Where: The Basque region of Spain and France.
What is it?
A game played in an open-walled arena where a rock-hard ball is hurled against the wall at speeds in excess of 180 miles an hour. Jai-Alai is a game the Basque call 'the fastest sport on Earth' because they apparently have never heard of Formula One.
The game is played like squash, but a version of squash that could only have been dreamt up by sun-damaged Spaniards. Players sling the ball at a wall using a specially designed wicker cesta basket with a curved glove attached, approximately 25-inches long. On the rebound, a player from the opposing team catches the ball in his scooped racquet before flinging it back at the wall.
If the ball is dropped, missed or flung out of bounds, or if a player drops his bat and squeals in terror when the ball flashes past his head, then a point is conceded.
The first recorded history of Jai-Alai was the building of an indoor arena in 1798 in Spain, and the game spread to Spain' Central-American and Caribbean colonies throughout the 1800s. It was briefly popular in some parts of the USA in the '70s, but it' popularity has waned as athletes found other activities more rewarding than trying to dodge a ball moving fast enough to castrate them on impact.
A Jai-Alai ball (called a Pelota) can only be used for about 15 minutes before the repeated impacts have torn the skin off it.
#4. Chess Boxing
What is it?
Pretty much what the name implies. It' a hybrid sport combining chess and boxing, one that the organizers claim is the ultimate test of brains and brawn. Competitors play a round of chess and then box the living crap out of each other.
The game is split into 11 four-minute alternating rounds of chess and boxing, starting and ending with the chess. At the end of the chess round, the board is removed from the boxing ring and the competitors then beat the piss out of each other for a further four minutes. Then the board is replaced and the thinking caps come back out. Winning comes either from a checkmate or a knockout.
You immediately see the flaw in the rules: A good boxer can simply sleepwalk through the opening chess round, then beat his opponent unconscious once the boxing starts. In other words, it's possible to win without knowing anything at all about chess.
The game in it's current format came from the mind of Serbian cartoonist Enki Bilal, who penned a graphic novel featuring the game in 1992, but purists argue that the game was originally conceived in the 1991 Finnish film Uuno Turhapuro, herra Helsingin herra, in which a man makes chess moves over a hands-free telephone headset while simultaneously beating the shit out of another man. This makes one wonder why they don't do actual chess boxing that way, but who are we to tell them how to do their jobs.
Chess boxing was the inspiration for The Wu-Tang Clan song "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" from their debut album, a fact made very evident by the lyric "Steamrollin niggaz like a 18-wheeler/with the drunk driver drivin, there's no survivin'."
#3. World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships
Where: A putrid bog in Wales.
What is it?
A bizarre aquatic race whereby someone in full wetsuit and snorkel pedals an expensive mountain bike into a filthy bog just outside the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells (pronounced like the sound of a slop bucket hitting the floor) for reasons science isn't fully equipped to explain.
Entrants are timed as they cycle two lengths of the Waen Rhydd bog, which is 6-feet deep and 45-feet long, on a bicycle with a frame filled with lead. Toppling off your bike isn't penalized, and neither is vomiting from the fetid stench.
The sport draws competitors to Llanwrytd Wells from all over the world, but we think that may be because the Welsh citizenry mistakenly think every traveler with a chesty cough is asking directions to the town.
The sport began in 2000 and was developed from the similar, non-bike-related Bog Snorkelling Championships. Both were the brainchild of a local pub landlord, who dreamt it up after drinking a lot of booze.
As well as hosting the Annual Bog Snorkelling Championships and the Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships, there is also a Triathlon Bog Snorkelling Championships, the latest in the town's attempt to milk the bog snorkelling thing for all it' worth.
What is it?
An Indian team game, Kabaddi calls itself a cross between tag and wrestling. Some wrestling fans will call this false advertising, because it doesn't feature anyone receiving the People's Elbow nor do female teams compete in a bra and panties match. Though it does feature lots of sweating men in underwear, so there are some similarities.
Two teams of 12 (seven playing, five in reserve) face each other on a court just over half the size of a basketball court. One team sends a raider into the opponents territory, who must not draw breath whilst he is there (laws dictate the raider must constantly chant 'Kabaddi,' thus eliminating any "hey, I saw you breathe!", "No, my mouth is closed!", "You breathed through your nose, I saw you!" arguments).
The raider' job is to 'tag' his opponents and get out without being caught. Tagged opponents are out, but if the raider is wrestled to the ground until he draws breath, then he is out the game. Traditional garb for teams is socks and boxer shorts, or sometimes briefs.
No one quite knows when Kabaddi started, though Indians claim they have concrete evidence the game was played 4,000 years ago, presumably in the form of primitive drawings of men chasing each other in their underpants.
In 1975, a renowned Kabaddi player toured Japan to introduce the sport, and the Japanese, having decided the sport is just ridiculous enough for their culture, have been playing ever since.
#1. Royal Shrovetide Football
Where: The small village of Ashbourne, England.
What is it?
Two soccer matches are held every year at the beginning of Lent in Ashbourne, with teams consisting of almost every single man, woman and child in the village--and some tourists--all playing at the same time.
Like all the best sports, Royal Shrovetide Football doesn't concern itself with rules Ã¢â‚¬" indeed, the only official regulation seems to be "no murder." The game begins at 2 p.m., when a local dignitary tosses a ball into a swirling mass of hundreds of terrifyingly large men and screaming women and children. The mobs then try and move the ball toward their goal areas. Essentially, it' a rolling, 8-hour fist fight between the Up'Ards and Down'Ards (people born north or south of the town river).
The 'pitch' is the entire town and the goal posts are the sites of old mills, three miles apart and a goal is scored by someone banging the ball against a post three times. Though called football, the ball can be kicked or thrown, and possession can, and does, change hands by the virtue of simple, honest violence.
Because a fire destroyed the records in the 1890s, no one knows when the sport began, though some insist it was played as early as the 1300s, and that in the original games the ball was a severed head, tossed to the baying crowd following a public execution.
Men from the Ashbourne Regiment played the game in the trenches of World War I until other regiments complained that the violence was too unsettling.
Find out about eight just-as-bizarre sports in THE SEQUEL! Holy Shit!