ONE SMALL THROW FOR MAN, ONE GIANT THROW FOR MANKIND

To throw or not to throw, that is the question.

And how to throw? That is another question.

And how far to throw? Another good one.

And where to throw? And at whom?

And what to throw?

And how did we begin throwing sticks and stones to break bones?

We are what we are because we learned to throw. Before fire, before agriculture, before beer, we learned to pick up small projectiles and hurl them.

I bring this up because there is a new theory about human throwing that says humans may have started throwing stones as a hunting tactic. Humans were then able to kill and eat animals that provided nutritional protein and fat which led to the growth of early hominid brains.

After 100,000 years or so, the human brain learned how to program the body to throw a baseball 90 miles an hour, a football 60 yards, and a 16-pound shot 75 feet.

I like this theory. I could feel my brain grow as I read about it.

I think it’s safe to state that throwing stones was one of the first human advances in weaponry, with the club and the sharp stick being two others. Throwing stones as a weapon remains popular. The Middle East is a good example, where getting stoned takes on an ancient and much different meaning. They’ve been throwing stones there for thousands of years and still do. There’s probably some Palestinian youths who could try out for a farm club in the U.S. The Chicago Cubs might consider this.

In some places, such as Saudi Arabia, stones are still used to execute people, usually defenseless women accused of some sexual misbehavior or defenseless men accused of misbehaving with them. No lethal injections in that neck of the woods, unless you count the act that resulted in the stoning.

Stones are cheap and readily available in most places. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors so that everyone from children to senior citizens can handle and appreciate them.

Show me someone who doesn’t pick up a stone once in a while just to feel the heft, the gravity, the ancientness of it and I’ll show you someone who is not of this Earth.

It is interesting to note here that the most popular sport in the world – soccer – bans throwing, except when putting the ball into play from out of bounds. It’s a game that levels the playing field for people who can’t throw or don’t like to throw, or think that throwing is just a Neanderthal-like activity and too unsophisticated for modern people.

That’s why I never liked soccer very much. We’re a nation of throwers. We love to throw – baseballs, footballs, basketballs, rocks, snowballs, sticks, mud, the occasional fish. Call me Neanderthal if you want. I prefer Cro-Magnon, but Neanderthal will suit me, too. I’m an equal opportunity theorist.

“Throwing projectiles probably enabled our ancestors to effectively and safely kill big game,” says Neil Roach, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington DC, who led the work while at Harvard University. Eating more calorie-rich meat and fat would have helped early hominids’ brains and bodies to grow, enabling our ancestors to expand into new regions of the world, he suggests.

I don’t know that throwing stones at big game was very safe or effective, but it was no doubt better than trying to kill them by bare hand. I conjecture that early hominids threw stones at small game, such as rabbits or whatever they could find. That would be tough hunting, but I would think eventually you might get good at it and be able to sign an MLB contract.

If you’ve never thrown a fish, you should try it sometime. That’s what started me on the path to a life of throwing. I don’t mean the fish toss you see in the fish markets of the world. I mean the toss where you aim at a person’s head, hoping to slime them. That was when I was a very young hominid at Boy Scout camp, however. I haven’t thrown a fish since.

The mass of the 16-pound shot creates gravity and I was drawn to the event the first time I picked one up. That gravity pulled me out of the little city of Elgin, Illinois and into a much larger orbit around world.

The shot put was my religion, my faith, but it was also a demanding bitch; practice, practice, practice, throw, throw, throw, lift, lift, lift, run, run, run. I tortured myself for the love of the throw.

Remember the next time you pick up a shot, or a football, baseball or whatever, it all started with one tiny throw for man, one giant throw for mankind.

By Brian Oldfield with George Houde

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