The 5 Most Epic Battles of Will That Would Not End
A battle between two evenly matched and determined opponents is the kind of stuff that makes history ... when somebody actually wins. But sometimes the opponents are too evenly matched, and the fight goes on, and on, and on, until everybody just wishes it would freaking end already. Kind of like that tennis match last year that lasted 11 hours.
So let's salute the athletes, politicians and warriors who kept up the fight long after a reasonable person would have said, "Fine, you win."
The Real-Life Rocky vs. Apollo, But Bare-Knuckled and Drunker
Imagine a boxing match like the one in Rocky -- 15 rounds of two men beating the shit out of each other until they can barely stand. Now imagine two guys doing that five consecutive times without stopping. Oh, and one of them is drunk the entire time. That was the absolutely insane 1889 bout between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.
Though formal championships didn't exist outside the world of hoop rolling in those days, John L. Sullivan was nationally recognized as the king of the boxing world. At a time when the sport was so raw they could have called it "murder-hits'' and nobody would have blinked, Sullivan was the best. And leave it to the Gilded Age to somehow translate his fame into a mustache so powerful it actually started over at the eyebrows:
We can't help thinking he means that literally. It's in his eyes.
As insanely masculine as Sullivan was, he was also insanely addicted to alcohol. So when a relatively young and fit family man named Jake Kilrain challenged Sullivan to an illegal match for a $20,000 purse, he did what any man with a mustache like that would do: he continued binge drinking. And this was while battling a host of ailments that, according to him, included typhoid fever, gastric fever, inflammation of the bowels, heart trouble, liver complaint, an "incipient paralysis," a "mysterious itch" and delusions of phantom rats. So, he was not in fighting shape is what we're saying.
Still, this is the guy who broke his arm in a fight and still managed to make it a draw.
The Sullivan/Kilrain match lasted over two hours and 75 excruciating rounds. Oh, and the fight was outdoors, in July, in Mississippi.
They don't make stenches like that anymore.
It turns out Sullivan was too drunk or too brain damaged to feel pain, even after his face was split and his ear was ripped. The fourth round alone lasted over 15 minutes, and there were still 71 more to go. Thanks to the whiskey Sullivan was swilling in his corner, a 44th round punch caused him to vomit on the ring ... and he kept on fighting.
"They banned Vaseline, but the rules don't say nothin' about vomit."
By round 75, both men were sporting sunburn blisters on their backs, Sullivan's eye was swollen shut and neither man could hardly stand. Yet it was Kilrain's team that threw in the towel, not because Kilrain wanted to quit, but because his coach was pretty sure he'd die if he continued.
The Ping-Pong Match That Resembled Trench Warfare
One thing common to every game is that there is always someone who finds a way to completely suck the fun out of it. These are the people who want to win by virtue of making the game boring. In multiplayer FPS games it's the "campers," and in Ping-Pong/table tennis, it's the "chiselers."
Unlike campers, though, you can't sneak behind them and deliver a merciful bullet to the head.
Chiselers play defensive only, keeping the back-and-forth going forever and ever, "chiseling" at the stamina and the mind of an opponent until one or the other breaks. It's sort of like Chinese water torture, but the droplets of water hitting your forehead are Ping-Pong balls, and the insanity you're experiencing is the game.
Table tennis champions Alex Ehrlich and Paneth Farcas were really, really good at chiseling. Want to guess what happened when the two played each other?
We do know that a civilization was formed during the match with a curious hatred of metronomes.
A living Hell, that's what. At the 1936 World Games, Ehrlich and Farcas commenced to show the world exactly how mind-numbingly torturous table tennis could be.
This isn't a recent photo. This was taken straight after the match.
Twelve thousand hits. That's how many times the ball crossed the table before either one of them scored a point. After more than an hour and a half, an umpire had to be replaced because his neck literally stopped working. Ehrlich was playing a game so monotonous that he called out chess moves to a nearby table as he played. The committee in charge of the match finally asked if the players would consider making it a five-point game.
"One of the ladies has gone into labor. She claims she wasn't even pregnant at the start of the match."
But then Ehrlich suddenly altered his return of the ball, and Farcas' arm had grown too stiff to counter differently. After two hours, the first point was scored. After another quick point, Farcas went apeshit and ran screaming from the room. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Ping-Pong games are restricted to 10-minute matches to this day.
Ehrlich was later saved from the gas chamber in Auschwitz because of his Ping-Pong skills.
Of course, we now realize we compared the stalemate match to "trench warfare," but nothing compares to the real thing. Just look at ...
The World War I Battle That Lasted 10 Months
They don't make wars like World War I any more. World War II gets all the movies and video games, but the world will never see that combination of massive scale and primitive tactics again. And thank God. It brings to mind images of hundreds of thousands of dudes in muddy ditches, gaining ground inches at a time across piles of corpses.
90 percent of war is looking into the camera stoically and writing groundbreaking poetry.
It may be that no one battle in the history of warfare embodies the "Well, we'll all just stand here until every single person is dead!" strategy like the Battle of Verdun. Two sides firing more than 100,000 artillery shells a day, every day, for most of a year.
In 1916, the German invasion of France had bogged down into the kind of horrific stalemate that only trench warfare can give you. But the Germans knew what would get the invasion going again: taking out the strategically important city of Verdun, France. Sure, it was encircled by forts and about 300 big guns ("strategically important" cities don't tend to be left unguarded). But the Germans had a plan.
They knew Verdun was crucial to the French, so their theory was if they kept coming at it, the French would spend everything they had trying to defend it. The Germans didn't even really want the city -- they just wanted to turn it into a graveyard for as many French troops as possible. Normally in war, the best case scenario is a quick, decisive victory, but this was one time when they wanted a long, protracted, bloody standoff.
They fucking got it.
This is the pockmarked surface of what used to be a fucking massive fort.
The Germans brought 72 battalions and 1,400 guns. On February 21, the Germans began the attack with a strategy known as "let's shoot artillery shells at them until there are no more artillery shells left in the world." They opened the ceremonies by firing over one million shells at the French position.
But the French held through that attack. And through the next one. And the next. In March, the Germans tried to flank the French, launching another four million shells at the spot where they were dug in (they blew so many craters in one hill that after the war, the hill was measured 12 feet lower than before). The French held again. In the spring, the French counterattacked. The Germans held. Then the Germans counterattacked elsewhere. And so on.
"Don't worry! With all those shells there won't be room for bullets!"
The two sides pummeled each other for 10 freaking months, from February until December. Combined, they launched a mind-boggling 40 million artillery shells at each other while fighting over this tiny hunk of land. To this day, parts of the area still look like the surface of the moon -- they can't grow crops there because the soil is so infested with hunks of shells.
Sure makes for an exciting game of golf, though.
The Germans' plan worked, in a way -- the battle cost the French 163,000 men. The problem was the Germans lost 143,000 men in the process and, as you know, went on to lose the war. So it was all one big fucking waste.
But hey, at least they captured a massive pile of strategic rubble.
The 250-Year Family Feud
In America, the most famous and iconic family feud is the Hatfields and McCoys, but it lasted only 13 years (and a dozen deaths). Meanwhile, the feud between two Korean families, the Yooms and Shims, has lasted longer than America.
They also number one million and 250,000 family members, respectively.
To understand why the two families hate each other, you have to go back even further than that. The whole thing started in the 12th century when Yoon Gwan, a general, expanded Korean borders in the north and achieved the status of awesome. For his efforts, he got a nice grave in a hill just outside of Seoul.
We hope he was actually dead first.
Several hundred years later, in the 1600s, the Shim family thought the same hill looked like a cherry spot to put Shim Ji Won, a former prime minister. Well, what does it really matter, right? There's plenty of room for everybody and the dead don't need much breathing room.
Everything was fine until the mid-1700s, when Yoon's descendants rediscovered the hill and realized 1) the great Yoon Gwan was buried there and 2) he was now sharing a hunk of land with some asshole. They flipped the hell out. Graves were vandalized, and the two families came to the brink of violence. The feud was on.
Belts were hiked up to the nipples, and there was a great tugging of beards.
You have to understand that in Korea, ancestral reverence and geomancy (feng shui in China) are taken very seriously. It matters where you bury your dead because the land itself can affect their ability and willingness to help you from beyond the grave. And it's serious business even today -- South Korea's Samsung Electronics, for example, consults geomancers when deciding how to set up shop displays. Politicians have been known to move their ancestors before an election.
After years of this bullshit, King Young Jo ordered the graves to be left as they were and for the violence to stop.
"Stop trying to kill each other! This is a cemetery."
Each side declared "piss on that" and went on fighting, prompting the king to intercede again, with a vengeance. He had the elderly patriarchs of both families flogged and exiled; the Yoon member actually died from the punishment. And still, nothing close to peace was achieved. Hundreds of years of violence and actual marriage bans between families went by without a compromise. They did build a nice wall between the graves, though.
Because good fences make good fuck yous.
Finally, in 2008, the feud came to a dramatic head when both sides ... decided this crap had gone on long enough. Seriously, they just got together, talked for about a year, and came to a decision that would make everyone happy. The Yoons would give up some land on a hill nearby so the Shims could move Shim Ji Won. That's it. Peace had finally been found! Or would have, if the government hadn't vetoed the whole idea.
The feud, the government argued, had gone on so long that it was part of Korean culture now; moving the graves would be like erasing that. So technically the problem hasn't been solved because Korea loves their wacky antics.
The Grudge Against Dante Alighieri Lasted 700 Years
Dante Alighieri, of Inferno fame, really pissed off his government.
They've never quite forgiven him.
Turns out the 10th circle of hell is full of stubborn people and those who don't replace the toothpaste cap.
Back in those days, Dante belonged to a political group called the White Guelphs, the enemies of the, uh, Black Guelphs. They'd all just been Guelphs once, but fell out over a difference of opinion about papal influence.
"OK, whoever says his hat isn't big enough, get on the damn Hell-boat!"
In 1300, Dante had been part of the government in Florence that exiled a bunch of Black Guelphs, but the Blacks soon returned to power and did some exiling of their own. About 600 White Guelphs (along with Dante) were told to stay away from Florence for two years and to also pay a fine.
Dante seemed to have no problem with the exile, but refused to pay the fine -- even though it meant they'd burn him at the stake if he returned to Florence. So while other White Guelphs were eventually allowed to return, Dante wasn't.
"No thanks, I'll just sit here in my terracotta pants and adorable floppy red hat."
But, time heals all wounds, right? So around 1316, the Black Guelphs welcomed back all the exiles. Even Dante. All he had to do was pay up some money and perform a public penance. No big deal.
"We've got the demons rounded up already, eager to hear it."
Dante, as you can guess, said no. A last offer to return was extended on the condition he stayed under house arrest. Again, Dante refused, which pissed the Florentine government off enough to extend his death sentence to his sons. Dante would stay in exile the rest of his life, and be buried in Ravenna. End of feud, right?
Ha, no. Florence eventually regretted this whole fiasco and wanted to bring Dante's bones home. Ravenna refused, repeatedly, over the next 500-plus years, probably after a visit from Dante's ghost. Eventually a fancy tomb was built for him in Florence anyway. Tourists visit it often, thinking it actually houses the poet's body, when, in reality, Dante is still serving his now seven-century-long exile.
You'd think they'd at least throw a few hobo bones in there, just to fill it out.
Finally in 2008, two city councilors in Florence thought it'd be nice if they pardoned Dante and gave the Golden Florin (the city's highest honor) to Dante's family in a public ceremony. This, however, simply got the argument started again (with one councilor saying "Dante's heirs didn't deserve to be called Alighieri").
As a result, Dante's last descendant, Serego Alighieri, boycotted the ceremony. Hell, we're pretty sure Dante would have wanted it that way.
He's now making a killing in the tourist industry.
For more awesome fights, check out The 7 Most Badass Man vs. Beast Showdowns. Or find out what you would do when your unstoppable force meets your immovable object in So You're Locked In a Room With Your Clone: Fight or F#@k?.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what happens when Brockway's beard goes to-to-toe with DOB's abs.
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