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Sometimes, the best, worst come in threes

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By HOWARD TROXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


This weekend marks the annual St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg. The word is a compound of the prefix "tri," which means "three," and the ancient Greek noun "athlon," which means, "people with less body fat than you."

Both amateur and professional triathletes will be coming from all over the world for this competition, which consists of:

(1) A 0.9-mile swim in Tampa Bay.
(2) A 24.8-mile bicycle race.
(3) A 6.2-mile run.

That's impressive. Just finishing the course is a fine accomplishment for the amateur competitor. Even entering the race is more ambitious than most of us ever manage.

It's too bad there aren't other kinds of triathlons for everyone else, though. There are plenty of challenges in everyday life that would make for fine competitions. Some examples . . .

Bureaucrathlon. In a single day, contestants compete to: (1) Get cable TV hooked up within the alleged "window." (2) Acquire a building permit. (3) Successfully dispute a charge on their Verizon bill.

Fakeyplacetathlon. Contestants race against clock to spend money at (1) Centro Ybor. (2) BayWalk. (3) Any restaurant where you pay THEM so YOU can cook.

Inexplicableimpulseathlon: Contestants in mock scenarios must resist the urge to (1) push elevator buttons that are already pushed. (2) Reach for their nickel change in the vending machine before getting their soft drink. (3) Take the SECOND newspaper out of the sales rack.

Floridadriverathlon: Events include (1) Driving the longest distance with a blinking turn signal. (2) The fastest unexpected lane change into the narrowest space between cars. (3) Tailgate drafting. (Note: Armed competition.)

Salespitchathlon: Winner must (1) get "dealer prep" taken off the price in a new-car deal. (2) Buy a house and get the most contacts from water-softener salesmen. (3) Watch QVC for 24 hours without buying anything or even saying one time, "Well, actually, THAT doesn't look too bad ... "

Futilityathlon: Contestants must in the same day attend (1) a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game and (2) a Tampa Bay Lightning game without (3) using any verb that begins with "s."

Timesathlon: Competitors must try to get their names into at least three sections of the newspaper on the same day. Example: mayor gets indicted (Section A), throws out first pitch at ball game (Section C), shares really neat recipe (Section D).

Bushathlon: (1) Oil drilling in Gulf of Mexico. (2) Pumping dirty water into Floridan Aquifer. (3) Passing tax cut for people with the most money already.

Yammerathlon: Endurance-listening in order, without visible or audible reaction, to (1) Bubba the Love Sponge. (2) Rush Limbaugh. (3) Dr. Laura.

Obnoxathlon: (1) Achieving highest decibel-to-background ratio on cell phone in restaurant. (2) Best distance for throwing lit cigarette out car window. (3) Leaving dog poop unscooped, graded by distance from sidewalk.

Insectathlon: Occupying a standard residential lot for a week, contestants compete for highest counts of (1) Fire ant mounds. (2) Palmetto bugs. (3) Mosquito bites.

Stupidlawathlon: Posing as members of the Florida Legislature, contestants compete to draft the most short-sighted and/or special-interest bill in the areas of (1) Undermining public education. (2) Risking the environment. (3) New specialty license tags.

Zerotoleranceathon: Contestants vie to commit the least serious act that still provokes wild overreaction by authorities. Categories: (1) School system overreaction. (2) Police overreaction. (3) State attorney overreaction. (Bonus for creating media frenzy.)

- You can reach Howard Troxler at (727) 893-8505 or at troxler@sptimes.com.

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