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Adventures in Obscure Sports: Rootball

Earlier this month, the East Coast Championships of Rootball were held in Asheville, NC. An area correspondent reports:

The tournament took place at the Root Bar #1, which sits on the east side of town, just up the street from the Thunderbird Motel and next to the Blue Ridge Flea Market. The proprietor of the bar, Max Chain, is also the inventor of rootball, the best sport you’ve never heard of.

After a week of hard play, marked by subpar conditions (cold temps, steady drizzling), Chain prevailed to become the sport’s reigning East Coast Champion. This is the first time he’s held the title. Here he celebrates with some inappropriate armadillo fondling.

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After the jump, we explain what the hell rootball actually is.

The easiest way to describe rootball is as a combination of horseshoes and bocce. It’s played outdoors, preferably on sand. Two metal stakes are placed 32 feet apart on the court. Standing at one end, you toss a ring-shaped plastic disc (the “root”) at the opposite stake. Then you throw the ball (the, um, “ball”), which is light, yellow and oddly pronged. Points are scored by hitting the stake or by getting the root and ball together; the most points, by hitting combinations thereof. (For example, landing the ball in the middle of the root is a “Saturn,” which gets you 2 points.) Matches are played to 12 points.

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The Rootbar #1. Like a derelict firehouse with a really elaborate beer list .

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The root and the ball.

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On the final day of the tournament the bar was closed to the general public and a pig picking was held. The free PBR ran like wine. The man carving the pig, known around the bar as Marty #2, went on to victory in the doubles championship — despite a bad finger scorch sustained while running ribs into the bar, a true triumph of the athletic
spirit.

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Lowell Allen demonstrates his toss, a slightly unorthodox “underhand Frisbee throw,” for a Raleigh documentary crew. Placing second in the singles championship and, with Marty #2 as his partner, first in doubles, Allen’s playing style is characterized by quiet determination and a fiendish feline grace. (Full disclosure: This reporter is married to Allen.)

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Max Chain shows off his signature throw, The Stealth Bomber, in which the root stays completely flat. The Lab, by the way, is always in play.

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A closer view of a rootball toss.

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