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Embracing Sweden's 'ridiculous' sports

15 Mar 2013, 18:28

Published: 15 Mar 2013 18:28 GMT+01:00

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Wow, there are some ridiculous sports up here. Some of them are so unutterably ludicrous I’m not actually sure that I didn’t dream them. Did I really watch a television broadcast of a man jumping around on piles of tyres on a small motorcycle? If I did see it on TV was it a documentary on the world’s most rubbish circuses?

If it was, why do I remember the ‘winner’ being interviewed on TV and beaming as if he hadn’t just succeeded at the world’s most pointless sport but instead had achieved something relatively worthwhile and more fun to watch, like boiling an egg or stroking a dog?

Then, of course, there’s the trotting, with a man on a small wagon being pulled around a small oval track by a horse. It’s like chariot-racing for 3-year-olds. It is to Ben Hur as an egg-and-spoon race is to Chariots Of Fire. It’s predictability is also quite astonishing.

The leader at the first bend almost always wins.

Why not end the race at the first bend? You could fit in a lot more races per meet. Incredibly, people, real flesh-and-blood people, actually pay money to watch it.

SEE ALSO: Hockey wasn't always Sweden's pride on ice

But it’s not all bad up north, sport-wise. My neighbour Randy has done me the favour of introducing me to ice hockey. He’s a season-ticket holder at AIK Skellefteå, the best team in the country.

As a Manchester City fan, whose love of English football’s once-perennial losers, but now current champions, predates by two decades the billionaire takeover by Sheikh Mansour, I’m really not used to supporting a league-dominating club. And, shamefully, I have also found it hard to shed the more primal, combative behaviour more typical of football fans.

During one of my first games, a thrilling 4-3 win over northern rivals, Luleå, I lost my cool a couple of times at visiting supporters celebrating a Luleå goal. Randy would look at me with alarm and pat my arm. In England it’s perfectly acceptable to shout a few choice words at opposing supporters - not so much here.

This is good, however. At ice hockey games you get a much broader demographic than football matches. In the UK, at least, football spectators tend to be male and 30-50-years-old. At Skellefteå ice hockey matches, I think the male-female split is around 60-40. And there are a lot of younger females. This makes for a much less testosterone-fuelled atmosphere.

Which is fine as there’s plenty of testosterone swilling around on the ice. Granted it’s not as violent as the NHL in North America (I’ve seen one match there and counted 13 officially sanctioned fights between players), but it does get pretty nasty.

And I have to admit, I still don’t quite get ice hockey.

When the puck becomes trapped on the boards, the scrimmages sometimes resemble a footie kickabout in a school playground. And the rapid turnover of players is a little too confusing. But I’m pretty sold - I’ll be attending all the home games of the semi-final stage once Skellefteå dispatch defending champions Brynäs over the next few days.

Story continues below…

I might even buy a scarf.

And Randy might have to wrap it round my big gob if things get a little too tense on the ice. I don't think I'll ever quite go full Swede when it comes to watching sport.

Paul Connolly

Read more from Paul here, including his Striking a Chord music column

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Your comments about this article

20:48 March 15, 2013 by skogsbo
You seem to have targeted a sensible sport and missed things like arm wrestling or sauna competitions, but be careful not to become the pot or kettle as the UK does have bog snorkelling!
12:36 March 16, 2013 by calebian22
Thank goodness England has no ridiculous sports. Cricket anyone?
12:36 March 16, 2013 by Hamsterdam
The articles by Connolly, make me feel like I have been bombed back into the dark ages. Naive and often trodden viewpoints that add no value and no amusement.
18:22 March 16, 2013 by skogsbo
Rather than trying to take the pi.. or ridicule something, he would come across much better if he just wrote about how he has discovered ice hockey, people would think better of him and perhaps visit a game themselves.

He must have missed the dozens of ice rinks in the uk, their teams and games whilst there. ;)
06:39 March 19, 2013 by GraceBee
LOL at the hurt Swedes! One thing I have learned in my time in Sweden is that Swedes do not laugh at themselves very easily. I do no know why this is, perhaps they think they are without fault?

I do not know why skogsbo is so upset either - Paul was praising ice hockey! Read, people, read. As for me, another very funny article Paul, keep it up!
10:08 March 19, 2013 by skogsbo
Yes , he did praise it, so why wrap it up in an article branding some sports ridiculous, funny article? I guess people's idea of humour varies.
12:49 March 19, 2013 by PaulConnolly
skogsbo, must admit I've never heard of bog snorkelling. Anyway, I'm pretty sure there's no TV station in the UK that would give it airtime.

And, yes, I do think that riding a small motorbike over tyres is ridiculous. But I'm very glad that it exists because life would be so much more dull without ridiculous pastimes.

Just like life would be dull if we couldn't laugh at each other or ourselves.

I love cricket but I understand that some people think it a ludicrous sport. That said, it's a ludicrous sport followed by millions of people globally and with its own world cup. Which is more than you can say for trotting or even American Football (the world cup bit).

As for Hamsterdam - lighten up, pal. Summer's on its way.

And thanks for your kind words as ever, Grace.
19:49 March 20, 2013 by Hisingen
I don't know, but somehow I see visions of Paul Connolly, not as a Pearly King, but more with his hair ties up in a bun like that Muhammed fellow we have had on here a time or two. They seem to have similarities about them with regard to Sweden.

As to ice hockey being an unusual sport, I wonder what the Yanks or Canadians would have to say about that. I like Skogsbos bog snorkelling, though!

Seem to remember something about 'underwater polo' being played in the UK some time ago, and of course, there are those annual tiddleywink championships. Now that is a worldwide sport if ever there was one.

No, me old china. I think you'd better take a ball down the frog to rhe rubadubdub on the johhny, and take a large glass of finger and thumb, 'cos you got somefink wrong wiv yer loaf.
11:48 March 21, 2013 by skogsbo
Cricket, the only sport in the world that pauses for sandwiches and cup of tea, frightfully civilised. But, a great way to while a way an afternoon watching it, laid in the sun.

Yeah, it was the USA and Canada that really brought Ice Hockey to the UK during WW2, since then it pretty much boomed, a bit of a lull in the 90s, when it went through a transitition of being very much an amateur sport, to full time, with all the trapping of expensive sponsorship and soaring ticket prices.

Darts and Cricket, being classed as a sport and taking up masses of UK TV time really annoyed me though!!

I would suggest handball, bandy, indoor bandy etc are little harder to grasp for us Brits. We know basketball is really girls netball for tall people, american football is rubgy with lots of pads and rest time, baseball is rounders... but handball doesn't really transfer.
20:54 March 21, 2013 by Canuck19
Hello Paul

You seem to be perpetrating the concept that the NHL is full of fights - nothing is further from the truth - yes there are fights and nothing is ever sanctioned - when players fight they end up serving the appropriate penalties for doing so - IF you start a fight in the NHL you end up getting an instigator penalty which means your team will be shorthanded during its duration.

Games that are "nasty" are not tolerated by the league or fans but then again perhaps nasty equates to a solid bodycheck..no nasty there!!!
19:27 March 27, 2013 by PaulConnolly
Hisingen, my old fruit, you'll have to work a lot harder at cockney rhyming slang. A LOT harder. Your version was a bit Pete.

And I never said ice hockey was an unusual sport. Not once. Use yer minces, lad.

Canuck. I've seen one NHL game. Vancouver vs Calgary. There was a fight in the FIRST FIVE SECONDS. And the umpires stood by and let them at it. That is all.
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