The organizers called everyone together to read the rules — likely the only national championship where this needs to be done — and then they played the Swedish national anthem. The boom box was so small that no one could hear anything. Some people continued to talk. Others were looking around, sizing up their opponents. A few old men stood erect, their hands over their hearts. The rest of us looked down at the ground, straining to hear the music and unsure of the decorum, anxiously looking around to see what others were doing. It reminded me of every kid birthday party I had ever had when my mom would make everyone pray before we ate cake, and I would pretend to close my eyes but would peek to see if my friends had their eyes closed.
After playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” the organizers read off the group assignments for the seating portion of the tournament. Most of the sixty-four team names involved a play on kubb: Kubbsicles, Kubbra-Kahn, Carpe Kubb’em, Kubb Your Enthusiasm, Kubb De Grace, ad nauseam. The clever names got chuckles; no one chucked at our team name. There was one team from North Dakota and another from Helena, Montana, and a few teams from Des Moines. The rest were from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, which makes the title of “National Championship” seem rather specious. This did not prevent me from texting several people to let them know, “No big deal, I’m just competing in THE KUBB NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS.”