Maryland is accustomed to not getting the respect it deserves. Its size (only seven states are smaller) means that it is often overlooked on a map, being crowded out by neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia. There is one area, however, where Maryland stands out and shines above all other states. Unlike its peers, which claim boring sports such as baseball, basketball, or football, Maryland proudly embraces the age-old competition of jousting as its official sport.
Not only was Maryland the first to adopt jousting as its official sport, but it was also the first state to name an official sport at all. It did so in 1962, after 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 (Chapter 134, Acts of 1962; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-329(a)) by Governor J. Millard Tawes.
Jousting was developed in the Middle Ages as a way to train for cavalry combat. Two armored combatants on horseback charged at each other in an attempt to break the lance on their opponent’s armor or knock him off his horse. Aside from its military purposes, the competitions gained great popularity with the public, sparking tournaments in which knights, noblemen, and even kings competed.
Jousting tournaments have their history in Maryland since before the independence of the United States. Regular competitions take place throughout the state, usually accompanied with great pageantry, as well as costumes and language appropriate for medieval times. (Watch jousting at a Maryland Renaissance Festival here.)
For more information about jousting and how you can watch or compete in a tournament, visit the website for the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association.
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