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Really Stupid Games and Sports

I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

An argument can be made that most sports contain elements of stupidity, what with helmeted men crashing into each other causing concussions and brain damage, or the gross insult to the environment caused by cars racing around a track, or the terminal boredom of sitting through a five-day cricket match.

However, a special kind of craziness seems to overcome some people in organizing sports that are truly bizarre.

Play what?

Play what?

The Eton Wall Game

There is only one field of play in the world for this extravaganza and that's England elite Eton College. The pitch, which runs alongside a brick wall, is five metres wide and 110 metres long. There are two teams, the Collegers and the Oppidans, and they play a key match every year on St. Andrew's Day (November 30).

Both teams form a rugby-style scrum, called a bully, up against the wall with the aim of moving a ball slightly smaller than a soccer ball into the opposition's end of the pitch. Players are allowed to push their fists into an opponent's face, but punching is not allowed. The ball cannot be heeled back from the bully; that's called a “furk,” that is correct, a furk, and it's a no-no.

The festivities begin with a bully and don't progress much from there.

The festivities begin with a bully and don't progress much from there.

The aim is to move the bully, crab-like, along the wall towards the other team's end leaving bits of skin on the brickwork along the way. A few yards from the end of the pitch is an area called the “calx,” and here the rules change. If someone can raise the ball up the wall with his foot and other team member touches it with his hand and shouts “Got it” they qualify for a shot at goal.

Have you followed this so far? Me neither, and I wrote it.

At one end, the goal is a garden door, at the other it's a tree. The excitement builds. Will this be the year a goal is scored? That's unlikely. The last time a goal was scored in the St. Andrew's Day Classic was 1909. After about 60 minutes of pushing and shoving, the game usually ends in a 0-0 tie.

Playing with Bulls

Most of us have heard about running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It's when people spend a night drinking before stepping out into the bright early morning to run through narrow streets along with half a dozen wild, fighting bulls. Every year, up to 100 people are injured and, since they started taking notice of fatalities in 1910, 15 runners have been killed.

Informal bullfights take place in streets in Spain, the Azores, and other places. Young men, perhaps with images of being a matador in their immature brains, try to make passes with T-shirts or jackets. Such antics frequently end badly and not for the bulls, which learn quickly they are not dealing with professionals.

However, there are plenty of other ways in which people, almost always men, can risk life and limb by playing with bulls.

In Portugal, a team of eight lines up in front of the bull and the front man incites the animal to charge. At the moment of impact, the front man grabs the bull's head and is lifted between the horns, which are padded.

The rest of the team, called forcados, then wrestle with the bull so the front man can dismount. So, why would someone stand still and take 500 kilos of charging and decidedly grumpy beef in the chest? It seems to be a guy thing and everybody has a jolly time, with the possible exception of the front man.

The front man catches his bull. Carry on lad, it's only pain.

The front man catches his bull. Carry on lad, it's only pain.

In France, they try to keep physical contact with horns and hoofs to a minimum in an amusement called La Course Camarguaise. About a dozen nimble-footed men are in the arena when the bull is turned loose. Ribbons have been fixed to its horns close to the head and the goal for the men is to snag them using a small hook, without getting skewered.

Not as nimble as the French bullfighters are teams of men on hands and knees. This is based on the principle that a bull does not feel threatened by objects close to the ground and, therefore, doesn't charge. The aim of each team is to crawl out to a pylon and back to the start line without being gored. When the bull is looking away the men crawl furiously, and when he looks in their direction, the men hug the ground. (See the video below).

Havoc on the Race Track

At the highest levels of motor sport there aren't nearly enough crashes to satisfy the tastes of many fans, so enter “Banger Racing.” It's popular in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Take about 20 junky old vehicles and have them “race” around an oval track.

Some of the competitors actually try to win by finishing first, for others, the goal is to wreck opponents. It seems the wreckers are more popular with fans, so we clearly understand what we are dealing with here. When cars collide they simply pile up and, as long as the track is not completely blocked, the racing continues.

Trouble in turn one.

Trouble in turn one.

A variant of this mayhem is figure-8 racing that, as the name implies, involves a cross-over point that greatly expands the possibility of metal getting bent. This usually involves old cars well past their best before date, but some promoters add the extra thrill of having old school buses or cars towing trailers smash into one another.

And then, there's racing in reverse, with predictable outcomes, as seen here in Holland.

What Is it with Finland?

If you think the bottom has been reached in the contest to invent really nutty games then you haven't checked out Finland. For some reason, the people in the land of lakes (190,000 of them) and trees (an estimated 70 billion) are passionate about crazy competitions.

Here's Andrew Keh writing for The New York Times, “More than 2,000 people ventured to the remote backwaters of central Finland recently for the 20th annual Swamp Soccer World Championships. If you and your spouse want to compete in the Wife Carrying World Championships, you must come to Finland. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships? Finland. The World Berry Picking Championship and the Air Guitar World Championships? Finland and Finland.”

In addition, there's a mosquito squashing contest, competitive hobby horse riding, milk stool throwing, and naked ant-nest sitting.

The best is left to the last, so we have the World Farting Championship held in Utajärvi, Finland, an event, which, like so many really stupid games and sports seems to occur at the intersection of high testosterone and low IQ.

Extreme ironing is an alleged sport in which competitors take ironing boards to dangerous locations to iron clothes.

Extreme ironing is an alleged sport in which competitors take ironing boards to dangerous locations to iron clothes.

Bonus Factoids

  • The Redneck Games, billed as “more fun than indoor plumbing” were first held in East Dublin, Georgia in 1996. Some of the events included toilet seat throwing, watermelon seed spitting, bobbing for pig's feet, mud pit belly flopping, and armpit serenading.
  • In Italy, teams of 27 each play a game vaguely similar to American football, but without padding or rules banning punching or kicking an opponent. Calcio Storico, as it's called, is fundamentally a brawl on sand.
  • Meanwhile, back in Finland, there's Kaljakellunta. It has no organizing body, no planned schedule, and no sponsors. All that's required is that a group of like-minded folk gather at the Kerava/Vantaa River, inflate a dingy, large rubber duck, or raft, and float gently down the stream while drinking beer.

Sources

  • “Eton Wall Game.” avaxnews, September 22, 2011.
  • “Bullfighting in Portugal.” Ellis Dixon, Atlas Lisboa, January 28, 2020.
  • “Banger Racing.” topendsports.com, undated.
  • “Finland Has a Sports Screw Loose.” Andrew Keh, New York Times, July 27, 2017.
  • “9 Unique/Unusual Sports that Are Popular in Finland.” Jessica Wood, theculturetrip.com, May 16, 2018.
  • “Fans Can’t Get Enough of these Strange Sports.” Danielle Mauldin, tiebreaker.com, March 20, 2018.

© 2021 Rupert Taylor

Comments

Joanne Hayle from Wiltshire, U.K. on September 20, 2021:

We live in a crazy world! Another great write.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 19, 2021:

Yes indeed, I shall remember that!

Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on September 19, 2021:

Very wise to keep clear of airborne plumbing. Remember, one of the murder weapons on offer in the game "Clue" is a lead pipe.

Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on September 19, 2021:

I think the majority of prizes are just bragging rights, with perhaps a side bonus of not getting killed.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 19, 2021:

I haven't seen toilet seat throwing contests, but I was present as a frustrated wannabe plumber friend threw an entire toilet a few feet past his wife's head in their backyard one afternoon. I try to stay away from thrown plumbing now.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 19, 2021:

What some people will do for entertainment, right?

The bull players really do have a death wish, in my humble opinion.

And the car crashes? Well, I have some close friends who are avid NASCAR fans. Seems the races aren't exciting (round and round and round they go - I don't get the intrigue) until there's a crash. Frankly, I don't find that entertaining. Now funny car races, that's a different story. Show me who can reach the straight-ahead finish line first and I'll pay attention.

You never fail to entertain, enlighten, or education, Rupert. I always look forward to your posts.

BTW, what are the prizes for winners in all of the bizarre games/sports you feature in this article?

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