September 28, 2023 | SPORTS | By Pierce Sullivan
Abraham Maslow, a respected psychologist said in 1966 that, “If you only have a hammer, you start to see every problem as a nail.”
The concept, now colloquially known as Maslow’s hammer, serves as an explanation for the human tendency to rely on solutions with which we are familiar, even if they are not best suited for the cause.
This phenomenon begs the question: What would Maslow have thought of those who not only wield a hammer, but a beer as well?
The game of hammerschlagen, which has evolved into the Americanized game, Stump, would have made Maslow reconsider his theories. The origin and history of the game is shrouded in mystery, but most accounts agree that it first started in Germany in the early 1900s by carpenters and then made the journey across the pond to Minnesota in the 1960s. Although Stump was alive in its earliest forms during Maslow’s life, there is no evidence to suggest that he ever played–or was even aware–of the emerging game.
The game of Stump involves four things: a large tree stump, nails, a hammer, and beer. While the rules tend to be rather flexible, they vary greatly based on the geographic area in which the game is played, though the fundamentals remain constant.
To play, each player taps a fresh nail slightly into the stump. The players then take turns flipping the hammer in the air, catching it by the handle, and attempting to hit another player’s nail in one fluid motion. A player is supposed to drink a proportional amount to how much their nail is sunk into the stump, although this is seldom enforced. When a nail is fully buried, that player is officially out.
This game has gained popularity at Colorado College in recent. The main limiting factor to this game is obtaining a large enough stump to play with. Fortunately, the great wind storm of December 2021 made this game accessible to all, as students could be seen lugging huge stumps from recently fallen trees to their backyards and dorm rooms.
One would think that Maslow would find Stump agreeing with his theory; although the hammer is still being used to hit a nail, there is no reason to sink it into the Stump, as the act is rather risky.
While other drinking games are often considered risky due to the amount of alcohol that participants must consume, Stump is different. Drinking is almost never enforced as a part of the game, and the game can be enjoyed by those who imbibe and those who do not in joyful harmony.
However, Stump does entail some other risks, mainly from the airborne hammer and possibility for nails to be launched from the stump as a projectile if hit at the wrong angle. “The nail could hit your throat and just stab you,” explained Shae Sheaff ’25.
This game’s popularity extends far beyond CC. At the University of Virginia, the game is also making waves.
Gardiner McGuire, a recent alum of UVA, explained the game, saying, “Swing and a miss? Just keep swinging and you’ll eventually hit the nail on the head.” Sarah Besecky, another UVA alum, continued, “Or your own head.”
Sam Johnson ’25 gives a final word on the matter, saying, “Swinging a hammer sober is fun, but swinging a hammer drunk, with your friends, is a whole lot more fun.”