We freely admit in Team Sport at Bloomsbury that we’ve published a fair few books on a plethora of sports from around the world, and there’s plenty more in the offing. But we got a-thinking about what weird and wacky sports there were out there. We may not be planning to publish books about them, but here’s our resident satirical sports-writer, Jonathan Eyers with a list of his top 10 weird ‘sports’.
(And click on the images if you want to see some of these crazy sports in action.)
10. Cup stacking
Almost exclusively a pastime of preteen Americans, this ‘sport’ involves laying out rows of plastic cups, stacking more rows on top of them, and then dismantling the stacks again – all as quickly and as accurately as possible. Penalties for knocking over your stack include death (not really). Clearly America will make a competition out of anything, including preparing their kids for careers in the service industry. Incidentally, competitive eating (surely also the sole preserve of Americans) would be at number 11 on this list.
9. Birdman rallies
They might call these eccentric/embarrassing (delete as appropriate) spectacles Flugtags now to try and convince the world they are a German invention, but the first birdman rally was held in Britain in 1971. Actually, it’s not hard to imagine the grey-faced, red-flared, Seventies breed of Brit showing up to watch someone throw themselves off the pier, given the mass unemployment, three-day week, power outages and regular strikes. As with everything else, some people take it all far too seriously, and the most hardcore of enthusiasts can reach over 100ft in their human-powered craft. Points are won both for distance and entertainment value. A bit like boxing.
Kabaddi is the Tamil word for ‘holding hands’, but the key thing about this 4,000-year-old sport from the Indian subcontinent is actually holding your breath. Described by some as a bizarre mix of wrestling and rugby (without a ball), it sounds more like one of those games we played as kids that involved charging at each other. Two teams of seven take turns to be on the offensive and defensive. Each controls half the court. The team on the offensive sends a raider onto the other side of the court to knock out (not literally) as many opponents as he can. The catch is that the raider must hold his breath until he is back on his own side, and the defenders will be doing everything they can to stop him getting there before he runs out of air.
This bizarre sport originated in Finland, which holds the international championships every year. Male competitors must carry their wives over a 253.5m obstacle course, and the winning couple is the one that finishes it in the fastest time. Fortunately for those husbands whose wives are not enthusiastic about being heaved through the mandatory pool of water, it doesn’t have to be your own wife. However, she must weigh at least 49kg, or she has to wear a rucksack for added weight. Wives can be carried piggyback, over the shoulder or ‘Estonian style’ – the wife hangs upside down with her legs over her husband’s shoulders whilst she holds onto his waist. All other sports could learn one thing from wife-carrying – the official rules require all competitors to enjoy themselves.
6. Ferret legging
Another product of the Seventies (remember, they didn’t have the internet and there were only three TV channels back then), this endurance sport came from Yorkshire, where it was popular with coal miners. Its popularity has waned in recent years, perhaps because it’s considered slightly cruel to trap two live ferrets down an old bumpkin’s trousers for five and a half hours (the world record). Winning at ferret-legging simply entails not letting the things out before any of your fellow competitors. The former world champion used to wear white trousers to better show off all the blood that the biting, scratching beasts extracted from his legs and… other places. They sure don’t breed ’em like that down here in’t south.