Held annually in Harveysberg, Ohio, the Ohio Renaissance Festival is a place where a man can go to see the clear evolution of our testosterone-driven madness: It is portly women in corsets, leather mugs of expensive ale, turkey legs, swords, scabbards, archery and yes, jousting. In a day and age when an effeminate male is thought of as “socially cool,” one can learn a thing or two from how it used to be done in the 16th century. If you have never attended a Renaissance Festival, what are you doing with your life?
The second you walk up to the castle walls (yes, I said castle), you are immediately heckled and accosted by the drunken festival carnies and their abysmal English accents. If you’re a female, you will likely be hit on by more than one man fully equipped with a large weapon (the weapon of choice varies a great deal) and scraggly facial hair.
What’s that stench, you ask? Probably the potent mixture of Viking body odor, horse manure and stale bread bowls. In other words, these workers are people you need to be around. But I digress. The real point of the Ren-Fest, as the locals call it, is the manliness of the games.
Jousting was the popular spectator sport of choice during the reign of Henry VIII. In case you don’t know, jousting is an activity in which two men on horseback ride toward each other with large lances with the goal of hitting the other. Points are awarded for striking your foe, breaking your lance and knocking the opposition off his steed. Jousting was also the focal point of the excellent Heath Ledger movie (yes I said excellent), A Knight’s Tale.
I really cannot think of a better way to tell another guy you want to kick his ass than to challenge him to a joust. Duels are out of style and, frankly, overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the duel over being judged in a fair trial by a jury of your peers, but jousting is a more emphatic way of getting your statement across.
But when is it appropriate to challenge someone to a joust? Oh, let me count the ways: accosted by a bro at Brick Street? Let’s joust. Docked a third of your grade by a professor because of attendance? Let’s joust. In a group project with a slacker that does zero work? Let’s joust. Want to win over a girl that’s at a party with her boyfriend? Let’s joust.
And let’s not leave out the females who want to prove their worth in society. Ever been forced to do the walk of shame and the guy never called you? Yup, joust time.
These brave men at the Ren-Fest, however, don’t do this awesome deed for any of those reasons. They do it simply because they believe in swift and painful justice. They do it to show chivalry is not dead and problems can be solved without consulting the worthless bureaucracy. And they do it three times a day.
Nevermind that jousting was a sport of nobles and aristocratic types. Today, it could mean so much more. It’s a chance for the little guy — the guy who is trampled on and made fun of and never gets the hot girl. He can finally show society once and for all that when he is on his trusty mustang and galloping toward his enemy at 30 miles an hour, mustering all the power in his scrawny arms, legs chafing in his skinny jeans, ear-drums pulsing to the sounds of Adam Lambert, that he will be obliterated by the real man galloping across from him. This man, in the spirit of Achilles and Ajax, can reclaim his spot atop the social hierarchy.
Real machismo is not dead. It merely lies dormant in the spirits and muscles of the jousting men at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. To you, sirs, I send a hearty nod of the head.