I just learned Russia has a competitive slapping championship.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid being struck, and these guys are willingly standing there while they’re slapped.

Anyway, a farmer named Vasiliy Khamotiskiy, who enjoyed slapping in his spare time (whatever that’s about), gained fame for “his extraordinary ability to slap people senseless.”

It’s been a while since I’ve been slapped, but I remember it not being an especially pleasant experience. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t slapped silly. I was, however, slapped hard enough to make me want to slap someone else.

Khamotiskiy won 30,000 rubles, or about $475, when he was awarded the male slapping championship at an event in Krasnoyarsk last year. This led to a winning streak which ended recently when he was “slapped into a mini-coma.”

I have never slapped someone in the face. I did, however, accidently punch someone in the jaw.

Friends since preschool, “Doug” and I were in third grade. The other children were in the lunchroom; we had gone to our respective homes for lunch and beaten everyone else to the playground.

Conventional practice on the playground was if a girl got the ball first, the girls had command of the ball during the play period. If a boy got it first, boys had command. (That’s right. We only had one ball.)

Somehow, my clumsy and unathletic body reached the ball first. Doug, however, did not respect the rule of law on the playground and was determined to take the ball away from me.

Both of us held the ball with both hands and pulled back and forth on the orb (blue, I recall, with sparkles in it) until I lost my grip, my hand slipped off its slick exterior, my right hand formed a fist and I struck Doug in the jaw.

In fact, I hit him so hard we both saw stars.

Immediately, I apologized for the accident and asked if he was OK. Even though I would have sworn I saw tiny birds circling his head, he chuckled and said he was OK.

I could’ve played this off like I’m a tough cookie and nobody better mess with me. But I didn’t because I’m not. I never wanted to hurt anyone, out of necessity or sport. Certainly not Doug, who was the first friend I ever had. We met in church and we teamed up against the other nursery students in a rousing game of Cowboys and Indians.

Even though it was a memorable punch — for me, anyway — I certainly had no ill intent.

And I don’t remember who got the ball.

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