Hello! Chris Donlan here. Simon Parkin and I recently attended a wonderful talk at Brighton'sCatalyst Club, in which historian Mathew Homewood picked over some of the strangest sports in Sussex history. I think it's quite interesting to think of games as being related to this quirky lineage, and so I asked him to write a bit about bizarre and forgotten sports for Eurogamer. I really hope you enjoy it.
Most of us have participated in those classic sports day events; the egg and spoon race, the sack race, and the tug of war. Relatively 'normal' activities for both children and adults. However, many years ago, grown men and women were participating in far more weird and unusual sporting events. The county of Sussex appears to have been one of the leading lights in this world of bizarre sporting behaviour. In Brighton's Royal Gardens, as far back as the 1820s, one could witness such events as climbing the greasy pole, grinning through horse collars, catching a cock 'with hands tied behind'(!), and jingling matches, which involved a man with a bell round his neck being chased around a field by an army of men with blindfolds. An experienced jingler may lead these men into a merry game of cat and mouse. However, one might have some sympathy for the inexperienced jingler, cantering around a field, jangling away, and being bundled over by an excited mob.
The greasy pole was often used in village sports days. A vertical pole, standing upwards of three meters would be coated with grease. A prize would then be placed at the top - sometimes a hat, but more often a leg of mutton - and crowds would watch enthusiastic, and often hopeless attempts to gain the prize. Another use for the greasy pole was to lay it vertically over a pit of cold water, sit two men on it, arm them will sacks full of something heavy, and let them battle it out until one (or both) fell into the water.-read more