Over in Beijing this summer, a bunch of fit folks are going to dazzle an international audience with feats of muscular grace. One such event you'll be subjected to is the gymnastics "rings" competition, where athletes grasp a pair of circles suspended in the air and commence to swing themselves up, down, and around with the occasional awe-inspiring mid-flight holding pattern thrown in, where they make their bodies into a cross and stay in position for a few agonizing seconds.
Screw those guys.
In Memphis, "rings" means one thing: onion rings. It's deep-fried athletics at its best. Nobody, not even Wikipedia, knows who invented onion rings. But it takes a city like Memphis to make the eating of them worthy of Olympics competition.
Unlike with the International Olympic Committee, in Memphis rings, there's no governing body and no standardized set of rules and regulations. Everybody offers their own twist on the spherical sport, with variations coming from size and type of onion used and batter and seasoning distinctions.
Rings athletes must always exercise judgment when choosing their venue. Among the best rings in the region are those found at Belmont Grill, Bigfoot Lodge, Huey's, and Velvet Cream and they're all different from each other.
The rings at Belmont Grill taste like Zeus handed them down from Mount Olympus. Eating them requires an uncanny mind that can overcome circular logic and a well-developed hand-eye coordination that will help you stick the landing.
Bigfoot Lodge's rings have a touch of local flavor: They're served with a side of barbecue sauce. Acrobatic dipping will score you extra artistic points from jealous sidewalk judges.
If you think bigger is better, Huey's is your game. Theirs are rich brown behemoths that put the "Oh!" in onion rings. And if you order the Grand Daddy Huey Burger, you're going to get served two hamburger patties topped with a ring.
The world traveler should hot-foot on down to Hernando, Mississippi, to Velvet Cream called "The Dip" by seasoned veterans and flex your muscles with their rings. Make it a biathlon and enjoy one of their famous shakes, freezes, or slushes.
Though the Olympic rings event is for males only, in Memphis, the competition is gender neutral. It doesn't matter if you're representing Team XX or XY. Anybody can give rings a sporting chance.
Many rings competitors are actually two-sport athletes. At Corky's BBQ, you can get the "Onion Loaf" a tower of onion rings which merges a pair of Olympic events: rings and the pole vault. It's strictly for the serious competitors who don't consider rings a mere game.
Never forget, though, that rings is no spectator sport. It's all about your teammates: Though there's an "I" in rings, that doesn't mean you shouldn't share!