It's no secret that the sports universe in America is pretty sheltered- we've got football, baseball, basketball and a bunch of other miscellaneous ones. Still, there are those few random games that capture our attention "“ poker had its day and people are even starting to pay attention to soccer now that Posh Spice's husband plays here. In the interest of expanding our culture's sports horizons, here's a look at five sports that ought to become more popular, along with tips on how to get the word out.
Cheese rolling is an exercise in simplicity "“ the event literally entails rolling a wheel of cheese down a hill and chasing it. The official event takes place in Gloucestershire on Cooper's Hill, a rather steep incline. The event, not surprisingly, attracts plenty of drinking, which can lead to injuries when combined with a high-speed chase down a steep hill. One year, two thirds of the contestants got injured and in 1998, the police shut down the event for public safety. Cheese rolling has a rich history, having combated food rationing (contestants instead chased a wooden wheel with a small piece of cheese inside) and a ban on rural activities due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.
How to make it popular: Make a cheese rolling movie. Ryan Gosling stars as a British man whose family has been chasing the cheese for three generations. However, when he finds out he is lactose intolerant, he flees the country and abandons the sport. He receives word that his father is on his deathbed and emotionally returns to Gloucestershire to honor his family by participating in that year's race. Woody Harrelson co-stars as his cantankerous, yet loving, personal coach, a former cheese roller himself.
Tuna Throwing and more after the jump...
Kabaddi is a lot like Red Rover; it sounds easy enough for kids to play during recess, but it wouldn't go a week before someone got hurt and the game got banned. To play, all you need is a field, two teams and the lung capacity of Louis Armstrong. Each team "“ usually 12 players with five reserves - takes one half of the field. They then take turns sending one person across to the other side. He has to run around and touch as many opposing players as possible, then make it back to his side, all while chanting "kabaddi" in one breath. If the other team blocks him from getting back before he breathes (or passes out), he is out; if not, anyone he touched is out. The sport is popular in rural areas of Asia and has made minor splashes on the world scene, including a rumored demonstration match at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Today, the sport draws players from around the world to its annual World Cups, clips of which are available on YouTube.
How to make it popular: Any press is good press, so why not use scandal to get the name out? Riding the coattails of the Mitchell Report, news can break of underground Kabaddi players using steroids to increase their lung capacity.
Coming up next January, the Tunarama festival is arguably the highlight of the year in Port Lincoln, South Australia. Even though the festival has such attractions as a slippery pole competition and camel rides, nothing can top the tuna throwing competition. For a grand prize of $7,000, contestants have to launch a full-grown tuna like a hammer throw. For those who were concerned, the competition only uses only spoiled fish, so the event is even somewhat Peta-friendly.
How to make it popular: Current record-holder Sean Carlin (who hurled his tuna an astounding 122 feet) can pull a David Beckham and give tuna throwing some star power here. The undisputable hunk (shown here in his days as an Olympic athlete) just needs to marry a former pop star and sign a huge contract to do professional tuna throwing in Los Angeles. ESPN can take care of the rest of the marketing.
Man versus Horse Marathon
This event is pretty self-explanatory. It's literally a marathon (actually, the route is 22 miles, but who's counting?) where humans and horses race against each other. The race is held annually in the tiny British town of Llanwrtyd Wells. Last June marked the 27th running of the marathon and only the second time a human has topped the horse. In fact, the horses were so dominant that a runner didn't win until the 25th running in 2005.
How to make it popular: This begs for a reality show in the vein of "Dancing with the Stars." With celebrity horses, that is. Who wouldn't want to watch the former Black Beauty compete against one of the Budweiser Clydesdales and a gaggle of marathon runners?
The national sport of Afghanistan, Buzkashi is kind of like polo, except that it's played with a calf's carcass. The calf (or goat, if a calf isn't available) is decapitated and placed in a hole in the ground. Riders on horses compete to grab the body, ride around two poles, then get it back in the "circle of justice." The winner is the one who gets the calf into the circle, even if he didn't carry it around the poles, which makes the game mostly pointless until the end. Still, it's eternally popular in Afghanistan (the Taliban even allowed infrequent matches to be held) because of the way the spirit of the game mirrors the Afghan spirit.
How to make it popular: Let's be honest, Buzkashi wouldn't last half a match in America. Any attempt to make it popular would get hit with a backlash even Michael Vick didn't experience. Still, it could probably merit a special on Spike TV.