Jack ‘n Jill Shotput Latest Craze in Upscale Suburbs

WELLESLEY HILLS, Mass. In this affluent suburb of Boston where the median home price hovers around $1,000,000,”keeping up with the Joneses” can be a difficult task.

“You have the traditionalists, who sail and ski and play golf and tennis,” says Marci Upham, president of the local PTO. “Then you have the radicals, who snowshoe and cross-country ski, or go hiking and kayaking,” she notes with a scowl. “Too sweaty in the winter, and too many bugs in the summer.”

Marci says she and her husband Dan were looking for a compromise between the traditional country club scene and what she calls the “crunchy-granola” set. Their solution? Jack-and-Jill shot-putting, using an 8.8-pound weight for the women, and a 12-pound shot for the men.


“It’s great exercise,” says Dan, “and you have plenty of time for chit-chat while people are getting ready to throw.” Unlike golf, it is unusual for a shotputter to get the “yips” and ask for silence once he or she enters the circle.

Tonight, Dan and Marci are entertaining a couple they met through their children, Jack and Sarah Billings. “Everything revolves around the kids’ soccer and hockey games,” laughs Sarah, as she hoists a shot onto her shoulder and prepares to go into her “glide” style of throw. “Jack can pull off the spin move, but not me!” she says as she pushes her hair back with a plaid headband she purchased for the occasion at the local Talbots store.

“Give her a go, sweetie,” Jack says. It is customary for guests to throw first, and for women to precede the men.

“Okey-dokey, artichokey!” Sarah replies as she plants a kiss on her husband’s cheek. She crouches low, cradles the shot against her chin, steadies herself, and pumps backwards across the circle, turning at the last moment to release the shot.

“Wow,” says her hostess. “Nicely done!” Dan Upham grabs the tape measure, pulls it out to the point of impact, and calls “Forty feet!” back to the rest of the party.

“Sarah–really! That was fantastic!” Marci says with genuine admiration.

“Thanks,” Sarah says modestly.

“Great put, honey!” Jack says as he kisses her sweaty forehead.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say somebody’s been taking–STER-OIDS!” Dan says with a skeptical look on his face.

The foursome erupts in laughter at the jeer used to greet swell-headed sluggers such as Jose Canseco at Fenway Park after they balloon up in size as a result of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Nope–all I’ve been eating is Total cereal and a little wheat germ on my yogurt,” Sarah says.


“C’mon, Sarah–you know the rules!” Dan says with mock sternness as he hands her a plastic cup. “I’m going to need a urine sample, or you guys are buying drinks next time at the club!”

“All right,” Sarah says with good humor. “I had to pee anyway.” She takes the cup and starts to enter the Uphams’ house when she turns to add one last jibe at Dan. “You know I’m a shy whizzer, so I may not be able to fill this up!”

The others laugh, and Dan relents. “Do the best you can!” he says graciously.

It is now Jack’s turn, and he puts some resin on his hands before he enters the circle. A former college hockey player, Jack is powerfully built from the waist up, and after he settles himself at the back of the circle, he spins and grunts as he releases the shot.

“Wow!” Marci exclaims as she sees the metal ball go flying. “You guys have really been working out!”

“I think I bulked up helping Courtney move her stuff into prep school,” Jack says.

Dan takes the tape and measures the distance of Jack’s throw.

“Holy cow!” he says as he looks down at the tape. “Fifty feet! You guys are going to be hard to beat!”

“Aw, you’re just being nice,” Jack says.

“No, seriously. That was something!” Dan says. “Here’s your cup.”

“Thanks,” Jack says, as Sarah emerges with her sample. “Here you go,” she says with a sly smile as she hands it to Dan. “Don’t get it mixed up with the chardonnay!”

They all laugh as Marci prepares for her turn. “Sarah, you’re such a stitch!” she says. “I can’t keep a straight face with you around.” She stays out of the circle for a moment until she can stop laughing, then composes herself and gets ready to throw.

As she does so, Sarah takes out her new phone. “Look at my new toy!” she says with glee.

“Neat!” Dan says. “You’re going to tape this for posterity?”

“We love to play home videos,” she says with a note of sentiment in her voice. “It brings back such fun memories!”

Marci readies herself as Sarah adjusts the focus on her phone. “All set!” Sarah says after a moment, and Marci starts her glide across the circle.

The shot flies out of Marci’s hand and Sarah tracks its arc with her camera. “My goodness! Look at that!” Sarah says with excitement as she presses the “Fade Out” button while Dan runs to the spot where the metal ball lands.

“I think that’s a personal best, sweetie!” Dan says as he stretches his tape measure out. After a second, the shock of recognition sets in. “Forty-two feet! Way to go, Marci!” he shouts as he runs to give her a big hug.

“I got it on tape!” Sarah says, and the host and hostess gather round as she plays it back. “Uh-oh, Marce,” Sarah says as she watches the action again on her screen.

“What’s the matter?” Marci asks with concern.

“Looks like you fouled–see?” she says, and sure enough, a slo-mo replay shows that Marci’s shot-put skirt touched the top of the toe-board, a no-no in this competitive field event. “Sorry,” Sarah says.

“That’s all right–fair’s fair,” Marci says with a forced smile. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Here’s my pee-pee!” Jack says as he emerges from the house. “What’d I miss?”

“I fouled again!” Marci says with a tone of self-reproach in her voice. “I need to take some more lessons.”

“More lessons! Please–we have a mortgage to pay!” Dan says with mock concern.

The group explodes in laughter knowing that the Uphams’ house is worth around two million dollars and was purchased eighteen years earlier for $450,000.

“Your turn, Dan,” Jack says, as he hands Marci his urine sample. “Try not to break a world record, okay?”

“I don’t think you have to worry,” the host says, and indeed, his throw flies outside the white chalk lines that the Uphams have laid down across their well-tended lawn, and across a neighbor’s wooden picket fence.

“Oops,” Dan says with a smile, but the group’s laughter is cut short as the squeal of an injured dog is heard.

“Poodie!” an old woman cries. “My dear little Poodie!”

“Sorry about your dog, Mrs. Keezer” Dan yells as he suppresses a grin. “I’ll get you a new one next weekend.”

“You goddamn social climbers and your McMansion! I hope you rot in hell!” the old women screams as the revelers turn back to their drinks.

“She’ll be fine,” Marci says with a dismissive air. “As soon as her kids get her in assisted living!” The group’s embarrassment fades away like morning dew beneath the bright sunshine of Marci’s effervescent personality, and they return to their cocktails.

“Let’s see,” Sarah says as she notes the distances on a cute plaid scorepad that Marci picked up at a local stationery store. “We won both the women’s and the men’s events, right?”

“Not so fast,” Dan Upham interjects with a mischievous grin as he holds up a test tube. “I think I’ve detected some Clomid in Jack’s urine sample!” he says, referring to the female fertility drug that is used by professional athletes to mask the presence of steroids.

“What you’re seeing is perfectly legal,” his guest replies. “It’s the cheap gin you put in your martinis!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Blurbs From the Burbs.”

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