what DOES make sense to me (as far as any sports game could) are sporting events built around real groups — groups of people that have some sort of ties to one another:
- ashbourne’s royal shrovetide football match where the game is between the town’s “up’ards” and “down’ards,” i.e. individuals actually born in the town to the north or the south of the local river.
The Royal Shrovetide Football Match occurs annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. Shrovetide ball games have been played in England since at least the 12th century from the reign of Henry II (1154–89). The Ashbourne game also known as "hugball" has been played from at least c.1667 although the exact origins of the game are unknown due to a fire at the Royal Shrovetide Committee office in the 1890s which destroyed the earliest records. One of the most popular origin theories suggests the macabre notion that the 'ball' was originally a severed head tossed into the waiting crowd following an execution. ...
The game is played over two days on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, starting each day at 2.00 pm and lasting until 10.00 pm. If the goal is scored (in local parlance, the ball is goaled) before 5.00 pm a new ball is released and play restarts from the town centre, otherwise play ends for the day. Despite the name, the ball is rarely kicked, though it is legal to kick, carry or throw it. Instead it generally moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant scrum in rugby, made up of dozens if not hundreds of people. When the ball is goaled, the scorer is carried on the shoulders of his colleagues into the courtyard of The Green Man Royal Hotel, and into the small bar, known as the Boswell Bar.
The two teams that play the game are known as the Up'Ards and the Down'Ards (local dialect for "upwards and downwards"). Up'Ards traditionally are those town members born north of Henmore Brook, which runs through the town, and Down'Ards are those born south of the river. Each team attempts to carry the ball back to their own goal from the turn-up, rather than the more traditional method of scoring at/in the opponents goal. There are two goal posts 3 miles apart, one at Sturston Mill (where the Up'Ards attempt to score), the other at Clifton Mill (where the Down'Ards score). ...
The actual process of 'goaling' a ball requires a player to hit it against the mill stone three successive times. This is not a purely random event however, as the eventual scorer is elected en route to the goal and would typically be someone who lives in Ashbourne or at least whose family is well known to the community. The chances of a 'tourist' goaling a ball are very remote, though they are welcome to join in the effort to reach the goal. When a ball is 'goaled' that particular game ends.
The game is played through the town with no limit on number of players or playing area (aside from those mentioned in the rules below). Thus shops in the town are boarded up during the game, and people are encouraged to park their cars away from the main streets.
Does anybody remember the name of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves story in which Bertie gets roped into taking part in one of these kind of ancient village ballbrawls?