I have heard stories about games starting with human heads, both in the
British Isles and elsewhere. I've heard it both attributed to the warriors
themselves and local children after the battle. Gruesome stuff, but pretty
widespread. The stories of how sports began fascinate me.
There was a great show on ESPN dedicated to various sports around the world
which did an episode on Ireland. Of course, they treated hurley (did I spell
it right?), which is pretty much the logical Irish analog to field hockey,
only moreso. Then they talked about "road bowling." This strikes me as the
quintessential Irish sport. Basically, two players each take a metal ball
similar (in my mind) to the ones used in shot put, get on a stretch of road,
and find out who can throw their ball 3 miles with fewer throws. I would love
to see this game played. (If anyone ever knows of it being played in the
Washington, DC area, let me know!) It's really not that much more than an
activity for a couple of people to do while taking a walk, yet cities really
get behind their hometown champs. Oh yeah... did I mention that the gaggle of
spectators stands in the roadway _in the path of_ the oncoming metal ball?
According to ESPN, the rumored origin of the game was that a pair of British
soldiers in Belfast each picked up a small cannonball and had a contest to see
who could throw it farthest. I assume it sort of ballooned into "longest 2
throws, 5, 15..." and the next thing you know, these poor guys are 3 miles
from base (which sounds like AWOL to me). I believe ESPN also mentioned
something about parishes playing against one another, and throwing from church
to church, but I could be misremembering.
CUA Mullen Library