Why Jousting Is Maryland's Official State Sport

Maryland adopted jousting as its official state sport in 1962 | © Flickr/MdAgDept
Maryland adopted jousting as its official state sport in 1962 | © Flickr/MdAgDept
Photo of Michael LoRé
Sports Editor22 February 2017

“Crab cakes and football — that’s what Maryland does.” This quote from Wedding Crashers (2005) simplified the mid-Atlantic state to a mere two things, yet Maryland does so much more, particularly when it comes to sports. Maryland became the first state to adopt an official sport, naming jousting as its official sport on June 1, 1962.

Henry J. Fowler, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from St. Mary’s County, introduced a bill during a session of the Maryland General Assembly to establish jousting as the official state sport. The bill passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor J. Millard Tawes.

According to the Maryland State Archives website, “jousting tournaments have been held in Maryland since early colonial times but became increasingly popular after the Civil War.”

The pageantry is not lost in modern-day tournaments. Men (referred to as knights) and women (referred to as maids) are dressed in colorful costumes full of regalia and many of the medieval customs and practices are still utilized. The Maryland State Jousting Championship is held annually and has been sponsored by the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association since its founding in 1950.

Jousting competitions, held in various locations throughout the state, are non-contact “ring tournaments” where competitors on horseback with lance in hand try to spear hanging rings of various sizes while quickly riding by three arches. Rings, ranging in diameter from one-quarter of an inch to approximately two inches, are hung nearly 7 feet off the ground.

These tournaments take place between May and October annually.

Maryland Jousting Tournament AssociationRiding Rules 1950

1. Distance between each arch is to be 30 yards.

2. Time will be called from a point 20 yards before the first arch and end at the last arch.

3. The total distance of 80 yards is to be covered in 10 seconds.

4. Time will be called with the use of an official stop watch held by the judges on the stand.

5. The height of the irons will be 6’9″ from the ground.

6. All rings will be wrapped with white cord.

7. Tournament sponsors are required to send a complete score card to the secretary of the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association.

8. After the 1950 season is completed, the following rules will prevail regarding the status of the rider.

  • Any Amateur rider scoring either 3 first places or 4 second places in tournaments shall
    be considered a Professional Rider and must ride in the Professional Class thereafter.
  • Any rider winning one first place in a Novice or Rookie class will be considered an Amateur Rider thereafter.

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