Leisure Olympics Make History

Photographs are by Stephan von Muehlen. Scroll through the slideshows below, and for more, click here. Here also is a link to Red Table Catering, where our Brooke Costello, our grillmaster, is chef.

At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, a poem called “Ode to Sport” won the gold medal for literature (Back then they gave out prizes for all the arts). Although the poem was supposedly the work of “Georges Hohrod and Martin Eschbach,” that was just a pseudonym for the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games.

He began the poem — “O Sport, gift of the gods, elixir of life! / That throws a serene ray of light onto toilsome times.” — and went on to say that sport was beauty, happiness, fertility, and social justice. Coubertin had long argued that his Olympics would spread world peace and harmony.

They haven’t.

The Leisure Olympics will.

The first Leisure Olympiad, held on October 4, 2008, in Prospect Park, was a celebration of the universal principles of lying around, eating well, dogs, friendly competition, and physical comedy. We boldly proclaimed that it’s not labor that defines us, but how we spend our free time. Free time!

  • The games begin.

As for the games, a hard fought badminton tournament of dramatic leaps and wild swings saw some stand-out teams like Serge Shea and Dr. Tyson Smith (who must have used his new doctorate in professional wrestling to overcome his opponents) and Chauncey Upson and Valerie Joseph, who looked strong and stylish as they jumped to 2-0, and bronze medalists John “wild-hair” Davis and Stephan “the Camera” von Muehlen.

In the end Andrew “Drew” Miller and Alfred Ryan Nerz, the Hammer of Bulgaria, faced Erika Langstroth and Per Billgren, the Hammer of Sweden, in the final. It was a fascinating encounter, the tall and rangy Billgren-Langstroth duo against the quick, powerful Miller-Nerz pair. The match went back and forth, reaching 20-20. Billgren and Langstroth won a quick point then prevailed with an unreturnable spike that died in the middle of the court.

The next day gold medalist Langstroth declared herself “sore.”

  • Badminton.

The croquet final was suspended due to darkness, but only after a raucous turn about the course, marked by Cath Kane’s shouting the name of each competitor as his or her turn came up.

Bocce was held on the western stretch of the grounds with Cath and Meggan Dwyer looking especially leisurely in jodhpurs and jeff caps. They strolled to fourth place behind Brooke Maury and Kelly, who took the bronze. Brooke’s cousin Brooke (Costello), meanwhile, took a few moments away from his post at the grill, where he was cooking up the most delicious pulled pork Kings County has ever seen, to pair up with Upson and take the silver. The champions were Joe Kelley III and Emily Thompson.

  • Bocce.

Gold medalist Joe Kelley summed up the final this way:

“What can I say about the gold medal match. I’m so overwhelmed. It’s the greatest day in my life next to my wedding day and the birth of my daughter. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. You know, you dream of this when you’re a kid.

“It was a hard fought contest. I love the way our team hung in there. We had our game faces on. And we left it all out there on the bocce court. But we just tried to take it one game at a time; stay on an even keel. We tried to play within ourselves. We wanted to come out and play our own game and let the chips fall where they may. Somehow, we managed to eke out a win.

“And Emily? What can you say about Ems? She had a real nose for the pallino. She’s the kind of girl you want on your team in that situation. When the game is on the line, she wants the bocce ball in her hand. That’s just the kind of player she is. She thrives under pressure. She was mucking and grinding in the corners and getting to all the loose bocce balls. She was in the zone. I think our MVP was our whole team.

“But you can’t take anything away from Brooke and Chauncey. They played a hell of a game. We knew they were going to bring their “A” game. I mean, you gotta give them a lot of credit. We were just happy to get out of there with a “W”.

“To all of our detractors . . . There were a lot of people who didn’t give us a chance. Some people even counted us out. We try not to get involved in all that. I try not to read the papers or listen to sports talk radio. We just wanted to come out and let our bocce game do our talking. I think we came out and really sent a message today. We don’t care what people think. We were just glad to silence all our naysayers.

“We just want to thank everyone who supported and stuck with us. Oh, and God. Gotta give thanks to the Man upstairs, without whom we wouldn’t be here right now at this moment in time.

“The fans were great today. I mean, what can you say about these fans! The place was rockin’. They’re the greatest fans in the world. They were out of control from the first toss. We were definitely able to feed off them. They were the third man. We want to share this victory with all the fans.

“What else can I say? I’m speechless.”

I’m just glad that before struck dumb Joe was able to impart such wisdom. Truly.

— Fitzy    Oct 9, 09:38 AM    #


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