If a species is only as smart as its dumbest pastime, then as human beings, we should probably be worried. In 2012, we exist in a luminous heyday where there is a University league or an amateur enthusiasts’ club for every ridiculous or far-fetched so-called “sport” ever dreamt of. Nevertheless, there are some sports just so obscure and pointless that they couldn’t help but end up on the scrapheap of cultural curiosity. For instance, the Olympics didn’t always used to be the big-name-brand-endorsed hotbed of glamorised physical prowess that it is today. Since the inception of the modern Olympics in 1896, lesser-known events have included:
COMPETITIVE HOT AIR BALLOONING?
About as thrilling, we imagine, as watching a large balloon full of heated air drift placidly across the sky.
Not really as exciting as it sounds, as the competitors weren’t “duelling” so much as they were shooting muskets at mannequins dressed in frilly overcoats.
LIVE PIGEON SHOOTING?
Also not as exciting as it sounds, once you consider that some poor chump was left with the job of mopping up more than 300 dead pigeon carcasses.
What’s the one thing that makes a friendly Sunday arvo game of tug-of-war suddenly not fun? It’s when that one guy in the jersey takes it way, way too seriously, like he’s going to win a prize at the end of it or something. Now imagine two entire teams full of guys exactly like that guy, who have been training for four years just for this one game, who might actually be winning a medal made from solid gold at the end of it.
Suspiciously similar to its American cousin, the main differences being that a) the ball is pitched vertically, and b) it’s really not very popular outside of Finland.
SOLO SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING
No, you read that correctly. At the 1984 Olympic Games, rather than synchronising with a flock of fellow swimmer-ballerinas, Solo Synchronised Swimmers had to synchronise only with the music. Because I guess they realised no-one was taking the sport seriously, and they thought this might help…?
In Paris in 1900, Avril Lafoule from Auvergne, France, successfully clipped 17 poodles in 2 hours, and took home the gold. Just for the record, there’s a ton of things I can do 17 times in 2 hours, but I’m not getting any medals for any of them.
So I think it’s pretty safe to say that the world is better off without these ex-Olympic eyesores, but when the IOC closes a door, they inevitably must open a window. As we move on from these slightly more bizarre sporting pastimes, there will surely be a fresh and equally-quirky batch of new ones stepping up to take their place. For starters, I would be pretty freaking thrilled to try:
Pioneered by Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shephard in 1971, who had a cheeky tee-off on the lunar surface when he thought no-one was looking. And now that you mention it:
PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING IN LOW OR ANTI-GRAVITY
Anti-Gravity Soccer. Anti-Gravity Tennis. Anti-Gravity Gymnastics. What it means is that all those silly athletes who have spent their whole lives training to defy the laws of physics will be back at square one with the rest of us plebs. Anti-Gravity high-five!
Last October, Red Bull put a crazy Austrian fellow in a space suit, flew him to the outer reaches of the atmosphere, then told him to jump. Best YouTube stream EVER. Might this signal the beginning of an influx of galactic extreme sports? Space Bungee? Shuttle Racing? Light-speed Zorbing? Me, I’m not that much of a daredevil, so I’ll be sticking to moon golf, but you guys have fun.
A pox upon Back to the Future, and a pox upon Robert Zemeckis, his screenwriters and prop-builders for getting us so excited about the possibility of hover boards existing by the year 2015. But then again, it’s always nice to know that there are some people in the world with so much time, talent, and money on their hands that they choose to take on the fancies of science fiction cinema as personal challenges. Like this guy:
I’ll take two please.
All of this sounds pretty cool, sure, but for every planet-hopping, anti-gravity, family-friendly fun-fest, there’s more than likely to be a darker side to the future of competitive sport:
Made famous by the 1975 film with James Caan, and then not made famous by the 2002 remake with the guy from American Pie, Rollerball is a fictional future grudge-sport, something like a cross between roller derby, ice-hockey, and motorbike stunt-rallies. Also the ball has metal spikes on it. Those people from the future are crazy!
Like in that 1989 film, Robot Jox! No? Alright, then… like the TV show Robot Wars! But instead of a vacuum cleaner with a pair of pliers and a hair straightener glued on to it, imagine a multi-million-dollar cybernetic killing machine, programmed for TOTAL ANNIHILATION… with an even BIGGER pair of pliers, and maybe a meat cleaver glued on to it instead.
I’m sure in high school we all became aware of the time-honoured equation: (anything exciting) + fire = (anything exciting) 2 . As far as the internet can tell me, “fireball” is basically any existing ball sport where the ball has been set on fire, eg. volley fireball, fire-minton, or ten-pin firebowling. Ooh, Finnish Fireball! We must tell Finland!
WIDELY-TELECAST HUMAN-ON-HUMAN DEATH-MATCHES
Whether it’s a class full of Japanese high school students in Battle Royale, a bunch of hardcore prison inmates in The Condemned, or the juvenile representatives of a district of weird-future-America in The Hunger Games, it’s pretty much inevitable that the future of sport and televised entertainment as we know it will be humans watching humans kill other humans. And to be perfectly honest, if one day the Big Brother housemates were handed a crate full of semiautomatic weapons instead of a bag of tanning lotion and piña colada pre-mix, I would probably tune in. Or at least TiVo it.