We all love sports here (if you don’t, you’re at the wrong site) and part of that is embracing the sports that aren’t the most athletic. All of these are things that you can excel at. They’re things that you can be the best in the world at. They’re things you can make a huge amount of money doing. You can even win an Olympic Medal for some of these. But they aren’t the most athletic.
Some of these things can require you to only move as much as clicking a mouse. In others, the participants technically travel hundreds of miles – without much effort from the participant themselves. These aren’t bad things or automatically inferior, they’re just different from the norm. Other entries have no human athleticism, but just a lot of people profiting off of the athleticism of animals.
The sports network and sports media in general have expanded over the last 10-15 years to cover these things that wouldn’t have gotten a second look 30 years ago. Some of these didn’t even exist in any form 30 years ago. You can find coverage and even prime time specials for all of these sports across every major network – they’re not obscure niche things for the most part. Some of these have become huge industries, moving millions, even billions of dollars across the world.
So, for all of us with bad knees and ankles, for all of us possibly with asthma, and anyone with any other condition that restricts their athleticism – let me give you some hope. These sports could be your shot at glory. For everyone else that looks down on non-athletic sports, maybe one of these might catch your eye.
ESports generally is an umbrella term for video games. I feel like I’m going to get stuffed in a locker just for typing it. However, its rising popularity has been very impressive. Fighting game tournaments have been popular for a little while, but recently some newer games have burst onto the scene.
April 26th saw ESPN2 air “Heroes of the Dorm,” a big tournament for the launch of the “Heroes of the Storm” strategy video game. There was widespread joking and ribbing on Twitter, but ESPN could have the last laugh if this gets even half as popular as some of their other non-athletic offerings.
14. Fantasy Sports
From Fantasy football to Bracketology to even NHL bracket challenges, the only thing we like more than watching sports is guessing who’s going to win or run for 20 TDs this year. Also, one-day fantasy leagues are starting to take off like wildfire. Their commercials dominate most sporting events.
However, these games aren’t just gambling. They’re very competitive and become sports and competitions of their own. Most sports websites or networks have a stable of “Fantasy Experts” to give advice and strategy tips for every week and every sport imaginable.
13. Magic: The Gathering
The 90s card game that you might remember playing in middle school still enjoys a cult following to this day. Their tournaments are also an institution on ESPN2. Those broadcasts were one of the first non-athletic sports to pop up on the Worldwide Leader.
However, these games contain a lot of strategy, much like other games on this list. And they also can generate a lot of money, with tournaments having payouts in the thousands on a regular basis. And where there’s money, there will always be interest and people willing to watch it on television.
Cardplaying has taken a little bit of a hit lately with the USA’s Federal Government cracking down, but it’s still going fairly strong. The World Series of Poker still dominates weeks of primetime and the format has even changed to let the Main Event’s final table play out in the made-for-TV “November Nine.”
However, the winds of change are always blowing, and it’s looking like online poker will be fully legal in the next 10-20 years. Once this is finalized, poker will likely have another boom period. It could become even bigger than the height during the Moneymaker and Rounders years.
Sure you’ve been bowling before, and awoke the next day to soreness in your hand/arm and maybe even legs. However, no one would call bowling athletic. That doesn’t stop it from airing almost every Sunday of the NFL Season.
Bowling is fun and can be very competitive, but it’s a hobby. Bowlers do have to be strong enough to lift a 12 pound+ ball and throw it fairly hard, but that’s about it. Any sport where it’s almost required to drink and smoke during is really difficult to call athletic.
10. Auto Racing
All forms of auto racing can be entertaining in different ways. But, even at 200mph, can we call something a sport that most of us do every single day? That’s without even getting into the only turning left thing. Drivers have to have a certain level of nerves, courage, and great reaction time to drive at the highest level, but it’s hard to call them athletes.
Hunting is probably the world’s longest running activity. The entire animal kingdom has to do it in one form or another. But it’s not a sport. Technically, with that whole survival of the fittest thing, everyone is competing for survival. But hunters claim they do it “for sport.”
They might have a leg to stand on if they went at a huge buck armed only with what they found in a forest. But using high-powered guns, deer blinds, sniper rifles, or whatever else invented by Duck Dynasty takes apart that argument. It’s not a sport, it’s just bullying.
8. Sports Betting
Most of the sports networks now have started to feature betting lines among the information listed for upcoming games. There are also even entire programs dedicated to handicapping not only single game bets, but futures and prop betting as well. These shows also feature “sharps” or Vegas insiders with special tips, tricks, and trends for the home player. The attitude in the United States is also moving rapidly to legalize it sooner than later, with some states already starting to do it gradually. However, with internet gambling still in a grey area, the only effort needed is a couple of clicks and a bank account transfer.
A couple of guys in a boat, a cooler of beer between them, a lazy lake, and two poles hanging over the side into the still water. This is the prevailing mental image of fishing, and it’s certainly not very athletic. It might be hard to wrestle a large fish into a boat, but those are the exceptions to the rule.
There might be some extreme versions of fishing that are more like a bear grabbing a fish out of the water, but in general, this is another instance of man bullying animals with their technology and opposable thumbs.
Shooting is a lot like hunting, except you hit targets instead of living things that are in a life or death struggle. Shows like Top Shot make it into a big competition and add countless bells and whistles. However, at its core, it’s still mostly competition and focus instead of any athletic prowess. You can also look at any trick shooter, or antique gun enthusiast and know it’s not very athletic – they’re almost universally large, old dudes with hulking beards.
5. Competitive Eating
The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest has become a July 4th institution. It’s always held in the morning on Coney Island, and always proves a fun kickoff to the day’s activities. The TV ratings have been consistently surprising, especially during the rivalry between American Joey Chestnut and Japan’s Kobayashi.
The competitors range from huge dudes with impressive stomachs to tiny ladies with impressive metabolisms. Some of the competitors do jumps, shakes, and wiggles to aid digestion – but most of them just stand there and eat as fast as possible. It’s entertaining and disgusting in equal measures to us, but it’s not athletic.
It takes a great amount of concentration and understanding of physics to dominate the world of pool. Still, at its core, it’s still basically done with the lightest of arm motions. It’s a competition of angles and spins more than strength. Anyone that’s played pool can tell you that hitting the ball as hard as possible is going to end badly.
Most of the competitions aren’t even games of nine-ball, snooker, or whatever variation is most popular. It’s all trick shots, which lowers the bar a little farther. There are still some very talented people playing, but they’d never be called athletes.
Any “sport” that requires you to be a millionaire before even practicing is on thin ice already. But yachting? Come on. Operating a boat is a difficult activity. Especially if it’s a sailboat compared to a motorboat. However, just because something is a race or is difficult doesn’t make it a sport. Even worse is that these boats operate entirely on motor power or wind power. At least with rowing, it’s human action moving the boats up and down the lake. This is more of a competition of technology and tactics than physical prowess.
2. Horse Racing
This year’s Kentucky Derby featured far more hours of television coverage than there were minutes of racing action. The annual party around the race is way more interesting and athletic than the jockeys that ride on the horses.
The horses really do all the work, the jockeys pretty much just have to hold on, and occasionally hit the horse. It’s a very athletic race for the horses, but for the humans? We don’t really do much more than drink, watch, and a very few go along for the ride.
Gymnastics is purely and completely athletic. Most people wouldn’t ever dispute that. And Trampolining is really just gymnastics with a LOT of help. I know it’s an olympic sport, but so is Synchronized Swimming. Note: there is also Synchronized Trampolining.
Trampolining violates the “anybody can do it” rule. Now, most people can’t perform a full routine, but almost anyone can do a flip, backflip, or any other sort of tumble on a trampoline in their backyard. It’s again some technology (springs, elasticity, physics, etc) replacing someone’s athletic ability to possibly jump really high. Fun to watch, funner to do, but not purely athletic.
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