6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

It's amazing how crazy people get about sports these days, especially considering how much sports suck compared to what they used to be.

No, we're not talking about the 1940s when football players wore leather helmets. We're talking about the ancient sports where Viking rape was a trophy and "crocodile death" had its own slot on the scoreboard.

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Mesoamerican Ballgame

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

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Long before soccer (and smallpox) took pre-Columbian America by storm, the official sport of Ancient Mexico was an odd game that the Mayans called pitz. Since there is no word in the English language that can do justice to its brutality, we simply call it "The Mesoamerican Ballgame".

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
"I don't know what this game is or why the hell we're playing it."

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The "Game"

Mesoamerican Ballgame was a lot like volleyball, except the ball involved was nine pounds of solid rubber. And there were beheadings.

Players had to keep the heavy bastard in play by bouncing it off their forearms, hips, elbows and (if you're a sissy) bats and rackets. Points were scored by striking the ball against the opponents' wall, while points were lost if the ball hit the ground more than twice.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
Face blocks, while legal, cannot in good conscience be recommended.

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The Mesoamericans included one final draw to wow their crowd. Either team could score an instant win by knocking the ball through an impossibly-high sideways-basketball-hoop (sort of like Quidditch with badass Mexicans).

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
Team Half-Lizard People are so boned.

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How is that "Insane"?

Consider the post-game party: Winners would be whisked off to celebrate with some shapely Mesoamerican ladies with a penchant for body-painting, while the losing team got lead into the back and had their heads chopped off. However, there remains some discrepancy as to who actually got sacrificed: the opposing captain, the opposing players or even the winning team (since they were clearly the greater warriors). Either way, there would be blood.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
"Yes."

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Oh, and all those decapitated heads? Yeah... They used nine-pound balls for a reason: The entire game was just a warm-up for the post-game party favorite, head-ball.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
The back room at Mesoamerican Sports Authority.

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5
Skin-Pulling

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

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Tug-of-war remains one of the most primal sports still played, and here's hoping it makes it into the Olympics someday. You may have tugged a rope over a pond at summer camp, or even over a pile of mud at your sister's wedding, but have you ever considered playing it over a pit of fire? The Vikings did.

The "Game"

Instead of rope, the players used animal-hides. And instead of overweight middle-schoolers in gym class, the players were Vikings.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

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How is that "Insane"?

Considering the Vikings' unhealthy obsession with rape, murder and fire, it was only a matter of time before somebody mixed all three into one fucked up triathlon. The result: A version of tug-of-war played over a fiery pit for the spoils of the town they had just ransacked, which included exclusive rape-rights to all the women. The winners got the plunder, and the losers got burned to death.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
"They also get a copy of our home game!"

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Venatio

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

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Imagine that you're in Rome in 54 A.D. You were once a warrior of Noricum, but now you are a slave forced to perform before a crowd of screaming sociopaths who condescendingly refer to you only as bestiarius because you have been chosen (forced) to play venatio, "the Hunt."

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
Anyone named "Bestiarius" looks like this. It's a scientific fact.

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The "Game"

In Venatio, you and your teammates must face a monster known as "the Beast of Carthage," which in modern English translates to 20 goddamn elephants.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
Pictured: 20 goddamn elephants.

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How is that "Insane"?

Well, in addition to having to fight a bunch of fucking elephants suffering from extreme separation anxiety, every slave knew it was the deadliest gladiatorial game with maybe a two percent chance of survival. The Romans, fueled by their hatred of Hannibal, played this game so frequently that they drove the North African elephant to extinction.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
"Bring me more elephants! I have some friends coming over to play Venatio."

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Pankration

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

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While the Ancient Greeks are often credited with inventing Western Civilization, they were also responsible for a brutal sport called Pankration, which was basically the first mixed-martial art and was totally not gay.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
As you can see, there is absolutely nothing gay about Pankration.

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The "Game"

Pankration was a lot like modern MMA, except there were no rules, no rounds, no rests and--in an interesting twist on Mortal Kombat--killing your opponent resulted in an instant loss.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
Congratulations on the victory, Jax.

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How is that "Insane"?

The idea was to get as close as you could to killing a guy without actually killing him, using an arsenal of strikes, takedowns, grapples, chokeholds, hyperextensions and movies starring Nia Vardalos.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

However, if the person you were fighting died, it meant he had bigger balls than you because he refused to quit. Also, in the true spirit of Ancient Greece, both you and your opponent were naked, which presumably led to some unfortunate submission techniques.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
"Wait, what are you... SWEET JESUS, I SUBMIT! I SUBMIT!"

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The Fisherman's Joust

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

Imagine if the final scene in Jaws was instead fought between two Robert Shaws piloting two Orcas made entirely out of papyrus in Crocodile-infested waters in front of the mayor of Amity, if the mayor of Amity was a pharaoh and therefore presumed to be the bridge between the god Osiris and human beings. That's kind of what this game was like.

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The "Game"

Eight guys would hop inside their fishing boats, row out into the Nile, and then use their oars to beat the ever-loving shit out of each other like American Gladiators. If you died, you lost.

How is that "Insane"?

Well, for several reasons... One, the hippopotamus, which as we mentioned earlier, is not too friendly to begin with, let alone when you're making a shit ton of noise beating on each other with big wooden paddles.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
These guys aren't even jousting.

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Also, there's blood. LOTS of blood, only this time it's attracting crocodiles. Since these were sacred animals in Ancient Egypt, you'd be better off just letting them eat you, because even if you managed to repel the bastards with your oar, you'd probably get bludgeoned to death by high priests once you swam your inglorious ass ashore.

Oh, and as a bonus, most of the ladies in attendance sported the latest women's fashions, which included transparent clothes and full bikini-waxes. So not only did Ancient Egypt boast one of the most brutal sports known to man, they also fielded some of the hottest cheerleaders in history.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
We'd get eaten by the crocodiles if this was happening on the sidelines.

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Naumachia

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World

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Remember that game Battleship? It's not exactly the kind of game you can fill a stadium with, let alone a lunch-table. The Romans were well aware of this, which is why they designed their Battleship to draw a crowd. When they played it, they used REAL ships.

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The "Game"

Pretty straight-forward, really... they would fill an amphitheater with water, throw in some ships and watch them duke it out like a WWII documentary. The Romans called it naumachia, which translates into "naval warfare," and the battles were typically selected from some of the most famous engagements in history. Participants numbered into the thousands, nearly as large as the real battles themselves. That would be like watching Pearl Harbor without the CGI.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
Somewhere down there, Ben Affleck is playing a guy named "Rafe."

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How is that "Insane"?

Unlike battlefields, there is nothing to absorb blood on the deck of a ship. It just builds up until it spills overboard. As if watching the team you bet on literally sink right in front of you would not have been bad enough, it was not out of the ordinary to see many of these men slipping around on their own blood in the process. Finding several thousand willing men to fill these ships wasn't easy, so many of them were likely slaves dying for people's entertainment.

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Naval warfare in Ancient Rome also featured a lot of flamethrowers armed with a type of napalm called Greek Fire, which combusted the instant it contacted oxygen. So, with the waters red with blood and thick with bloated corpses, you were also likely to see a few thousand would-be sailors get burned alive as well.

6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World
The guy with the flamethrower isn't even paying attention.

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For more sports insanity, check out The 8 Most Baffling "Sports" From Around The World and The 10 Most Insane "Sports" in the World.

And stop by our Top Picks to see Brockway and Gladstone play skin-pulling (not the ancient Viking game).

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