Ladies and gentlemen, signore e signori, welcome to the showdown in Italy this week between two American giants of hula hooping.
In one corner, Andreas "Spilly, the hula hoop man" Spiliadis, 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, a weekly fixture at the farmers' market in Waverly. He spends his Saturday mornings gyrating in a nearby median strip.
In the other corner, Paul "Dizzy Hips" Blair, 43, of Flagstaff, Ariz., 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, holder of four world records and a competitor so fierce that the theme song on his website, http://www.dizzyhips.com, is The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"
"If I go there will be trouble.
And if I stay it will be double …
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?"
The producers of "Lo Show Dei Record," the Italian version of the Guinness Book of World Records TV show, are flying both men to Rome this week. There, they will compete to break the world record of 64 rotations, or "spins," of a 3.5-centimeter hula hoop in one minute.
The taped segment will be about 10 minutes long and is scheduled to air in September, though not in the U.S., said Philip Coticelli, researcher for Euro Produzione, the show's production company.
Who will break the record?
"I will," said Blair, 43.
"I believe I'm going to smash it pretty well," said the equally confident Spiliadis, 44, hooping and juggling on a recent cold Saturday morning.
Coticelli doesn't care who wins, as long as both men live up to their billing as two of America's finest in a sport its biggest fans call simply "hooping."
Many Italians might not discern much of a difference between Spiliadis and Blair, Coticelli said. They have few hula hoopers in their own country and may be seeing the sport for the first time.
"I have to look for foreign talent," he said. "It's (hula hooping) not that popular."
And the hoop they'll be using is so large, "It's not the normal hula hoop," he said. "It's something extraordinary."
The all-expenses-paid trip, plus a payment of $1,500 and a chance to compete on an international stage and set a world record, is extraordinary enough for Spiliadis, a nationally obscure hooper. He lived for 15 years in Charles Village and two in Oakenshawe before moving to the Arcadia neighborhood in northeast Baltimore, where he lives in a fixer-upper next to a graveyard and calls himself "an urban farmer."
Spiliadis is also a freelance writer, a debate coach at Frederick Douglass High School, and a purveyor of hula hoops, some of which he sells to the crowds at the farmers' market.
He said his two daughters, Zoe, 16, and Tali, 14, got him into hula hooping at 39, when he couldn't rotate a hula hoop for more than 30 seconds.