7 Fun Facts about the History of Sports

Today, when you think of sports, things like football, basketball, and baseball come to mind. Today’s modern sports are highly competitive, and while you may not really think about it, they’ve all evolved over thousands and thousands of years. Here are seven fun facts about the history of sports to spark conversation or simply make you think.

#1 – The First Olympic Games
These days, when you think of the Olympics, you probably think of crowds of millions, the carrying of the torch, and dozens of countries vying to take home medals. In the history of sports, there’s no competition quite like the Olympic Games. The first event was held in ancient Greece in 776 BC. In fact, evidence suggests that nearly every sport still enjoyed today is of Greek origin.

#2 – The First Baseball Field
Baseball is as American as apple pie, so it comes as no real surprise that it’s one of the most popular sports in all of North America. (Today, there are Canadian teams, as well!) The first baseball field was invented by Alexander Cartwright back in 1845, and Cartwright along with a group of fellow enthusiasts developed the rules and regulations that are still at the foundation of baseball today.

#3 – The First Basketball Game
Today’s basketball games take place on carefully-designed and perfectly-measured courts, but this isn’t always how things were done. In the history of sports, the first basketball games were played back in the late 1890s with soccer balls. Participants would bounce them up and down a makeshift “court” and attempt to land them in empty peach baskets. It wasn’t until 1893 that the official rules and court dimensions were designed and adopted.

#4 – The Origins of Golf
Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world today, and it’s enjoyed by amateurs and professionals alike. While you might watch PGA tournaments on television and note the high-tech clubs, fashionable clothing, golf carts, and caddies, these are all relatively modern additions to the sport. Golf originated during the 15th century in Scotland. Back then, there was no ball – participants would smack a pebble with a stick or club. It became more recognizable around 1750, and the rules were standardized around 1774.

#5 – The God and Goddess of Skiing
Skiing is another modern sport that captivates the entire world. In fact, people often travel to snow-capped peaks (or create man-made peaks) just to try their hand at the slalom. A carving of what appears to be a skier on a rock in Norway suggests that skiing has been popular for more than 4000 years. In fact, the Vikings even had a god and goddess of skiing – Ull and Skade, respectively. The history of sports has even influenced entire belief systems!

#6 – Introducing Indoor Swimming
Swimming has been popular throughout human history, and even the Neanderthals are thought to have played in rivers, streams, and even oceans for entertainment. However, indoor swimming pools didn’t become popular until the middle of the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1837 that six indoor swimming pools were built across London, and this eventually led to the addition of swimming to the Olympics back in 1896.

#7 – The Real Origins of Tetherball
Nobody’s entirely certain how tetherball got its start, but there is some evidence that points toward a 9th century Tartar ritual that is eerily similar to the sport played by schoolchildren today. Tartars would lop the heads off their enemies, affix them to ropes, and tie those ropes to poles. They would then pick up sticks and entertain themselves accordingly. (You can use your imagination here.)

While today’s sports are very highly regulated, competitive, and sometimes downright bizarre, many are derived from activities that took place thousands of years ago. Some are still like the original games, and some barely resemble them. All in all, the history of sports is a rich, weird, and in at least one case, downright terrifying one. If you enjoyed reading my article, you may also enjoy reading another of mine, 5 of the toughest sports on the planet

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