ross-merrill - August 7, 2016
Badminton? Golf? Ping-pong? It seems like any sport can be in the Olympics these days. There are lots of weird sports from around the world that would be as much fun to watch as guys running around a track 25 times. Here are my picks.
This French martial art combines the style and finesse of fencing with the spins and brute force of kick-boxing. It's basically two guys whacking at each other with sticks. At times it looks like a lightsaber duel from a Star Wars film. Unfortunately, the goal isn't to knock your opponent out, because the padding and masks make that impossible. Points are scored for striking the head, torso, and calves; striking the arms is penalized. You can also get points for style, because...well, this is a French creation, after all. Also very French: You can win a match without ever striking your opponent, because they can lose points through penalties.
Jai alai is part racquetball, part doubles tennis, and part coolness. It's called "the fastest sport in the world" because of ball speeds as high as 188 mph (the fastest baseball pitches are just over 100). Two teams of of two players stand on a narrow area that's twice as long as a basketball court and hurl a ball against a wall, kind of like handball. But instead of hands or racquets, their wear giant scoops on one arm that make it easier to fling the ball as far as 176 feet to the wall. The sport began in Spain and came to Cuba, where it made its way to Miami. After peaking in the 80s, the sports just kind of vanished from the US; ESPN even produced a 30 for 30 film called What the Hell Happened to Jai Alai.
We've got ice dancing and synchronized swimming. Hacky sack requires similar muscle control, agility, and grace. There are actually World Footbag Championships; Nick Landes's routine that's above lasted for two minutes, and the bag never hit the ground. The Olympic version could include individual events, like Landes's, or a competitive circle, like this. If some of the competitors are like your college roommate and do it while, that would just make it more fun to watch.
Why not combine one of the most exciting Summer Olympic sports (swimming) with one of the most exciting Winter Olympic sports (hockey)? Underwater hockey is a real thing, with men's and women's teams all over the world, including the US. Players wear snorkels and hold little sticks, while the weighted puck stays on the floor of the pool. There's constant movement, partly because everyone has to swim back to the surface for air -- so there are no goalies, either. It's not always the clearest sport to follow, since it's all underwater, but it's so crazy that it actually works.
Uh, why isn't this in the Olympics? What's more manly and heroic than dudes with huge muscles tossing telephone poles? This sport comes from Scotland, where the men wear skirts, but I doubt anyone is messing with them after watching them hurl a 20-foot, 175-pound tree. If people want to see Olympians throw a discus or a javelin or a metal ball, why not a caber?
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