You think you are not into sports, smugly referring to them as “sportsball.” You take great pride in that time when a friend of yours brought up LeBron James, and you said, “Oh, is he a football player?” All this is par for the course for a place like Lewis & Clark, where some students have never even been to a sporting event.
However, inside every sports hater is a potential sports lover. The world of sports is far broader than you might think — indeed, some of the following quirky sports push the boundaries of what could be considered a sport. Who knows? Perhaps one of them will be your calling.
Slapboxing – 7/10
Recently popular on Snapchat, where a video of two Louisiana State football players slapping each other went viral, slapboxing is exactly what it sounds like: boxing with open-hand slaps instead of punches. Two people step into the ring, and they slap each other until one taps out. Although it has been featured by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, most slapboxing is informal and used either as a training routine or to settle small-time scores among neighborhood kids. Despite originating in Russia, slapboxing is a time-honored tradition among New York youth. In addition to being mentioned in songs by Wu-Tang Clan and Pharoahe Monch, slapboxing also inspired the title of an award-winning 1999 collection of short stories set in Queens, New York titled “Slapboxing with Jesus.”
Cheese-rolling – 9/10
With a name as innocuous as “cheese-rolling,” it should come as a surprise that this six-hundred-year tradition is a dangerous and cutthroat sport. At the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake in Gloucester, England, a nine-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down a steep, grassy hill, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. After the cheese has gotten a one-second head start (likely the only time I will ever write that phrase), people are released after it, tumbling down the slope after the cheese. The first person to catch the cheese wins. It is easy to lose one’s control when running down a steep hill, and paramedics are at the ready every year for the inevitable injuries. In 1997, 33 people were injured during the cheese-rolling. The cheese was replaced with a foam replica in 2014, since a nine-pound, 70-mph rolling wheel of cheese was deemed too unsafe, but the cheesy carnage lives on.
Competitive sauna – 1/10
Dubbed “quite possibly the world’s dumbest sport” by ESPN, it should perhaps not be surprising that Finland, the land of the sauna, has made an extreme sport out of sitting in a 230 degree Fahrenheit sauna. The rules are simple: Whoever stays in for the longest wins. For a while, five-time champion saunist Timo Kaukonen was a Finnish national hero, until disaster struck at the 2010 World Sauna Championship in Heinola, Finland. With millions of Finns watching what was effectively their Super Bowl, Kaukonen and Russian competitor Vladimir Ladyzhensky passed out after six minutes in the sauna, much longer than doctors say is safe. Ladyzhensky later died, and Kaukonen spent six weeks in a coma. The World Sauna Championships have not been held since.
Wife carrying – 4/10
A common complaint in today’s sports world is that it is too gendered. If you are an edgy contrarian who believes the opposite, look no further than the most heteronormative sport in existence, wife carrying. The sport is exactly what it says on the tin: Burly, manly men race across a field dotted with rocks, streams and other obstacles, all while carrying their wives on their backs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, wife carrying also comes to us from Finland. The Wikipedia page for the United Kingdom Wife Carrying Race includes the following footnotes: For the 2015 race, “This race also saw Joel Hicks carrying ‘Tiny Tina,’ a male friend in drag who was 7’4” and 22 stone (308 lbs).” Then a year later in 2016, “This race saw Joel Hicks carrying two wives simultaneously but coming last.” Clearly, Hicks is a legend of wife carrying. At the Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajärvi, Finland, wives can be carried in three different ways: piggyback, fireman’s carry or “Estonian-style,” where the man holds the woman by her thighs, with her head and torso dangling upside-down on the man’s back. Oh, those Estonians.
Bog snorkeling – 8/10
This is another fairly intuitive sport. Wearing a snorkel and flippers, participants paddle along a 60-yard course cut through a slimy peat bog, emerging covered in mud but also (hopefully) glory. Conventional swimming strokes are forbidden; contestants must move themselves with their flippers alone. There is no protocol on what should happen if preserved Neolithic mummies are discovered in the bog during the event, but there should be. Bog snorkeling is most popular in countries with bogs, including but not limited to, yes, Finland. Finnish jack-of-all-trades athlete Taisto Miettinen is believed to be the only person to have ever won a gold medal in both the World Bog Snorkeling Championship and the Wife Carrying World Championship. We anxiously await his feel-good blockbuster biopic, no doubt featuring a cameo from Seth Rogen as Joel Hicks.