hello world once again.  It is I, the intrepid Luke Taylor, returned from camp to share with you the sport sensation that is sweeping the nation.  I speak of none other than picnic table carrying (administered by the LICPCT [League of International Competitive Picnic Coureur de Tabla, pronounced lick-picked]).  Not a sport you say?  But that is where you are wrong as it has official rules and everything.

The League of International Competitive Picnic Coureur de Tabla prescribes the rules of Picnic Table Carrying in the following manner:

  1. Teams shall be made of 2 or more eligible picnic table carriers. Teams shall not consist of more than eight (8) members without the consent of a registered carrying judge and a two thirds (2/3) majority vote by carrying captains.
  2. An eligible carrier is someone capable of lifting a picnic table with or without the assistance of their carrying team.  Under the 1878 Great Northern League concession a person shall be ineligible to join a team if they are already considered eligible to carry for another team in the carrying match.  Under the same concession clothing worn by an eligible carrier during a match automatically becomes ineligible to enter the match to carry for another team.
  3. A match shall be considered the competition between eligible teams in the area of picnic table carrying.  A match shall consist of as many events as the registered judge shall deem fit and necessary to declare a winning team.
  4. An event shall be considered any act such that a score can be assigned by a registered judge in the area of picnic table carrying.  Under the 2009 rule update score can be assigned for acts not involving the physical carrying of tables but must include the metaphorical or metaphysical carrying of picnic table.

As you can see this sport really couldn’t be simpler (though the Great Northern League certainly confused things by effectively  banning playing for multiple teams to ensure victory).  It can be played with a minimum of equipment, namely a picnic table, and depending on events used each team doesn’t even need their own table.  It is also a great family activity as it build teamwork and through studies commissioned in part by LICPCT it has been shown in groups small children can lift several times their own body weight.

To ensure local flavour and personality to the act of carrying picnic tables the lick pickers (as they are affectionately known throughout the world of of obscure sports) decline to specify which events shall make up a valid match.  This means picnic table carrying is different everywhere you go, though by convention local judges and events are used during the World Carrying Cup.  When the Slovakian team won the cup at home in 1932 during the tie-breaking event of carrying a table while looking Slavic complaints from various national teams threatened to forever change the face of picnic table carrying.  In the end consensus was the Slavs rarely get to win anything and as they have to go on looking Slavic after all the bleachers were disassembled to simply award the cup to the host country.

A classic match consists of three elements, namely precision, grace and speed.  Sometimes a judge will choose to combine the elements into one large event, other times three or more events are used.  Other elements can be also measured like height, teamwork, instruction following and ability to take a joke.  Judges are free to modify the match as they see fit provided they remain true to the spirit the LICPCT was founded on.

Each region has their own take on picnic table carrying and North America is no exception.  Just like baseball fans carriers like tradition and their are three events that scream tradition to lick pickers, especially those from the midwest.  A match will start with the picnic table selection.  The judge will supply one more table than there are registered teams and each captain is given the opportunity to secretly blackball a table after inspecting them.  The first table in line not blackballed is the official table but in the rare case a multi-table event is held tables are assigned by random draw from the tables not blackballed by that team.  After the selection the judge will invite fans to find a seat.  He or she then calls “Earthquake” and all fans must find a different seat no touching their original seat on any line 4 seats long.  The real match may now begin after the singing of the national anthem of a country the match is not currently taking place in.  The first event is the distance carry which is somewhat of a misnomer as the winner is the team to carry the table as far as possible but also return it within the alloted time.  Half time is not called and distance not returned counts double against the team.  Next is artistic table carrying and teams are allowed five minutes to find props and aids in the audience but any team found to have instructed fans to bring specific items will forfit those items during the actual demonstration.  Intelligence and creativity have been tested but now it is a battle of strength as teams race through the table slalom.  Obstacles can be natural or man made but each team doesn’t get to start with their table.  Instead the team lines up and at the shout of “Carry!” must run towards the table, lift it and manoeuvre through the timed course.  Following this event the judge will decide on a winning team.  In rare cases a tie break must be held between a subset of the teams in another event.

When was the last time each of you really carried a picnic table?Not just for the chore of eating somewhere else but really carried it, for the sheer joy of the act?  If you join the lick pickers like me you will come to see rose smelling has nothing on table carrying.