Father’s Day Gifts: 3 of the weirdest Sport Books


by - August 23rd, 2012


The Olympics are over and many sport-loving Dads from all over the world are feeling a little flat, my own father included.

After several weeks with an excuse to always have the channel set to Sport he’s had to relinquish the remote. It’s not that he’s deprived normally; my Mum and I also like a good game played well but we can’t match my father’s dedication to all things sporting. If there’s a ball or puck involved, he’ll watch it. If there’s not, he watch it in the hope that there might be a ball or puck involved soon. (I once came home at 2am to find him trying to take an interest in curling. He’ll watch anything.)

Luckily for him, it’s Father’s Day soon, and Sunday September 2nd offers the opportunity not just to buy him a book about sport but a chance to introduce him to a while new bunch of sports so incredibly strange that even he doesn’t already know about them.

1.  Insatiable – Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone

How many hot dogs could you eat in 10 minutes? 10? 20? If it’s over 25, you could be the next big star of one of the world’s most controversial sports – competitive eating.

(Don’t get into practicing unless you are also a fitness freak, as the world record holder can eat 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. At 290 calories that’s as much as a normal person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet would need for ten days.)

From pie-cramming competitions at county fairs to the spectacle that is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, author Jason Fagone spends a year traveling, eating and even competing with the biggest names in the business trying to find just out just what compels a ‘gurgitator’ to force down forty-six dozen oysters in ten minutes – and what makes us want to watch them. Filled with drama, conflict and larger-than-life stars, this book is well worth taking the time to digest even if thinking about the food they are cramming makes that difficult.

(I should probably point out that typing “Insatiable” into Boomerang’s search box brings up over 20 results, only one of which involve food instead of semi-naked people cavorting. Be warned.)

2. Lucha Loco by Malcolm Venville

From the eating highs of America we go south to Mexico where the Lucha Libre – “free wrestling” – is a cultural phenomenon, renowned not only for the wrestler’s moves for the masks they wear, and the mythology that has grown around the masked wrestlers or luchadors.

I was lucky enough to make it to the Lucha Libre while in Mexico and had the time of my life – it’s part sport, part soap opera, and all drama. In modern lucha libre, masks are designed to create a persona for the luchador to takes on during a performance. Putting your mask – or your hair – on the line against a foe is the ultimate challenge in this sport. During their careers, masked luchadores will often be seen in public wearing their masks interacting with the public and press normally, and concealing their true identities. One of Lucha Libre’s most famous figures, El Santo continued wearing his mask after retirement and was buried wearing his silver mask. Now there’s a commitment to your sport.

3.  Wacky Nation by James Bamber and Sally Raynes

Has your Dad ever longed to chase a wheel of cheese down a hill or take his Stone Skimming to a competitive level? Wacky Nation is a potential player’s guide to the UK’s most absurd sports, with a plenty of advice for armchair enthusiasts thinking of getting into the game, whether it’s as the trainer of a champion racing snail or winning the World Nettle Eating Championships.

Sadly I can’t offer much advice for those athletes who want to stay in Australia. I haven’t come across a book that deal exclusively with Australian strange sports, although I have heard of a few (the Australia Day Cockroach Racing in Brisbane is surely worth a mention) so if you know of one, please do let me know – drop me a comment, or tweet @boomerangbooks to let us know we have missed one.

This is just a small selection of the sport-related strangeness out there – if you looking for a general global summation try the original Weird Sports of the World, from caber-tossing to wife-carrying (best not to get those two confused), or the whole series of books its popularity spawned on the same theme. There’s plenty out there for a sport-mad Dad with a strange twist to discover.

Just don’t blame me if he decides to take up hot-dog eating.

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