When people get bored of a regular sport, they invent a crazier version -- that's why, as we've previously told you about, there are now versions of volleyball that are played by jumping on trampolines or through flying spin kicks. But what happens when we get bored of sports that are already crazy to begin with? To what deranged depths will man sink due to his need to be the best at something, even if it's completely pointless and insane, before he says, "OK, that's enough"?
All we know is that we haven't found that line yet, judging by the existence of ...
#6. Underwater Upside-Down Hockey
Nope, that's not a picture of two scuba divers playing normal hockey that we turned upside-down -- it's from a real sport called underwater ice hockey. The players are each trying to swat that floating puck into the other's goal under a frozen sheet of ice, and if you're wondering why you can't see their oxygen tanks, don't worry: That's simply because they don't have any. Seriously, here's a video of it:
The game is played one-on-one in 10-minute intervals, with breaks every 30 seconds allowing the players to swim up to the tiny hole cut into the ice through which they breathe. That's provided they can get there -- it turns out that holding their breath and trying to play hockey upside-down has a tendency to disorient the players, who can lose track of where the air hole is and sometimes pass out.
Still slightly safer than normal hockey.
Even if they know where the hole is, sometimes the players build up so much CO2 in their bodies from just moving around that they pass out anyway, and then it's up to the underwater referees (who do carry oxygen tanks) to save them. The sport isn't so thrilling for the spectators, though, who sit on the surface watching the action via a regular-sized TV monitor and occasionally seeing the players come up for air.
They go anyway because it's the only TV in town.
Despite its unusual combination of balletic and potentially deadly action, eight countries currently compete in this sport annually -- pretty much all of the frozen ones. Because cold weather does weird things to your brain.
#5. Robot Camel Racing
Yes, the riders are robots, not the camels. Sorry if you got your hopes up.
Regular camel racing is a thousand-year-old tradition that combines the high-stakes betting, excitement and potential danger of horse racing with the gleeful silliness of watching a camel do anything. The only problem was that, traditionally, the jockeys riding those camels had been child slaves, as young as 4 years old, trafficked from places like Bangladesh and Sudan exclusively to take part in the sport. So there's that.
For thriving Arab nations like Qatar, this was becoming a PR nightmare when dealing with Western countries where strapping a baby to a large humped animal for your amusement is frowned upon. On the other hand, they couldn't just stop racing camels, because it's way too much fun. The solution? Robots.
For authenticity's sake, the robots are programmed with the memories of an enslaved child.
Qatar hired a Swiss robotics company to build them their robot camel jockeys. These chubby, adorable little guys are operated by joystick, using the right hand to crack their tiny whips and the left to pull on the reins; they also monitor the camel's heart rate and have a built-in GPS. In case you've never met a 4-year-old, they can only do like half of those things.
These guys are being introduced in the United Arab Emirates as well, and are now by law the only jockeys allowed in Qatar -- yes, that means they've passed legislation involving the words "robot camel jockey."
We prefer the phrase "semi-autonomous ungulate pilot."
However, the introduction of the robot jockeys presented a whole new series of problems: The camels would not accept their android masters unless they had some semblance of skin and facial features (which is presumably why those aren't all tiny R2-D2s), and Islam regards images of humans to be idolatry, so they had to try to hit the sweet spot between faceless, camel-scaring androids and taboo graven images.
"Onward! To the Uncanny Valley!"
Of course, we get the feeling that the sport won't really catch on worldwide until some animal rights organization gets them to start using the aforementioned robot camels as well. Until then, we'll be here, waiting.
#4. Competitive Stinging Nettle Eating
Competitive eating may have started out as a wacky county-fair attraction, but it's an established sport by now. As we've pointed out before, they have an international federation, and people can even make a living out of it. Besides, with the First World getting fatter every year, eating 20 hot dogs in one sitting isn't an impressive feat anymore; it's a Thursday night. But like in every sport, there are hardcore practitioners out there who find ways to make it more dangerous -- in this case, by eating something expressly designed not to go into your mouth. Like poisonous, stinging nettles.
They originally tried to use bees, but, you know, PETA.
Every summer, people gather in the English county of Dorset to choke down these spiky, acid-filled plants in order to earn the coveted prize of ... 100 pounds and a small trophy? Seriously? Not even a lifetime supply of nettles?
The sport was created in 1986, when two farmers drinking in a pub started arguing about who had the worst infestation of nettles (the same way that every other sport worth a damn was created). At some point, they made a bet that they would eat any of each other's nettles that were longer than their own. Naturally, when word of this got out, the entire town wanted to get in on the action, and do so every single year.
Just to be clear, stinging nettles are covered in microscopic hypodermic needles filled with boric acid. If those needles break, like when the stalk has been grabbed (or when it's been shoved into some dumbass's mouth), the acid burns your skin. Also, they taste like rancid spinach, bitter lettuce or garbage juice, depending on who you ask, but it's mainly the "there's acid burning your mouth from the inside" part that concerns us.
"Aww, is the acid hurting your stupid baby mouth?"
Contestants are given a pile of 2-foot-long nettle stalks and have to eat as many as they can in one hour without puking, spitting or excessive drooling. That last rule isn't for etiquette's sake, either -- your jaw tends to go numb in the process, and slobbering out too much nettle juice is considered cheating.
On the upside, afterward you can release poisonous fart-darts.