World's Craziest Sports
Strange Sports Traditions
Spectators might not have done "the wave" during the earliest days of the Olympics, but just about every sport has its share of odd traditions and rituals. In many cases, we've gotten so used to these traditions that they don't even seem strange anymore—like having people dress up as their team's mascot and run around during the game, or celebrating a win by dumping a giant bucket of ice-cold Gatorade on the coach's head. If you didn't know what was happening, you'd think it was crazy! Today we'll dig into some of the stranger sports traditions from the past and present.
what you’ll need
- A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
- Pens, crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- Poster board (optional)
Ask About Today
What's the weirdest sports tradition you learned about today?
What sports or game traditions should we start and why?
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Octopus-Throwing and Other Fan Traditions
Get a look at some of the strangest traditions in sports, from toast-tossing and catfish-throwing to sitting in total silence for parts of the game, in this article from USA Today Sports.
When Did We Start Dumping Gatorade on People?
Watch this video to learn the history of sports traditions like dumping gatorade on the coach (in football) or swapping jerseys at the end of a game (in soccer).
Haka Before Rugby
The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team is famous for its embrace of Haka, an ancient Māori dance used to intimidate enemies and express pride. Watch them perform it in this video from the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
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The Tradition of Kapa Haka
Learn more about the tradition and cultural origins of Kapa Haka in this NPR video.
Somewhere along the line, we not only started dressing up as our sports mascots, we also started racing them against each other. Let's find out where, exactly.
Designing New Sports Traditions
Traditions bring people together and create a sense of belonging. Along with team colors, logos, and mascots, they are used in sports to excite and unite fans.
Earlier this week, you made up your own crazy sport. What fan traditions would go along with it? If you were cheering your team on, would you paint your face in a certain way, or wear a specific kind of outfit? Is there a chant you would use when your team scores a point or wins the game?
Give it a little thought and jot down some ideas, then create a chant or poster slogan for the team. Need some ideas? Click the button to get some inspiration from crazy football fans nationwide (focus on the first 20 or so slides).
For younger explorers
Make a Ball Toss Game
Decorate old boxes from around the house and turn them into a course for a ball toss game. Gather a group of different sized boxes, decorate them, and create your own ball toss course. Check out this website for some ideas!
Historic College Sports Pranks
Traditions come in a lot of forms: Chants, cheers, pregame rituals—and even pranks! One college, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been carrying out elaborate pranks during the Harvard-Yale football event since 1948. Read about some of their most memorable pranks in this article.
The Great Rose Bowl Hoax
"The Great Rose Bowl Hoax" of 1961 is considered one of the greatest pranks of all time. Learn how college students from Cal Tech—who didn't even have a football team!—made an unexpected appearance at the annual Rose Bowl football game.
Playoff Beards for the Win
In the National Hockey League (NHL), it's traditional for players on teams that make the playoffs to grow "playoff beards." Making fun of each other's beards as they grow in is just part of the game.
Quirky Rituals of Tennis Stars
Did you know tennis star Serena Williams ties her shoes exactly the same way before each match? For many athletes, using the same specific pre-game rituals is incredibly important. Learn about hers and a few others in this article.
For younger explorers
Read along with the story Long Shot by NBA All-Star Chris Paul.
Get Tradition in the Game
Traditions occur in lots of games. Try adding a tradition to your favorite board game or this computer game of soccer! Create a tradition to be used during the game, like a gooooooaaaaaal cry everytime a goal is scored, or a chant for the winner if you are playing a board game.
For younger explorers
It's Fin Ball Time
Now there's a crazy sport. Head over to PBS Kids to play Splash and Bubbles Fin Ball Friends.
Train with the NBA
One of basketball all-star Lebron James' pre-game traditions is the chalk toss. That might have something to do with his success on the court—but discipline, practice, and training are the real reasons.
Want to train like Lebron? Check out the Jr. NBA At-Home workout series for tons of training videos from NBA stars and coaches. Pick your favorite player or team and get started! Even if you don't like basketball, the workouts will help you boost your strength, flexibility, and endurance.
more to explore
Shifting Sports Traditions in a Pandemic
How might sports and fans change during the pandemic? Learn about some ideas the NFL has for football games this year.
The Presidents Race
In Washington, DC, the Washington Nationals baseball team hosts a regular "Presidents Race," during which mascots dressed like US presidents race around the field. Let's watch.
Wild Traditions in College Sports
Dive deeper into the unique traditions of college sports teams and fans across the US.
Tip: Scroll down to see a full listing of traditions and videos.