The average sports fan sees organized sports in three tiers. The top tier includes all the sports you might expect — football, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, etc. Pretty much anything that regularly draws thousands to a game and millions to the TV would qualify.
The second tier features sports you’ve heard of, and maybe watched. They occasionally even draw significant interest, though they ultimately stay below the radar. The Olympics are filled with these sports. Lacrosse, mixed martial arts and bull riding also qualify.
Then there are the sports you didn’t know were actual sports.
The third tier includes all manner of craziness, because people apparently have lots of imagination and even more free time. Some are actual games that someone somewhere decided to organize into a sport. Some are variations on a more popular sport. And some are, well… who knows what they are? And people compete at this stuff.
Here are eight sports you didn’t know were sports:
1. Beer Pong
If you’ve attended a party where beer was served, you’ve probably seen a game of beer pong. The concept is simple enough. Each team has half-full beer cups arranged in a triangle. A player attempts to bounce a ping-pong ball across a table and land it in one of the opposing team’s cups. Beer pong has evolved from campus party game to organized sport. Tournaments with large cash prizes attract players from all over the world. Local and regional leagues are also thriving. Alcoholics Anonymous is looking into becoming a sponsor.
2. Trampoline Dodgeball
As Patches O’Houlihan so eloquently put it, “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” But the dodgeball great never had to play the game on a trampoline with bouncy walls. The rules for trampoline dodgeball are basically the same as for the original. However players can jump much higher and much further than they otherwise could. The trampoline is, quite literally, a game changer.
3. Competitive Eating
We’ve all bellied up to the all-you-can-eat buffet, bypassing the salad bar to engorge on shrimp and prime rib. Maybe you even left behind a stack of plates. This is the sport for those select few who eat so much that the restaurant throws them out. Competitive eating requires consuming a very large quantity of a particular food in a very short time without a “reversal of fortune.” For a little perspective, top-ranked eater Joey Chestnut once ate 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the sport’s marquee event. It takes more than a big appetite to be a competitive eater. These athletes train, practice and, believe it or not, watch what they eat.
All sports come with an element of danger, perhaps none more than freediving. There are many variations, but all come down to one thing: holding your breath for an absurd amount of time. One of the world record holders has surpassed the 10-minute mark. The risks, without proper training (and even with it), include passing out, brain damage and death. All sanctioned competitors are monitored by a buddy, though that might not be enough. Nicholas Mevoli of Brooklyn, N.Y. died after a competition in 2013.
What if we picked two completely unrelated sports and combined them. Say… chess and, I don’t know, boxing. We’d be late to the party. Chessboxing already exists because, well, I have no idea why this sport exists except maybe to amuse some evil secret overlord. The sport alternates between games of chess and rounds of boxing until a competitor wins by checkmate or knockout. Given all the Rhodes Scholar pugilists and gym rat chess masters, it’s not immediately clear who actually chessboxes. But the sport actually does exist.
Yep, that thing you did in elementary school to the kid who stepped on your new Jordans is actually a sport. Contestants hold each other’s collars and kick each other in the shins until one person falls to the ground in pain. The other person wins. Of all the sports we’ve covered, and all the sports you know, shin-kicking may involve the most strategy, training, athleticism and pure skill. Shin-kicking is so much more than kicking someone in the shin. It’s kicking someone in the shin really hard.
If you can’t win at an existing sport, invent a new one. The English came up with toe-wrestling precisely so they could be champions of something. And bully for them, they are. This sport is essentially arm wrestling or thumb wrestling, but with feet. In a regal display of pageantry, opponents take off each other’s shoes and socks in preparation for competition. Then they lock toes and attempt to pin the other person’s foot. Unlike in shin-kicking, another English export, kicking someone in the shin is not allowed.
Male contestants carry female contestants in a race through an obstacle course and against the clock. The type of carry may vary. Some opt for piggyback, others a fireman’s carry. The couple may even go Estonia-style, in which the woman straddles the man’s head and wraps her arms around his waist from the back. (Supply your own joke here, because I enjoy having a job.) At the world championships, the winners are awarded the wife’s weight in beer. Future champions may also receive their own reality show, depending on how quickly the world runs out of slightly less ridiculous themes.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.