Knife-Throwing as a Sport: Who Would Have Thunk It?

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Yet knife-throwing — and its variations — linger on the fringe of professional sports. Contests amble. Participants approach the designated distance with the urgency of opening a door, size up the target and thrust their forearm forward. Take a few steps back. Repeat.

The sport can be described as a hybrid of archery, because people are aiming at a target from a distance, and darts, because a sharp object is being tossed.

“It’s kind of boring if you really look at it, because it’s thunk, thunk,” Branton said. “It’s exciting for people to throw and everything. But as far as a visual sport, it’s not.”

TV opportunities have been discussed, according to Maccarone and Dagger. “While we have yet to carry knife-throwing on ESPN, we’d consider it if there is an audience for coverage of this kind of competition and if the action is compelling,” Bill Hofheimer, ESPN’s senior director for communications, said in an email.

Is it dangerous? Actually, most of the knives used in throwing, Dagger said, resemble “weird-shaped tent pegs” — the tip is sharp because the handle and the blade are both held in making the toss. Over all, then, the knives are not that intimidating. In addition, someone is always designated to be a range master when throwing takes place to keep the target lanes clear of other people.

Photo

At the competition, 23 men and women tossed knives (and tomahawks) for two days into increasingly splintered wooden targets. Sometimes, playing cards were the target.

Credit
Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

Contestants trickled in on Friday afternoon, a promising development. Big guys, O’Brien said, had to help hang heavy targets bright with fresh red paint on the massive wooden backdrop.

For months, O’Brien, 50, and her husband had tackled details: registration, waivers (“by signing this form you give up important legal rights including the right to sue”), portable toilets. On this day, Maccarone was up at 6 a.m. and at the grocery store by 8 a.m., losing an hour when the store’s fire alarm sounded.

“I won’t be relaxing at all,” he said, clutching a roll of caution tape. Ninety minutes later, he was manning a barbecue grill.

Maccarone, 52, a self-employed antiques dealer and woodworker, possesses a deep commitment to the thunk. Over the course of several months in 2015, Maccarone, who is a nationally ranked thrower, and a friend cleared trees, stumps and crushed stone from his Thoreau-like backyard for a target range featuring a flagpole. And he can always head to his basement, his sanctuary. Surrounded by vintage signs, across from the washer and dryer, lies a narrow indoor range, the proper distances marked (in feet and meters) with masking tape on the floor.

Receiving a knife is a rite of passage for some children. Maccarone was about 8 when he received his grandfather’s pocketknives from his father. Immediately, he started throwing them. Maccarone’s mother, who grew up hunting and fishing, played a knife-toss game with her son called stretch. On this weekend, Maccarone created his own game, the Woodswalk, where contestants contorted themselves, confronting branches and wishbone-twisted trunks as they tried to hit mounted targets.



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