The Road King Competition began in the mid Seventies. After that, few facts sound reasonable. Only the old competitors know the full origins, and they know better than to skirt far from the Fifth Amendment. Suffice it to say that it is the only source of pure ingenuity and grit left in the American sporting landscape. For all the bluster of more popular sports, the Road King Competition is a twisted combination of endurance, creativity, and ruthlessness.
Two man teams, often constructed across years of friendship, pool themselves into a lottery of a few dozen names. Though these lottery positions are chosen at random, the slots simply indicate who will go in what order, first or last being of no benefit to any particular individual. Some may say otherwise, but victory is a matter of personal genius, not chance opportunity.
When a team’s slot is up for display the competitors select some type of small animal. These range from mouse, rat, or rabbit, to puppy or kitten. Raccoons have been known to be a part of the ordeal. However, their size prohibits victory in the distance category. And opossums are too atrocious a sight for the beauty minded judges. After selecting an animal that feels appropriate, the team presents their particular contraption. These are the last remnant of American creativity, and the first sign of potential prosperity from personal ingenuity. Intricately crafted catapults are loaded with the doomed animal -- sacrificed for entertainment, the grandest purpose these days. The condemned are then flung flailing onto a highway. The lucky buggers splat on impact. The more compelling remain alive long enough to attempt a desperate scurry from oncoming traffic.
The Road King is crowned by the combination of points totaling an amalgamation of distance, appearance, simplicity of design (the fewer components necessary to effectively catapult), and dramatic finale. The last portion is an unpredictable score, typically higher among those who do finish the animal off after the fling. In Chicago’s 2008 Road King, the winner of that category went to a young team of west suburbanites. Their apparatus hurtled the critter a mere thirty feet, leaving the beast, a mutt puppy, to crawl its way to safety. However, a speeding Honda cleaved it in twain, leaving two twitching piles to the delight of the crowd. But true victory is for the overall, not just the portions. So despite conquering the one category, those two boys were left with only the feeling, "Next year."
Road Kings are crowned in every state that is proud enough to bear a highway. Though practice rallies are known to occasion on quiet avenues, the real competition only takes place on the highways. Perhaps as some twisted middle finger to Eisenhower, but that may be this writer’s own bias.
Like most sports, it serves as a distraction well worth experiencing. The memories of each competition are a congenial mix of alcohol, bi-annual friendship, and financial desperation. After all, what is a contest without a prize? And this being America, there is no better award than cash.
The winner of a Road King Competition is crowned with a wreath of bills often totaling different amounts. Typically it finds itself in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars, though that sum is variable. That number comes from the fattest years when people knew but didn’t feel ashamed to be a part of things. Now it is more likely someone will walk away with a mere six to seven thousand.
All the money comes from a pool. Competitors put in their own amount, coaxing higher portions from other players by shaming the thinness of previous deposits. By such means, Road King tournaments remain the purest form of sporting in America, unpolluted by corporate sponsorship.
It might gain more popularity with even one major supporter, but then it wouldn’t be what it is. This is the sport of the hidden proportion, the great opportunity for those who have never found victory in the open avenues of this great nation. Down this alley they plunge to find the glory that is denied them as they strive to feel apart of the world at large. There isn’t much place for the oddly callous or the callously odd, but they do their best not to make their inclinations public. Despite the laws, there are still lynch mobs afoot.
So, under the cover of darkness, oddities wander the streets with boxes containing the twisted output of calculus classes and physics clubs. Even the supposedly hillbilly prove there is more to a man than his background, and women can demonstrate a commonality their genitals won’t permit with males. The Road King is for the successful, not the participant, and we love to make that point by way of a stain on the street.