisiana hosts its own Olympic Games? Okay, not really. But this is what they’d look like if we did.
In the “real” Olympics, people have their favorite events like Gymnastics or Curling, and the Cajun Olympics are no different. Here are the 5 most popular events at the totally real and not at all made up Cajun Olympics.
While most Louisianans can’t agree on how to spell it, this popular event involves two competitors smacking a couple of hard-boiled eggs together to see whose cracks first. As part of the Spring Games, Paqueing/Pocking usually takes place over Easter, where representatives from towns across the state converge on Breaux Bridge to test their mettle in fierce competition against some of the best egg smackers in the world.
NOTE: Much like doping scandals have plagued the “real” Olympic Games, the Cajun Olympics has had its fair share of cheaters. Paqueing/Pocking athletes have been known to substitute polished “rock eggs” for actual hard-boiled eggs, so the COC (Cajun Olympics Committee) has developed extensive testing protocols to keep the games honest. (Read more about the great “rock eggs” scandal of ‘83 here.)
While the “real” Olympics frowns on gambling, the Cajun Olympic Committee not only has no problem with it, but one of its most popular events is centered around athletes taking as much money from their opponents as possible by way of playing Bourré.
For those unfamiliar with it, Bourré is a card game where the winner of each hand takes the majority of tricks and goes home with all of Boudreaux’s money. There are some other rules and specifics involved, but they don’t really matter right now. All you need to know is that Bourré is one of the most heated events in all of the Cajun Olympics, and fights have been known to break out on more than one occasion.
During the famous final round between Remy Hebert and Mary Landry in the summer of ’92, both athletes leapt from their seats and dove over the table where they proceeded to beat the living snot out of each other until Maw-Maw turned the hose on 'em. To this day, Remy claims victory, but everyone knows Mary got the better of him with that last swing.
This event is held over the span of three nights every two years in Rayne, Louisiana, where athletes from around the state meet up to see who can catch the most frogs by the end of the event. A secondary game is then held for bonus points where each athlete cooks up their best frogs, and the ultimate winner is determined through a combined score of total frogs caught plus the tastiness rating of each dish.
No Cajun Olympic game is without controversy, and Frogging is no different. For years, the only permitted way of catching each frog was leaning off the front of the boat and grabbing dem critters with your bare hands. However, after several Frogging athletes successfully petitioned the COC, gigging was allowed as a permissible method.
The hand-catcher earns one extra bonus point per frog, which is seen as an acceptable way to balance the two methods. As an added benefit, a cottage gig stick industry has developed around the event, where professional quality sticks are hand-sharpened by skilled artisans to conform to the unique needs of each athlete.
NOTE: The Cajun Olympic Committee neither endorses nor oversees the execution of the frogs for the second phase of the event. This is done out of respect for each athlete’s preferred method of whacking the frogs on their heads, and also due to avoiding potential litigation issues with animal rights groups.
The Bead Toss has a misleading name, seeing as how it involves both tossing and catching Mardi Gras beads. Contestants are divided into teams of two, where one athlete acts as the thrower and the other as the catcher. Points are awarded for style during the toss, and for the difficulty of the catch.
Each team is allowed to set their own conditions for the toss, but due to the highly competitive nature and the Olympic skill level of the athletes, most teams choose difficult setups where the catcher is positioned higher than the tosser, while both athletes must negotiate various hazards.
The tosser is usually in the street, but not on a float. (Float riding is allowed, but hardly done since fewer points are awarded due to the increased height the float gives to the tosser, thus making it easier for the beads to reach the catcher.) Additionally, spectators are encouraged to participate in the event by way of offering them free alcohol if they’ll crowd the street and stumble around while incoherently shouting random phrases to best approximate tourists in the French Quarter.
The Cajun Olympic record for this event is the stuff of legend. It was won in 2003 by a husband and wife team from Plaquemine, and involved a toss with the astonishing difficulty rating of Poo-yie! Mais garde des don!
The tosser asked that one of the spectators shout ROLL TIDE! before spitting cheap beer in his face and gut-punching him, whereupon he folded in on himself, then tucked, rolled, and leapt back up like an armadillo on fire as the beads smoothly left his hand in a perfect arc toward the catcher.
For her part, the catcher was positioned at the back of a small balcony crowded with a dozen bridesmaids and one confused groomsman. The scenario decided upon by the team had the tosser “giving up” and turning her back to the street as she began to walk inside. To catch the beads, she had to catch a glimpse of their reflection in the glass of the balcony door as she opened it, then turn and raise her arm up and over Becky, the maid of honor, as she pushed forward through the bridesmaids to just barely snag the edge of the necklace between her fingertips.
It has never again been attempted.
Bobbing For Crawfish
Mais, but this is the most popular event in all the Cajun Olympics. You might think it’d be the Head Sucking and/or Tail Pinching events, but you’d be wrong. The Air Boat Races are popular, sure, as are the Gator Wrestling and Tabasco Chugging events, but none of them compare to the turnout for Bobbing. Even the Crawfish Boil during the closing ceremonies doesn’t draw as much of a crowd, and that’s saying something.
The rules of the event are pretty simple. Each athlete’s hands are bound behind their backs, and they’re blindfolded with a ripped up piece of Paw-Paw’s old coveralls. They then need to plunge their heads into a pot of live crawfish to see how many they can get out of there before the timer runs out.
Except there isn’t any timer. Not really.
The crawfish bobbing is the last game played before the closing ceremonies, so the pot dem crawfish is in is for the boil. Each athlete gets their own pot of mudbugs, and the game starts as the seasonings are dumped in and the fires underneath all the pots are lit.
NOTE: Normally, you wouldn’t add the crawfish until after your water has come to a boil, but the Cajun Olympic Committee makes an exception to that rule for this event. No one has to eat the crawfish from the bobbing game due to this change, but it’s generally considered bad form if you don’t.
What gives the game its challenge is all the mudbugs scrambling to escape the pot, so they’re scurrying and snatching and clamping on any old thing they can, from each athlete’s nose, to their ears, and everything in-between. It’s not uncommon for one bob to yield a dozen or more crawfish all clamped on to various parts of an athlete’s face.
Naturally, this event requires a high pain tolerance due not only to the crawfish themselves, but also with the way the seasonings start to burn your eyes out after a minute or two. It’s also a race against the clock, as the water heats up and works its way to a boil.
The game is over once the last athlete can’t bear to stick his face back in the hot pot anymore, after which, the crawfish are counted up, a winner is declared, and it’s on to the closing ceremonies where everyone eats the crawfish, drinks a lot of beer, passes a good time and asks each other, "How's ya mama and dem?"