Pillow Fight World Cup Ruffles Fine Feathered Foes
If you think competitive pillow fighting is just a chance to see scantily clad women beat the stuffing out of each other, then you haven't heard about the Pillow Fight World Cup, which is as pure as a freshly cleaned bedsheet.
The May 17 battle royale is a joint venture between a Brooklyn artist who for years has thrown pillow fight parties in warehouses and on rooftops, and a group of Austrian woman who want to turn the childhood game into respectable adult competition.
"It's less brutal than boxing, but you still need technique," said Maylin Kretzschmar, 26. She's one of three Austrians in the tournament. "It's a fun sport. I don't want to punch someone in the face, but you can still get rid of your aggression."
Eight women armed with fluffy weapons and dressed like athletes, not sex symbols, will step into a converted boxing ring in Brooklyn, N.Y. to beat each other mercilessly with feather filled pillowcases.
The American working with the Austrians is Andrew Thompson, creator of Punk Rock Pillow Fight, a sporadically scheduled whack-happy night for amateurs with live music.
His Punk Rock Pillow Fight events are open to men and women, but when the Austrians approached him about a ladies-only World Cup, he didn't object.
The upstart tournament contrasts with a rival Canadian Pillow Fight League. The six-year-old organization is a descendant of foxy boxing and mud wrestling, and banks on the sex appeal of its fighters to put fannies in the seats.
Thompson, 36, said lingering memories of these types of fleshy events make it tough for him to find ladies to enter the Pillow Fight World Cup.
"Females think this is some sexy lingerie pillow match and they don't want to be a part of it," said Thompson. "But I wouldn't be a part of any event like that either. I'm up against this stigma."
The disapproval cuts both ways.
Stacey Case, the Pillow Fight League founder, has frowned on the newcomers for creating what he says is a watered-down version of his carefully crafted enterprise.
"Anybody can do it, but what we think is that we're the only ones who do it well," said Case. "I've organized 65 events, not just one event like these guys."
Case also revealed to AOL Weird News that he plans to stage an international pillow fighting tournament of his own next year and to award bigger prizes.
"Any idiot can get a cup made," Case said, "but I spent three grand on a belt."
Until then the so-called sport is in the hands of Kretzschmar and her compatriots. They see the event as a chance to raise the profile of a game most people haven't played since sleepover parties in elementary school.
The rules for the Pillow Fight World Cup closely resemble the brand of pillow fighting waged by the Austrians in their training gym in Vienna.
Matches are fought in two rounds, each lasting two minutes. Judges award points for hits to the body and head. Contestants are penalized for turning their backs to their opponents and for dropping to a knee.
The most serious injury the gladiators face are occasional cuts on their knuckles, Kretzschmar said.
Thompson shares the Austrians' enthusiasm for pillow fighting, but for him, it's just a fun way to act immaturely.
"When I started Punk Rock Pillow Fight here in New York, it was to make something awesome out of nothing and to have a regressive childhood experience," he told AOL Weird News.
"I'm down for a good fight, but [the Austrians] take it much more seriously than I do."
Other entrants know it sounds silly to compete in the World Cup, but that's not stopping them.
"When I told my mom that I was entering," said Jennifer Tullock, 27, of New York, "She rolled her eyes and said 'Go strong.'"