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The World’s Most Exciting Spectator Sports

If you are ever caught in Europe with absolutely nothing to do—like it’s snowing 4 inches per minute and you can’t go out to play—you can always watch sporting events on TV. The Jock-Around-the-Clock channel is Eurosport. It is the ESPN of all of Europe. Eurosport provides live coverage of whatever major sporting event is taking place in Europe at the time. Coverage is also in whatever language the announcer at the time happens to speak.

I used to be in Spain every year when the French Open tennis tournament started, late May—early June. Since I’m an avid tennis fan, I watched avidly. This year in late December skiing was the big event. While the downhill events, i.e. slalom, jumping (flying) etc., are interesting, the other major ski event, cross-country skiing, is not. This caused me to think of Eurosport’s start-to-finish coverage of sports popular in Europe. Having nothing better to do, I decided to pick out the most exciting spectator sports covered by Eurosport. Here is the top five list: 1. Cross country skiing, 2.Any marathon, 3. The Tour de France, 4. Curling, and 5. A major chess championship game.

Cross country skiing, for those of you not familiar with this exciting event, is basically like walking from Huntsville to Madisonville with 1x4’s strapped to your feet. Even when done by a large group, it’s not all that interesting. Snow on the ground probably makes it easier but does not add to the excitement. Try to visualize a bunch of guys walking through the woods and across fields. There are no high-speed chases; no harrowing or hairpin turns; just hour after hour of the same slow paced activity. Occasionally the announcer will get a bit excited—“Here they come out of the woods.” That’s pretty much it for cross-country skiing.

A marathon, on the other hand, is different. The participants don’t wear skis but they do move at about the same pace as the cross-country skiers. The way this works is that a big bunch of people (like 10,000) start the race (which is 26.2 miles long) and about 2 to 2 1/2 hours later some of them finish. Wall to wall coverage of a marathon is a big challenge for the sportscaster—“Well, they’re off.” One hour later—“Well, here they come to the tenth mile marker. “You notice, Lance, that some of the people that started seemed to have dropped out.”
Lance, “Yes, Nigel, I see what you mean.”
Much later—it seems like several days—
Nigel, “ Well, Lance here they come to the finish line.”
Lance, “ Who would have thought it. The guy in the red panties won.”

Number 3—The Tour de France is a crowd of folks riding bicycles for several days. Be honest. You’ve watched people ride bicycles. You’ve probably ridden one yourself. How exciting is that. I know our guy Lance Armstrong usually wins and that’s good for him and Texas, but again, how exciting is that?
Nigel, “Look, Lance, they’re peddling hard to get up that hill.”
Lance, “They sure are Nigel. Did you know my first name is the same as Lance Armstrong’s?”
Nigel, “I’ll be damned. You’re right. I had never thought of it before. In an exciting race like this, you just don’t think of things like that.”

Number 4 is curling, a sport that has never really caught on here in Texas but is popular in places like Canada, Germany, and Scotland, where it originated. Curling matches are covered in all their glory on Eurosport. There are even commercials for upcoming curling contests. For those of you who would like to know more about curling, please go to the internet web site entitled (this is really true) Curling, The Roaring Game.

Curling is played on ice but without ice skates. It is very much like that exciting game played at most retirement communities, shuffle board, but much slower. Each team has 4 players—The Lead, the second, the third, and the skip. Even the names of the positions cause some hearts to beat faster.

The equipment consists of a stone, actually several stones, and a broom for each player. A stone is somewhat like a hockey puck inflated to the size of a bowling ball. The broom is—well—a broom. The object of the game is to get your stones into a scoring area without touching them. (Be careful what you are imagining here.) “How could you possibly do that,” you might ask? By sweeping the ice with your broom, I would answer. “Naaaaa”, you would say. It’s true. The stone is barely set in motion (a snail or even an overweight slug moves faster than the stone.) at one end of the 148 foot-long court and the curlers try to get it to go into a scoring area at the other end by sweeping the ice in front of the stone. An opposing player tries to prevent this by sweeping the ice in front of the stone. Try to visualize two players hunched over, sweeping the ice in front of this very slowly moving stone, and doing it for about 150 minutes, the length of a game.
Lance, “Look at that blue team sweep, Nigel. Have you ever seen anything so exciting.”
Nigel, “No I haven’t, Lance.”
Lance, “That’s some of the best broom work I’ve ever seen.”
Nigel, “Yes it is, Lance.”

Completing the list at number 5 is an exciting chess match. Here is the scene—there is a table set up in the middle of a room. The chessboard is set up on the table.
Nigel, speaking very softly “Here come the players. They’re shaking hands. Now they’re sitting down. It looks like white is going to open with a king’s pawn opening.”