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Arms and the Man
Tom Junod
June 14, 1993
For the sport's he-men—and Everyman—arm wrestling is a universal test of strength and will
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June 14, 1993

Arms And The Man

For the sport's he-men—and Everyman—arm wrestling is a universal test of strength and will

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"A customer representative for Pepsi?"

"I told you, he's a freak," the friend says.

"Basically," Neil says, "I deliver soda all day long. I guess that makes me strong."

Neil is a freak, all right, and in the world of arm wrestling, the freaks are the true aristocrats: those who claim their strength as their birthright and owe nothing to barbells or protein supplements. The thing about arm wrestling, though, is that nobody really cares how you got strong, as long as you are strong. And so they come—the steamfitters and the soda salesmen, the champions and the characters, the ones who aspire to glory and the ones who will never be anything but grotesque.... They come to the table, all of them, and the grudge they settle is ancient and primal, and the questions they answer are the ones that haunt us all our lives: Who is the strongest, who is the toughest, and what role will we play in the theater of pain?

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