Check out the origins of modern day sports! From football to soccer and baseball, this top 10 list shows the history of famous sports!
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10. The Term “Soccer”
Americans call it soccer but everywhere else in the world, this sport is known as football. Pretty logical right? How did this popular sport get the name “soccer” in the States? The immediate theory is that the name was invented to distinguish it from American football. However, the origin of the word is a little ironic.
In Britain, the sport was known as Association Football to distinguish it from rugby football. British school kids took the word “association” and derived the slang term “soccer” in 1895 from “s-o-c” in “association”. When the sport spread to the States, the term “soccer” caught on because we had our own sport called football already. After, the term “soccer” fell out of use in Britain. By the 1980s, it was wholly rejected because Brits perceived the term as an “Americanism”. Even though it came from Britain in the first place!
9. Turtle Racing
This may be one of the forgotten sports in history. Turtle Racing doesn’t sound like a very popular sport. However, it is still done today and there are few similarities between the old and new versions.
Today, turtle racing is mostly a fun activity for kids. The participants huddle in the center of a circle and release their turtles. The shelled creatures wander aimlessly until one makes it out of the circle. That one is declared the winner with much celebration. However, this was not how turtle racing was done a century ago.
Originally, giant turtles complete with jockeys were raced down straight tracks. The jockeys were usually small children whose sole purpose were to keep the turtles in a straight line. People cheered them as excitedly as a crowd at Churchill Downs.
As strange as that sounds, there are even stranger claims about the earliest form of turtle racing. According to an article in the Miami News, turtle racing originated in the Bahamas. It was a favorite pastime of locals and involved enormous sea turtles. These turtles also had jockeys but they weren’t there just to keep the turtle going straight. No, these full-grown men supposedly guided their sea turtles through a complex course. Pretty intense stuff! Whether or not all of that’s true is something for historians to bicker over.
I don’t think I’ve ever played tetherball in my life, but most of you might know the game already. For those who don’t here’s a quick recap. Played with two people, the object of the game is to wrap a ball attached to a rope around a pole. The person who does it first wins.
The origins of tetherball remain a huge mystery. One theory suggests it’s linked to dances around the Maypole. In these dances, participants grasped ropes or ribbons attached to a pole and walked and danced around it, weaving the ribbons together. The evidence for this can be seen in the similarity between the setup of the Maypole dance and the tetherball court.
Another, more gruesome theory, suggests the game comes from a 9th century ritual practiced by the Tartars. The Tartars are an ethnic group who inhabited Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. In this ritual, they attached the head of an enemy to a rope and then beat the head around the pole with a stick.
The more likely, and mundane, origin comes from the 19th century. Historians believe it was invented after volleyball because the first tether balls were volleyballs attached to the rope. In 1954, the magazine Popular Science ran an article laying out rules, as well as how to measure out the court, and how to attach a volleyball to a rope. Tetherball is not an official sport but it did have an official tournament in San Diego in 2007 that attracted 80 participants.
Stoolball sounds made up, like something in an episode of The Simpsons. However, this very real sport is still played in rural areas of southeast England. It originated in the 14th century in Sussex. Some historians claim stoolball is the grandparent of both cricket and baseball, even though others are quick to point out that stoolball was the first bat-and-ball game played in North America in the 17th century.
To play the game, players hit a ball using a bat and then run between stools to score. The bat is a wooden paddle with a short handle and an oval shape, and the stools play the role of wickets in cricket.
Today’s stoolball, however, is an approximation of the original game. Besides knowing it involved a stick and a ball, no one is sure how it was originally played. Apparently, no one ever bothered to write the rules down.