Every weekend, a beautiful thing happens when people put aside their differences and cheer as the team wearing the colors of their city try to ritualistically murder the opposing team for the greater glory of their homeland. Sports can inspire us all in modern life. On the other hand, some organized "sports" leave a little something to be desired in the inspiration department.
Don’t mess with a Scrabble player
The board game of Scrabble is single-handedly responsible for ensuring that paper dictionaries continue to be printed and for introducing the word KWJIBO to the world. While most people think of Scrabble as a game to be played during a power outage or while hanging out in a fallout shelter, the few and the proud members of the North American Scrabble Players Association think of the game as something more noble.
The HASBRO corporation used to organize official Scrabble tournaments until their executives started choking to death on that sweet Transformers cash. What the people at HASBRO never realized was that competitive Scrabble players are a little insane. In 2009, the North American Scrabble League was formed to fill the void that HASBRO couldn’t find an intern to fill. Since then, the league has been overseeing Scrabble tournaments and set their 2017 championship in New Orleans. The Crescent City has survived invasions, fires, hurricanes, and some of the most impressively corrupt politicians in American history, but these Scrabble players just might do the city in.
The same game that banished millions of people to the backseat of a cramped two-door import has a legitimate governing body. The World Rock Paper Scissors Society exists to "serve the needs of decisions makers since 1918." WRPS has codified the rules for the basic and an advanced version of the game that somehow exists.
At the height of the power and influence of the World Rock Paper Scissors Society in 2007, their championship was broadcast on ESPN2 with all the pomp and circumstances of a Super Bowl pregame show shown on a competing network. Tragically, the organization seems to have fallen on hard times. Their still-functional website gives the impression that the webmaster has been waiting on a paycheck for a while, but there still is a glimmer of hope for the league. Across the pond, another group has risen up and has begun organizing local and national tournaments in the UK. The group Wacky Nation continues to oversee the sport of rock-paper-scissors with the grace, dignity, and pride their country is famous for.
Bounce to victory with professional trampolining
Shortly after George Nissen invented the modern backyard trampoline in the 1930s, he dedicated his life to turning competitive trampolining into an actual sport. For reasons that probably involve blackmail photos, obsession, and a probable clerical error, competitive trampolining is now considered part of the gymnastics family of Olympic sports. Competitive Trampoline participants, or Trampletes as we like to call them, score points by bouncing in aesthetically pleasing and seemingly arbitrary ways.
One organization overseeing the sport of competitive bouncing is the Trampoline and DMT League. By their claims, the league has overseen 24,000 competitions, has thousands of members, and has given out actual cash as a prize to various competition winners, but as of this moment, the sport appears seems to lack fans who are not related in some way to a competitor.
Beer Pong has a governing body
Sometime in the early 1950s, according to urban legend, some member of a fraternity at Dartmouth University placed a beer cup on a ping pong table, and the sport of beer pong was invented. Since that magical moment, Beer Pong has spread to every corner of the country like freshman vomit in the backseat of a late model Honda Civic. For those looking to take their Beer Pong game to the next level, the fine people at BPONG™ have taken it upon themselves to form an official governing body.
BPONG™ manufactures high-quality tables, has standardized the sport, and endorses local tournaments. No longer are Beer Pong players relegated to the obscurity of frat houses and sex offender registries. Every year, local champions make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where they compete for victory in the World Series of Beer Pong (WSOBP). The winner can walk away with both glory and a lot of cash. Without a doubt, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is grateful that the WSOBP finally has given thousands of frat boys a legitimate reason to visit their fair city.
Wife-Carrying is exactly what is sounds like
Prior to Finland discovering death metal, the Finns invented the sport of Wife Carrying to prove how hard-core they are. According to Finnish legend, famed 19th-century bandit Ronkainen the Robber used a variation of Wife Carrying as a way of evaluating potential members of his merry band of thieves. Since then, Wife Carrying has become a rather progressive semi-legitimate sport, where couples (team members no longer have to be married) compete on an international level for fame, glory, and bragging rights.
In a Wife Carrying competition, men sprint through 235 meters of obstacles and water hazards while their female teammate clings to them for dear life. The women being carried must weigh at least 101 pounds, and those who fail to make weight will have weight bags strapped to them to level the playing field.
Every year, officially sanctioned wife carrying tournaments take place in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. The winners of those competitions then advance to the annual World Wife Carrying Championships in Sonkajaervi, Finland, where the true insanity begins. Prizes are awarded for the fastest completion, best costumes, creativity, and best couple. As humorous as the sport sounds, it would be wise not to poke too much fun at an individual who can quickly run through an obstacle course with a human being strapped to his back.
Competitive knitting is a thing
For most people who knit, it’s relaxing hobby where they occasionally get to make some awesomely nerdy creations. Other knitters use their hobby to carry out acts of civil disobedience. Some knitters have taken the hobby well past the point of sanity and have figured out a way to turn it into a competition. Knitters from all over the world gather together to compete against each other in speed and design competitions.
Yarn conglomerate Bergere de France organizes the largest annual competitive knitting tournament on the planet. At the event, knitters from all over the world gather to compete is a speed knitting competition, where knitter have three agonizing minutes to complete as many stitches as possible. The knitting community even has actual celebrities.
Oddly, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sportsnet, CBS Sports Network, and Univision Deportes have all politely declined invitations to provide live coverage of the annual competition, possibly because it would be too extreme for live broadcast.
The International Shuffleboard Association likes to party
For readers who have never been on a cruise ship or visited a retirement community (go visit your grandma more), shuffleboard competitors use a stick the length of a pool cue to push a disc across a slick surface to a scoring area. As far as excitement for spectators goes, shuffleboard ranks somewhere between watching paint dry and competitive beard growing. With all of that in mind, the International Shuffleboard League (ISL) formed in 1979 to feed world’s insatiable appetite for competitive shuffleboard.
The ISL serves as an umbrella organization for the various competitive leagues around the world and seems to be serving the sport well. Their website is updated regularly and has some pretty nifty animation. Taking advantage of an abundance of empty stadiums, the ISL will be holding their 2017 tournament in Brazil, where the winner will most likely join the ISL Hall Of Fame, which is a thing. It seems that with the infrastructure the ISL has in place, the league appears to be just be a minor sex scandal or two away from complete legitimacy.
Soapbox Derbies have a scandalous past
This might come as a shock to some, but apparently Soapbox Derbies are events that really do happen outside of a classic episode of The Simpsons. Traditionally in Soapbox Derby, the fathers of America put their engineering and design skills to the test as they construct a motorless vehicle out of borrowed and repurposed materials. Today, racers compete in vehicles with fiberglass frames, gravity-assisted launches, and hopefully some form of a working brake system. After construction, children are "volunteered" up as a tribute/driver and race down blocked off city streets in what can only be described as a really wholesome reboot of Deathrace 2000.
The All-American Soap Box Derby Association and the National Adult Soapbox Derby Association are the two main governing bodies that regulate the sport in America. Ever since a cheating scandal—we’re not making that up—forever tarnished the reputation of Soapbox Derby racing in 1973, the AASBD and the NASDB began overseeing the sport with a seriousness usually reserved for securing nuclear weapons. Drivers compete in Soapbox Derby for a variety of reasons. There’s a ton of scholarship money on the line for younger competitors, whereas older drivers get one more chance at finally getting the approval from an emotionally distant father.
World Memory Championship
For many of us, the card game memory holds a special place in our hearts. Memory was the game that taught us how to notice freckles and strategically fold the edge of a card so it could be found more efficiently later, and both of those skills can become extremely useful later in life. While the majority of Memory players leave the game behind quickly after they discovered videogames, recreational arson, or the opposite sex, some Memory players continued to play variations of the game well into adulthood.
Memory players now emerge from their mothers’ basements and dingy studio apartments to journey to the annual World Memory Championship. Every year, the World Memory Sports Council invites players from thirty countries to meet to play ten different versions of Memory over a three-day period for the title of the world’s greatest Memory player. We could make a joke about the best memory player, but in all honesty, we had to Google the spelling of the word "memory" too many times to be in a position to mock anyone so gifted in that department.
International Quidditch Association
The Quidditch scenes in the Harry Potter franchise were objectively awesome. There’s something intense and captivating about seeing 14 players on broomsticks crashing into each other in the air for the amusement of a crowd. Some Harry Potter fans enjoyed the sport so much, they decided to ignore that mankind has tragically not mastered flying broom technology and began competing in organized Quidditch matches. Every day around the world, Harry Potter fans gather to play a slightly more grounded version of the game.
Currently, 18 countries have organized Quidditch leagues that feed into the International Quidditch Association. The IQA has made it abundantly clear that they have neither the endorsement or approval of J.K. Rowling or the shadowy collection of corporate overlords who control the Harry Potter universe: they can only use the word "Quidditch" because they use a lowercase spelling in all of their printed materials, conveniently circumventing the copyright on the term. What the IQA does have is fan base with the disposable income necessary to support a league. Hopefully someone can Kickstart a flying broom project before the league goes pro.
Horse riding on a budget
Hobbyhorses are toys consisting of wooden sticks with a stuffed horse head attached at one end. Unless the hobby horse is owned by a serial killer, the head is usually made out of cotton and fabric. Recently in Finland and Sweden, young women have turned playtime into an actual sport by riding hobbyhorses in competition. During these, the participants wear traditional equestrian outfits and ride their hobby horse through an obstacle course. After completing the course, the participants are given a score based on a variety of factors, and then a winner is determined.
The most recent hobbyhorse competition saw upward of 10,000 young women participating at the annual Finnish Hobbyhorse Championships. Fans of more traditional equestrian activity are a little confused by the growing popularity of the sport but generally agree it is a good thing that the participants are doing something besides staring at their phone for the entire day. The sport is growing to the point to where a slick looking documentary has been made about the phenomenon, and according to the scholars at IMDB, the film is not a scripted comedy.
It truly is a strange and wonderful time to be alive.