Let's face it, attending major sporting events aren't only expensive, they can get a tad predictable. Been there, done that, right? Is it really worth leaving the comfort of your leather couch and flat screen to see it in person?
In the case of the following spectacles, however, you may have no choice but to go out and see them in person. (Unless these grainy YouTube videos really do them justice.) Whether they feature superhuman feats of strength, surreal abilities you never knew could be so awe-inspiring or are purely worth it for novel purposes (hey, laughter is good for you), these sports will have you mesmerized. Without further ado, here are eight international sporting events that combine everything from men racing animals to good, old-fashioned dead animal polo.
It certainly is a wide world of sports.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
Long before Jackass made dangerous/idiotic stunts mainstream, there was cheese-rolling—an English tradition that is actually 200 years old. Held annually at Copper’s Hill in the City of Gloucester (on the Spring Bank Holiday), the concept of the event is pretty simple: Participants gather atop the 200-yard slope, where the race is commenced by a Double Gloucester wheel of cheese, fired downhill. The racers (split up into four separate meets of 15 for safety’s sake) then chase down the cheddar, and almost instantly, lose their footing and start tumbling. While the goal is to catch the cheese, it is almost impossible due to its head start and high rate of speed (up to 70 mph), so the first man (or woman) to cross the finish line wins the wheel. Surprising to…nobody, there’s at least a handful of injuries every year. For those not willing to take the risk, there is a cheese-rolling app for the iPhone.
Man vs. Horse Marathon
For years and years, the question of who is the superior marathon runner, “Man or Horse?” went unanswered. It wasn’t until a magical night in 1980, at a pub in a small Welsh town, when a conversation between two drunkards spawned one of the greatest race competitions in modern times. Held annually in Llanwrtyd Wells, dozens of competitors—both homosapien and equestrian—negotiate a 22-mile course of rough terrain. While cyclists are also allowed to participate, the only result that matters in this race (which is technically too short to be a marathon) is whether hoof or foot crosses the finish line first. And in its 32 years of existence, only twice has a human competitor come out victorious (in 2004 and 2007).
Chessboxing World Championship
In a true battle of wits, the worlds of boxing and chess join together to form the only sport where you can draw inspiration from both Muhammad Ali and Bobby Fischer. Originating from the pages of a graphic novel, no less, the hybrid sport (which regularly holds its title bouts in Berlin and London) includes alternating rounds of boxing and chess, in which a match could end either via “knockout” or “checkmate.” With each new blow to the head, the participant must stay mentally focused enough to protect his queen, while also possessing the physical killer instinct necessary to deliver a titanic right hook. If the chess game does not conclude by the final round, and if the boxing rounds are scored equally, the player with black chess pieces is automatically declared winner. Always bet on black, folks.
In something straight out of Borat, Buzkashi is a game similar to polo—minus one polo ball, plus one dead animal carcass. Yes, the object in this one (the national sport of Afghanistan, mind you) is to pick up the ravaged body of a calf or goat, on horseback, and then clear it in the designated scoring area (goal line, target circle or vat). For those who are offended by its brutality, rest assured the animal is dead prior to gameplay, and it is prepared and eaten afterward. As foreign and obscure as the sport may seem (the horses are trained to bite other opponents), Buzkashi has actually made its way to other counties where it’s played in different forms. In China, participants ride on yak-back. And here in the States, the traditional animal carcass has been replaced by a more PETA-friendly sheepskin-covered ball.
Extreme Ironing World Championships
Some call it an extreme sport, while others simply view it as performance art. However you want to classify it, the fact remains that Extreme Ironing (EI) exists. Whether it be on a mountain top, on a racetrack, or underwater, groups of competitors are gathering in the most random of locations, in a unified effort to raise their adrenaline while de-wrinkling clothes. It’s unclear if the sport is actually scored somehow, or if people just gather to set new EI records (i.e., 86 divers simultaneously ironing underwater). Um, yeah. This may just be something you need to see to understand.
World Championship Punkin Chunkin
Pronounced and spelled “punkin chunkin,” the art of professional pumpkin chucking dates back to 1986, when the first World Championship was held in Delaware. Now the official home of the sport, over 100 teams compete annually during Halloween time, using devices from slingshots to catapults to achieve maximum punkin chunkin distance. The event includes multiple divisions ranging in style and difficulty, and even includes a “Youth 10 & Under” group for all those aspiring, future chunkers. While the concept of firing large pumpkins in the vicinity of a large group of people may sound dangerous, there’s only been one fatality since the event’s conception—a duck hit by a pumpkin shot from an air cannon. RIP, feathered friend.
North American Wife Carrying Championships
In honor of Valentines Day, here’s a sporting event that promotes the notion of sticking by your significant other—literally. In this race competition, which originated in Finland, male competitors complete an obstacle course with their female partners hunched over their backs. While several variations are allowed (including piggyback and fireman’s carry) the champion’s method of choice is Estonian-style, in which the woman hangs upside-down, legs around her spouse’s shoulders, arms around the waist. While the event has drawn international popularity (and seriously, why wouldn’t it?), the North American Championships are held every Columbus Day weekend in Maine. If you need to know but one fact about Wife Carrying, here’s this—Dennis Rodman is an active enthusiast.
National Buffalo Wing Festival
Sure, the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest is considered the Super Bowl of competitive eating, but seriously, who really likes hot dogs? For those interested in a festival that embraces a more delicious (and less chemically processed) food of choice, head over to Buffalo, home of the mighty wing, for the annual eating competition and festival. Held on Labor Day weekend, the festival culminates with the IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating) sanctioned Buffalo Wing eating contest. Last year, Sonya Thomas, the Serena Williams of competitive eaters, took down the crown with an epic 183 wings. We’d pay to see that.