I’ve seen the future of professional cherry pit spitting, and its name is Tanika Price.
That was the hard lesson I learned when my editor ordered me to challenge Flatbush’s greatest cherry pit spitter to a battle of breath, saliva, and cherry juice after I failed in my duties to report what would have been the greatest story ever — the annual cherry pit spitting contest at the Cortelyou Green Market in Ditmas Park on July 17.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m new at this gig. New on the beat. And I’m trying to fill two newspapers covering four neighborhoods with the kind of urgent content that grabs readers by the throat and doesn’t let go.
And my editor, like just about every editor in this town, is a hard ass (as if there’s any other kind).
So when I read on the Ditmas Park Blog that the 27-year-old had spit a cherry pit 42 feet to win a contest, I knew I had been beat at my own game. And when I told my editor about it, he wasted no time in tearing me a new one.
But I knew I could redeem myself — I just didn’t know how. That’s when he gave me the assignment: reverse the tide. Challenge her to a pit spit, and win.
I contacted Price and set a date. We’d meet in front of her house on E. 28th Street between Farragut Road and Foster Avenue for a showdown at high noon.
I had a week to train, and train I did. Sit-ups. Push-ups. NordicTrac. Isometrics. ThighMaster. Anything to help me get my wind as strong as possible.
The morning of the competition, I even carbo-loaded, substituting my usual Lucky Charms with Spaghetti-O’s.
I was confident I could beat her: after all, she couldn’t even spit the pit the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
I got there at 7 pm, and greeted my competition, a bit shocked by her stature.
It turns out Price played basketball for the University of Hartford, where she won two NCAA titles as a center and forward. She’s now an assistant coach at Hofstra.
“I got a little bit of wind,” she said of her Aeolusian lung capacity.
Oh yeah, and at 6-foot-2, she’s a half inch taller than me.
So I knew it was going to be tough.
We went over the rules: one pit at a time after swallowing the fruit. No more than a two-step start before you can jump and spit. And we would not use the metric system to measure the distance like they do in the Olympics. We’d measure Brooklyn style: using manhole covers.
Price went first, and she didn’t disappoint. Using her patented step-spin-and-spit motion, her pit landed more than a third of the way to the next manhole cover. Cheering, neighborhood kids marked the spot.
Then it was my turn.
I took a breath — being careful not to suck the pit deep into my lungs — and let her rip. The pit launched through the air like a cannonball out of a cannon. I watched it sail closer and closer to the kids marking Price’s spot.
But it fell short. My pit landed about one-third of the way to the next manhole cover. It was close, but it was clear on this day, I was defeated.
I could make excuses. I could tell you that I smoked for years and have the lung capacity of a Whoopie Cushion.
But as my editor says, “I don’t want excuses, I want results.”
And on this day, I couldn’t deliver. I congratulated my triumphant competitor, and held my head high.
Until about two hours later, when I read about my little competition on the Ditmas Park Blog.
Now that hurts.
Please don’t tell my editor.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham
Photo By Elizabeth Graham