Feb 27, 2024 - News

Embracing weirdness at the Florida Man Games

Illustration of an alligator swimming in a trophy.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The first-ever Florida Man Games in St. Augustine drew hundreds over the weekend, with contests like beer-belly wrestling and an "evading arrest" obstacle course.

Why it matters: The inaugural event, pitched as "the most insane athletic showdown on Earth," invited locals to celebrate all that makes Florida, well, Florida.

  • "We understand that Florida is weird," organizer Pete Melfi told the New York Times. "We embrace it."

State of play: The Florida Man Games offered a blend of athleticism, humor, and the downright bizarre, culminating in a $5,000 prize for the winning team.

  • The daylong competition featured events tailor-made for TikTok and Instagram — inspired, in part, by the state's notoriously strange headlines.
  • A three-person team called the Cooter Commandos, hailing from Citrus County, were among the competitors, according to the Times.

The idea behind the Games is simple: "If the rest of the country ... is going to make Florida the punchline, then those who call it home might as well be in on the joke," the Times writes.

  • The "Florida Man" meme drew on stories from police reports and mugshots, boosted by the state's robust public records laws that make them easily accessible.

Yes, but: People have long criticized the "Florida Man" trope for its tendency to mock those suffering from issues like addiction and mental illness.

  • The @_FloridaMan Twitter account retired in 2019, with its owner citing similar concerns. Still, the meme lives on.

The bottom line: For better or worse, the Games are a reminder that in Florida, weirdness is not only acknowledged, but celebrated.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.

More Tampa Bay stories