With the Olympic Games in Rio behind ups and the start of football season around the corner, I came to a realization. Here in ‘Murica, we are not just about apple pie, gun rights, and freedom – we are also about sports. In fact, when we really think about it, we would be hard pressed to find a better nation for sports fans. This is evidenced by the United States’ performance at the Olympic games which ended in 121 total medals. Few places have both the diversity and depth within their sports culture. Yes, there are fitter nations or nations with more passionate “futball” fans, but few places have such an abundance of competitive sports. Those of us within the United States are really fortunate enough to be living in a sports-fans paradise.
But as I watched the Olympics, I could not help but think about the array of sporting events which we have far too minimal exposure to living in the United States. That got me thinking, what are a few of the other sports from around the world which we do not realize, are even sports. Sure – football and baseball will always remain the cornerstones of American sporting culture. We are unlikely to shed the contributions from our Canadian neighbors-to-the-North, basketball and hockey. The rise in the popularity of soccer and the expansion of Major League Soccer show that it is here to stay. Since, we have a long history of adapting sports, I got to thinking, what are some of the other sports which would be welcomed in the mainstream American sports culture. So, in the name of multiculturalism, the shared human experience, and sportsmanship which the spirit of the Olympics breed, I decided to investigate some of the more obscure sports from around the world. It turns out, most of these are already exist in niche communities in the United States, and I think it would serve us well to integrate these events into our collective, mainstream sporting culture.
A type of wrestling popular in the country of Switzerland. Now, I know what you are thinking. Don’t we already watch wrestling in America? The short answer is yes, but we do not do it like the Swiss do. This isn’t Greco-Roman, this isn’t freestyle, this certainly isn’t that scripted version you see in television at night when you were supposed to be out, but your date stood you up last-minute. Schwingen is a form of folk wrestling popular at festivals which has been around for centuries. Now, I don’t know about you, but they had me at festivals!
In schwingen, competitors attempt to pin each other down in a giant pile of sawdust. To make it even better, they do so while wearing schwingerhosen. For those of you whose German is a little rusty, that means “wrestling breeches”. What are wrestling breeches you ask? Essentially, these are khaki colored cargo pants with leather belts, crotch protectors, and kneepads built-in; meaning that if schwingen gets big I will have found my reason for hoarding all my cargo pants from 1999. How can you not love the idea of that? Furthermore, the champion of a schwingen tournament is given the title of Schwingerkönig – for life. That’s a line I could use to finally get some dates. Instead of simply fighting for trivial prizes like money, fighters are awarded practical things like livestock or beautiful handcrafted wooden furniture.
Can you imagine, schwingen matches on Syfy, tucked between the latest installment of the Sharknado franchise and re-runs of Battle Star Galatica. Envision, a steel-cage match meets the unswept floor of Norm Abram’s workshop; where The Miz challenges John Cena for the Schwingerkönig crown. I would rent that pay-per-view, and so would you.
Now, I understand that rugby seems foreign enough to most of us, but in reality it is a sport rapidly growing in popularity. Developed in German during the 1960s, underwater rugby shares very little in common with traditional rugby. Billed as the world’s only 3-D sport, it is played completely under the water. Real life aqua-men (and aqua-women) gear up with goggle, fins, and snorkels then take to the pools. The weighted ball cannot leave the water, and swimmers scrambling across the pool to dunk the ball into the underwater goal, an elaborate wire trashcan.
If you know me, then you know that I am all about sports that allow me to rock my Speedo, but the absolute best part about underwater rugby is that it is a full contact sport. That’s, right! Think about it two swimmers, kicking their fins full speed and colliding in the center of the pool as they battle for the ball sinking to the bottom of the pool. All the while mind you, they have to hold their breath and are unable to communicate verbally with their teammates. I call that damn-good competition if you ask me.
Listen, if the XFL got national airtime, I know that underwater rugby can, and the perfect network is Spike TV. We pull in someone like Dana White to build the brand and hype-the-crap out of the sport to the public, and we make Michael Phelps the sports official poster boy (the man has gills, I imagine he will do just fine). We sell the world’s only 3-D sport as the first 360 video sport, taking full advantage of new technologies to deliver viewers a perspective of the game they would get lying at the bottom of the pool. To add a little flair, we add some Japanese spider crabs, piranhas, or just set the surface of the water on fire, effectively taking underwater rugby from extreme, to the SUPER EXTREME!
Do you remember when you were a kid, and you got that brilliant idea that you could walk your dog and ride your skateboard at the same time? If you were like me, it usually ended in stitches. But that fact never stopped some Norwegians from taking this to the extreme – with a sled dog pulling a cross-country skier. This is the sport of skijoring and unlike the Iditarod, that near 1000-mile sled dog race, these races tend to be a manageable ten miles. The sport appeared in the 1928 Olympics, and lives on in the Scandinavian nations and even here in the United States.
Skijoring could be huge in the United States, as we love dogs. Hell, I love the idea of me and my Chihuahua getting the opportunity to compete side-by-side! Yes, I understand there are geographic and climate limitations which prevent the whole-hearted, national embrace of the sport. But in a nation where we are willing to televise arm-wrestling championships, I think there is some marketability behind this sport. Think about it, skijoring is the solution to that sports abomination which is the month of February.
You know, post NFL season, but pre-NCAA Tournament; where we are trapped in the doldrums that are the mid-season NHL and NBA? We pick a weekend late in February and hold the Indianapolis 500 of skijoring somewhere up in Montana. Can’t you just see it now? Carrie Underwood singing the National Anthem, Frost-Brewed Coors as the official sponsor, and everything kicking off with a screeching flyover from a jet fighters. It’s enough to make all the single folks love February!
Yes, this is a real thing. And it might just be the greatest sporting event in the history of humanity. The origins of the event have long since been lost; but the annual event in Gloucestershire, England involves contestants running down a steep hill in pursuit of a wheel of cheese. The winner? The first one to cross the finish line with the cheese of course!
The videos of it are simply glorious, with dozens of people giving chase to the wicked wheel of cheddar. This is the type of event, which could be the envy of fraternity men everywhere. Imagine the Greek Community creating an event of similar magnitude to the Indiana University’s legendary Little 500, except instead of a bicycle race, there is a massive cheese chase. All you need is a hill, some cheese, and liquored up souls courageous enough to run down it at full speed. Plus, other than those who are lactose-intolerant among us, who doesn’t like cheese?
Cheese rolls could accommodate ever major holiday in the nation: St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, the Fourth of July, and even Bastille Day. Everything building to the national cheese-rolling invitational – The Super Roll. This invitational roll could take place in our nation’s cheese capital, the great dairy state that is Wisconsin. We could use it to officially close the Oktoberfest celebrations taking place across the Midwest. In fact, maybe this is the cornerstone event we have been searching to bring some pizzazz to Election Day. Imagine how much better we would feel about heading to the polls this November, knowing that regardless of who wins the election, we will be fortunate enough to watch the likes of Steve-O and Gary Busey lead the charge down a hill following the official Babybel sponsored Swiss wheel.
Completion can breed community and commonality. Who knows, maybe someday we will be fortunate enough to share in the competition of these sports on the greatest of global stages, the Olympics. I don’t know about you, but I would wear my Gold Medal in Cheese Rolling with pride.