The Underdog: How I Survived the World's Most Outlandish Competitions

Joshua Davis, Author
Joshua Davis, Author Villard Books $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-345-47658-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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A five-foot-nine, 129-lb weakling with a long history of not measuring up, Davis set off in search of unlikely venues in which to discover his athletic gifts, whatever they might be. He entered the U.S. arm-wrestling championship, took up bull-fighting in Spain, squared off against Sumo wrestlers four times his size and nearly scalded himself to death in an extreme sauna competition in Finland. He continued to fail, often spectacularly, but along the way he gained a new appreciation for his wife's eye-rolling devotion and the maturity to master his qualms about fatherhood. Most important for his bourgeoning journalism career, he found a trove of offbeat characters striving for self-respect through bizarre or inappropriate sports, including an Indian backward-running ultra-marathoner whose Guinness Book exploits lifted him from low-caste Untouchability to wealth and status. With an eye for tacky detail and absurdist humor, Davis recounts his hilarious misadventures among these colorful subcultures, but he takes the struggles and triumphs seriously. The result is a funny, beguiling quest that proves that losing is more enlightening-and entertaining-than winning. Photos.
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