New sports in Romania

March 25, 1996|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS -- A couple of years ago, a Romanian guy who founded the Foot Tennis League called to enlist me in popularizing this new sport. Invented in Romania, it's just like tennis, only you don't use nets or rackets, just the ankle of your foot. And the ball is made out of tightly wrapped old shirts.

With the advent of capitalism, many new sports are being invented in Romania. A guy in Cluj, Transylvania, invented a machine that enables him to smoke 300 cigarettes at the same time. Unlike America, smoking is not only tolerated in Eastern Europe but, thanks to the American tobacco companies' advertising, the natives are encouraged to smoke all the cigarettes Americans won't any more.

Another Romanian was cited for raising an elephant inside a Bucharest apartment, truly a record-setting feat, considering that the average Romanian apartment, like the one I grew up in, barely has enough room for a school-child and one tiny, overworked adult. The elephant was, apparently, small when it entered the apartment but then it grew, filling up the whole place and jamming the door. At least it wasn't a rhinoceros, thank God.

The explanation for this peculiar streak of national genius comes from the National Geographic, which reports that ''a closed subterranean ecosystem nourished by hydrogen sulfide'' was found in the Movile Cave 60 feet below the earth in southern Romania. Its animal occupants evolved slowly over the past 5 million years, living with no oxygen and little light, just like the inhabitants of Ceausescu's Romania in the not-so-distant past. ''It's loaded with animals,'' Dr. Thomas Kane said. ''We've found 47 species, 32 previously unknown.''

Some of those unknown species, like the man who smokes 300 cigarettes at once, are now becoming known. Because of their isolation, these creatures rush happily to embrace capitalism, mistaking it for oxygen.

Andrei Codrescu edits ''Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Letters & Life.''

Pub Date: 3/25/96

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