Annual Loser Olympics are staged at the Gambrills home of Sarah Worcester Gaymon, 59, a retired information technology specialist for the Library of Congress. The athletics include tennis, HORSE (renamed LOSER) and distance water balloons. Last year the swimming pool event was to maneuver a wood block representing the doomed cruise ship Costa Concordia.
Carnahan is the statistician. On vast spreadsheets, he has recorded each week’s contest challenge, as well as the names of all who have earned ink, on the Web site NRARS.org. This project allowed Russell Beland, 55, a deputy assistant secretary of the Navy from Fairfax, to invent the Flushies — an annual awards ceremony to salute Loser of the Year, Most Imporved (sic), etc. Song parodies are sung, toilet paper is flung.
At last count, Beland led the league with 1,516 lifetime inks, followed by Doyle with 1,452. The winningest Loser in recent years is Kevin Dopart, 56, an engineering consultant from Washington.
In spite of rivalries, friendships form. “The first time I met Mae [Scanlan] was at a brunch,” says Beverley Sharp, 69, of Montgomery, Ala., a former French teacher recently ranked No. 12 with 369 lifetime inks. “I said to her, and I meant it, ‘I knew from reading your entries I was going to like you so much.’ ”
“It’s fun to meet somebody whose writing and wits you’ve been reading for weeks and weeks,” says Scanlan, 81, a retired photographer and a light-verse ace from Washington, ranked No. 26 with 213 lifetime inks. “I have what I call the pastor test. If I wouldn’t want my pastor to see it, I don’t send it in.”
A modicum of fame comes with being a Loser. Chuck Smith, 66, of Woodbridge, a personnel contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency wore a Loser T-shirt to the Nissan Pavilion one time and someone asked, “Do you know Chuck Smith?” At a Dave Barry book-signing, he asked the author to make it out to Chuck Smith, and Barry said, “Chuck Smith from Woodbridge?” Smith recalls.
Senior officials in the Pentagon have commented favorably to Beland on his contest zingers.
So it is not surprising that, at the recent Sunday brunch, a woman in the restaurant comes over to hail the Losers. Someone informs her that yes, the great limericist Brendan Beary, 51, a Navy software engineer from Great Mills, is in the house.
“Really!” says the Losers fan. “You guys are great!”
But it’s really not about the fame, says Loser Black.
“If it weren’t for this contest, there is no shot of me meeting any of these people,” he says.
After a friend of Black’s was killed in a car accident, he ran a half-marathon in 2011 to raise money for the ASPCA, one of her favorite charities. He announced it on the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook page. Of the $3,000 he raised, $2,500 came from Losers. He gets emotional talking about it.
“That’s community,” he says.
Be sure to check out the many other segments of this 20th-anniversary Style Invitational retrospective: classic limericks; song parodies; neologisms (new words); horse “breeding” and “joint legislation”; and dozens of other winning entries from the past decade. Plus how to enter this week’s new contest — and more!. And more! See the index of articles here.
Next: The “Bad Analogies” and other viral Invitational ink