There’s a reason dads yell at little league umpires: competition just tickles that primal part of the brain. Something about watching a battle of wills that ends with a winner and a loser can get even the tamest among us to paint our faces and scream at people who don’t deserve it.
And because we just flat-out love watching individuals and teams duke it out to earn a victory, humanity has concocted some really insane competitions to fulfill that thirst. You won’t see these crazy games in primetime, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as captivating as any esteemed heavyweight contest…
1. Chess Boxing (The Netherlands): Boxers bash each other’s faces for five 3-minute rounds, but in between those brief bouts, they break a mental sweat with an ongoing chess game. You can win by knockout or checkmate.
2. Shin Kicking (England): Thousands gather for this competition, sometimes described as a martial art, and watch contestants in white coats kick each others’ shins until one of them succumbs to pain.
3. Air Guitar Contest (Finland): Since 1996, contestants have cranked out wicked air guitar solos with crowd-captivating enthusiasm. These rockers jam to a song of their choosing in round one, then a song of the judge’s choosing in round two.
4. Battle of the Oranges (Italy): In the town of Ivrea, participants split into two teams and then spend the day smashing each other with about 500,000 oranges. It’s a citrusy tradition that dates back to the 12th century.
5. Cheese Rolling (England): An old tradition, blokes chase a cheese wheel down a steep hill, which leads to a lot of people falling, twisting ankles, and colliding into each other. The person who catches the cheese wins. Their prize? The cheese.
6. Bo-Taoshi (Japan): The game is simple. Each team has a pole. Each team tries to topple the other team’s pole. “Ninjas” scale said poles and try to keep them steady. Chaos ensues. This sport is played mostly by schoolchildren.
7. Baby Jumping (Spain): Castrillo de Murcia residents gather annually for “The Devil’s Jump,” where men dressed as devils leap over babies to cleanse them of original sin. That’s a long jump over the mattress!
8. Vinkensport (Belgium): “Finch Sitting” pits competitors head to head in an effort to coax male finches (kept in those boxes) to make certain sounds. Winning finches typically make hundreds of calls in the contest’s one-hour limit.
9. Bossaball (Spain): Add a trampoline to any sport and it instantly becomes, like, ten times more awesome. Bossaball, which is volleyball on a trampoline, is proof. The first team to score 25 wins, and though flips are encouraged, they don’t earn you more points.
10. Car Curling (Russia): They’ve given us art, literature, and vodka. Now, the Russians have given us this magnificent twist on the beloved Winter Olympic game. The rules are simple: push a car on ice and get it to stop on a target.
11. Wife-carrying (Finland): For hundreds of years, Finnish men have slung their wives (or any woman, actually) over their backs and competed in an obstacle-laden footrace. The winners earn the wife’s weight in beer.
12. Bog Snorkeling (Whales): Equipped with flippers and a snorkel, swimmers brave water-filled trenches cut through a peat bog and, without using conventional swimming strokes, fight through decaying plant muck. The fastest swimmer wins.
13. Worm Charming (England): Kids and adults alike dig up earthworms in this wild competition. In the World Worm Charming Championship of 2009, 10-year-old Sophie Smith, below, set records when she snagged 567 worms from a 9 meter square in 30 minutes!
14. Ultimate TASER Ball (United States): Legal and medical ramifications put a stop to this electrifying sport, in which teams tried to put a ball into a goal without being stopped…by opponents with TASERs.
15. Tuna Throwing (Australia): Folks gather annually at the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln to hurl rubber tuna fish really far. Aussie hammer thrower Sean Carlin holds the record toss distance at just over 122 feet.
16. Ski Bobbing (Austria): First created as a way to navigate the treacherous Alps, the ski bike is, well, a bike frame on skis. Today, thrill seekers and easy-going kids can shred some snow with these!
17. Headstand Chugging (Czech Republic): As part of “Wonder Week,” competitors rebuke the advice of medical professionals everywhere and chug beer while doing a handstand. Everyone watching is the winner.
18. Chili Pepper Eating Contest (United States): A pretty self-explanatory competition, contestants in North Carolina eat increasingly hotter peppers and hot sauces until they can’t stand the heat. Finalists must finish an orange habanero.
19. World Sauna Competition (Finland): Competitors gathered in a 210-degree sauna and just roasted for as long as they could stand it. Last man or woman standing won. Unfortunately, organizers canceled the competition after someone died in 2010.
20. Pig Feet Bobbing (United States): Born as a spoof of Atlanta’s ’96 Summer Olympics, the annual Redneck Games — hosted in Georgia — feature this southern take on bobbing for apples. The winner gets a pig foot.