Over the years, my best friend and I have come up with a lot of random, idiotic games — games that we use to pass the time while waiting for more exciting things to happen, until the games themselves become the most fun event of the evening. Our games include Metal-Off, where we go back and forth naming as many hair metal bands as possible until someone pauses for more than 5 seconds, Obscure Diseases, which has the same premise as Metal-Off except with naming diseases that have really odd names, and my personal favorite, Everyone Has Their Price. My best friend used to play this game all the time, smugly challenging people to come up with awful, disgusting scenarios, and seeing how much they would have to be paid to carry them out. I “broke” the game a few years ago on a hiking trip when I came up with a scenario so repulsive to him that he had to concede defeat … but unfortunately, I can’t repeat it here.

Somehow, the two of us glossed over the Imaginary Fight game. I’m not sure how, though; we’re both into playing these ridiculous games that only seem to appeal to guys. In the case of the Everyone Has Their Price game, we enjoy getting as detailed as possible, making enough specific points to prove, indeed, that everyone has their price (until I ruined the whole thing). Thinking it over now, we were only a couple of steps away from wondering whether Rocky could beat the crap out of Rambo. We’ll never need to think about it again, though, after reading Jake Kalish’s Santa Vs. Satan: The Official Compendium of Imaginary Fights (Three Rivers Press, 2008).

If you have to ask whether a book with such a title is right for you, then it’s probably not. However, if you’re a guy, there’s a very good chance this one is right up your alley. As Kalish explains in the introduction, “The imaginary fight taps into the most primal part of the male psyche and imagination: the need to know who’s the best, the strongest, the caveman with the biggest club.” However, whereas many men would simply come up with a quick reason or two why Rambo would totally demolish Rocky, Kalish goes much, much further.

Take, for example, the contestants of the fights themselves. Surely you’ve thought of Batman v. Superman, right? I guarantee you that 90% of the fights in this book have never crossed your mind. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Barney vs. Grimace
  • Samurai vs. Gladiator
  • Donald Duck vs. Daffy Duck

Okay, so some of these still seem relatively typical, right? Try these on for size:

  • The Virgin vs. The Whore
  • The Constipated vs. The Incontinent
  • Voltaire vs. Voltron
  • Bill Buckner vs. The Baseball That Went Between His Legs
  • The Lesbian of Your Lesbian Porno vs. The Lesbian of Your Fourth-Period Gym Glass
  • Small Man With Breasts vs. Large Balding Woman

Of course, each of these fights have their own accompanying title, so you can expect to find Pee-Wee Herman vs. George Michael under “Beat-Off of the Dynamic Diddlers” and He-Man vs. She-Males under “Magic Sword Battle.” You get it now, right?

It’d be easy to devote 100% of authorial energy simply towards the invention of these imaginary fights, but perhaps the most frightening aspect of the book is that the subject of each fight merely scratches the surface of this book’s content. Kalish devotes a minimum of two pages to each battle. Each contestant receives a detailed description, including their allies, enemies, skills, and other battle-specific details. In Muhammad Ali vs. Bruce Lee, you’ll find the tally of “Percentage of men who have pretended to be him in front of their mirrors.” Additionally, each battle receives “Expert Analysis” (the previous fight receives contributing thoughts from authors of martial arts books and a Muhammad Ali biography) and a full account of how the actual fight goes down. You’ll be hard-pressed to argue with the author’s determination of each victor, because he’s clearly spent hours on each battle. This man is not kidding around. It’s just mind-blowing to think that somebody was able to fill almost 300 pages with serious analysis on this subject. If Jake Kalish is married, I feel bad for his wife — either she didn’t see him for a year, or listened to him reason through each of these battles for a year. I’m not sure which is worse.

The only problem with Kalish’s book is that it’s almost too detailed at times; delving into this exhaustive level of research takes away some of the fun of the game for me. (I prefer to end most of my arguments with “because I said so.”) Therefore, men, I’m not going to recommend this tome as a reference guide for your next throwdown in the local pub. However, if you’re on the toilet regretting the hot wings you just scarfed down, and you know you’re going to be there for at least the next couple of hours, there’s no better book to accompany you on your ordeal. (Personally, I’m hoping for a sequel pitching Popdose against Stereogum.)