people playing tennis
Jeu de Paume via Tennis Legend TV YouTube, screenshot

Ready for a trip down memory lane? Well, maybe less “memory” and more like dusting off the history books. Today, we’re going to delve into the curious world of extinct sports. These are the games that once drew crowds and sparked passions but have now vanished, leaving behind tales of glory, grit, and sometimes, sheer absurdity.

Polo on Ice: The Chilly Chukker

Imagine polo meets ice skating, and you’ve got Polo on Ice. A frosty favorite in the late 1800s, this slippery sport slid out of the spotlight, nudged aside by the rising popularity of ice hockey and, frankly, a pretty high ‘ouch’ factor.

Jeu de Paume: Tennis’s Granddaddy

Long before Wimbledon, there was Jeu de Paume, France’s medieval answer to tennis. Picture players smacking a ball around with their bare hands in grand indoor courts. It’s the sport that gave birth to modern tennis, then quietly bowed out.

Mesoamerican Ballgame: The Ancient Game of Gods

This wasn’t just a game; it was a cosmic event played by ancient Mesoamericans. Part sport, part religious ceremony, it disappeared after the Spanish conquest, leaving behind enigmatic ball courts and a sense of awe.

Royal Tennis: Renaissance Racket

Fancy a game of tennis with Henry VIII? Royal Tennis, or real tennis, was all the rage among European nobility during the Renaissance. With quirky rules and elaborate courts, it was lawn tennis’s posh, complicated cousin.

Buzkashi: Polo’s Rougher Cousin

Hailing from the rugged steppes of Central Asia, Buzkashi was like polo, if polo were played with a goat carcass instead of a ball. Though it’s still played in some regions, its heyday has long passed.

Olympic Tug of War: The Ultimate Pulling Contest

Yes, tug of war was an Olympic sport! A test of brute strength and teamwork, this rope-yanking contest bowed out of the Olympics in 1920, leaving us to wonder, ‘what if it had stayed?’

Motor-paced Racing: The High-Speed Chase

Cycling in the slipstream of a motor vehicle? Sounds thrilling and, well, terrifying. Motor-paced racing had its moment in the early 20th century, but the danger factor eventually pedaled it into obscurity.

Equestrian Long Jump: Horses in the Long Jump Pit

Picture this: horses leaping into long jump pits. It was a real event, even in the 1900 Paris Olympics, but unsurprisingly, it didn’t quite leap into mainstream sports.

Volata: Mussolini’s Sporting Experiment

Crafted in Fascist Italy, Volata was a blend of rugby and soccer, designed as an alternative to football. It had a brief run before fading into the shadows post-World War II.

Singlestick: The Gentleman’s Duel

A training tool for swordsmen that turned competitive, Singlestick had its flicker of Olympic fame in 1904. As swordsmanship waned, so did this stick-wielding sport.

Maybe Some Things are Better Off Forgotten

From the echoes of ancient ball courts to ice-bound polo matches, these extinct sports offer us fascinating snapshots of our playful, competitive past. They remind us that the world of sports is ever-changing, shaped by culture, history, and sometimes, the whims of fate.