Mayne: A game you can play with cigarettes


Wider World Of Sports: Switzerland

Kenny Mayne travels to Switzerland to learn about the sport of Hornussen.

As we drove to the site of the big hornussen festival outside of Bern, Switzerland, we knew very little about it. I mean we've all seen people use giant golf club-looking sticks and hit hockey puck-looking disks into a field while other men try to knock down the hockey puck-looking things with giant cheese boards. That went without saying.

We wanted to know more. We wanted texture and perspective. What were we thinking?

When we got there, we found out just what hornussen is. It's this weird sport in which people use giant golf club-looking sticks to hit hockey puck-looking disks into a field while other men try to knock down the hockey puck-looking things with giant cheese boards.

Now let's talk about Switzerland a bit: It's good we remember only about 40 percent of our expenses on these trips, because this place was pricey. It's also quite beautiful. Not just the Alps but the olden-time buildings we saw in the town of Bern. It almost seemed like Switzerland had stayed neutral during the world wars. Oh.

Now let's talk more about hornussen. We were told it was invented by farmers 400 years ago. Those farmers must have had a good amount of downtime because the rules are slightly complex. You get one point for each 10 meters you hit the hockey puck-looking thing once it flies 100 meters. The guys with the cheese boards don't have to make a play on the hockey puck-looking thing if the guy with the giant golf club-looking stick doesn't hit the hockey puck-looking thing inside the boundaries, none of which we could see. Some of the men in the field holding the cheese boards smoke cigarettes, and I bet they are expensive, this being Switzerland. They'll be lucky to get 40 percent of their cigarette purchases back.

Although we came away with a great appreciation of how hard it is to hit the hornet (the hockey puck-looking thing), we were also reminded of how much hornussen reminded us of how I made up a game out of thin air with my friends Scott Libo and Darryl Bell. I don't know how my crew knew about that day with Libo and Bell, but we were on a three-week trip, so we'd really started to bond by the time we hit Switzerland.

I was at Libo's house back in college, and we decided to see who could step on a two-by-four hanging off his 10-foot-high deck and walk out the farthest before the two-by-four flipped forward and sent the contestant down and onto the patio. It was a really stupid idea, and we argued about the rules for hours, rules we had just made up.

I think Scott Libo is related to those farmers, even though I didn't see him at the hornussen festival. I still have respect for Libo's two-by-four game, but probably more respect for the fact he had a house while I was just in college. I wonder if he still lives there. If so, I'm coming over with a two-by-four.

And a giant golf club-looking stick and a hockey puck-looking disk and some cheese boards. He's going to have to put in a cornfield. You gotta hit the hornet 100 meters to even get on the board.