“At a low level, if a weaker guy is beaten by a stronger person, they’ll think they can never win. But at a high level, if a stronger guy beats you, you know you can get him at a different time,” competitive arm wrestler Patrick Baffa told me before he came office to teach me and some Deadspin staffers the craft. “There’s always a way around strength.”
I liked the sound of this. It didn’t make me think that I could necessarily hold my own against Baffa, a Bayside, Queens, resident who first got into arm wrestling at a competitive level when he realized he could beat everyone on his high school football team, because I am not delusional. But it did make me think that I might come away from the experience with a quiet confidence that I could one day upset someone much larger than myself, perhaps in a seedy roadside bar with sawdust-covered floors. So, actually, maybe a little delusional.
Baffa’s bona fides go beyond his teenage lunchroom prowess. After a few years of winning tri-state tournaments, he took a hiatus from the sport but has been back at competitions since appearing on AMC’s short-lived 2014 reality show, Game of Arms. He stopped by Deadspin just after the World Armwrestling League finals in Las Vegas to demonstrate that arm wrestling at an expert level takes more than an afternoon of instruction—and probably a little more upper body strength than what I’m currently working with. Although, hey, maybe I would have gotten him at a different time.
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