Today, we discuss things like polo, archery, Canadian football, and eight other least popular sports in the world.
On Wednesday, I put up the results of my study to try to figure out the 11 most popular sports in the world.
My method involved using data from two websites that used interesting, albeit somewhat roundabout, methods to gauge sports’ popularity throughout the world. (One is based on the popularity of sports’ official websites, the other is based on sports’ international press coverage.) But the top 11 passed the eye test, so I was fine with it.
I’m not so sure this bottom 11 passes the eye test.
I couldn’t include every sport in the world because of a lack of data. So while these are the 11 least popular sports I could quantify, things like jai alai, foxy boxing, synchronized trampolining and egg-spoon races aren’t included.
In other words, these are the least popular sports that are popular enough to at least be in the global conversation about sports.
11 Least Popular Sports in the World
Now that I’ve preemptively ruined it, on with the list! Here are the 11 least known sports in the world that you should probably watch at least once in a lifetime…
11 | Shooting
Watching other people shoot guns is apparently sort-of popular in India and Eastern Europe, and not particularly popular anywhere else. Or so the liberals would have us believe.
Plus, who knew that sitting back and watching someone else fire a weapon could be a pastime? Maybe it’s the thrill of the potential danger, or perhaps it’s just a way to feel macho without actually having to do any heavy lifting.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a gun enthusiast to enjoy this list of least popular sports.
10 | Bowling
Look. Bowling, especially when playing with the hardest splits, is a lot of fun to do once in a while on a Friday night while neon lights flash and Maneater pumps from an antiquated stereo system. But bowling as a sport has fallen on quite difficult times.
It’s not ranked in the top 20 most popular sports in any country in the world and, in spite of ESPN’s efforts, is often less captivating to watch on TV than sad dudes sitting around playing cards.
9 | Darts
It’s rated as one of the top three most popular sports in one country in the world: Gibraltar. Which is a country in the way that a cart at the mall selling custom embroidered hats is a store.
Darts is one of those things that’s a sport to some people, but just a game to everyone else.
But who are we to argue? Maybe throwing small pointed objects at a round board really is the pinnacle of athletic achievement.
8 | Weightlifting
The sport of weightlifting isn’t quite hopping down onto the Nautilus chest press machine and pumping out three sets of 10 reps — this is about a neckless Bulgarian lady who looks like an angry barrel clean-and-jerking 875 pounds. Or 396 kilos, if you will.
And oh, by the way, weightlifting is one of those Olympic sports that fat people can participate and win.
7 | Canadian football
I fully expected American football to crack this list, but it didn’t. Even though it’s insanely popular in America and not watched anywhere else, the Super Bowl draws a lot of press coverage and eyeballs, and that term is even one of the most exciting two-word phrases in sports. In fact, it finished as the 15th most popular sport on my list.
Canadian football, on the other hand, doesn’t even rank as the most popular sport in its home country. It loses out to hockey and possibly maple syrup drinking contests.
6 | Sailing
Ever since Christopher Cross played at the Newmanium, sailing has never been the same.
Today, sailing is one of those sports that’s really only for people with boats or access to boats. And even then, it’s not a particularly popular pastime.
The only time most people hear about sailing is during the America’s Cup, which is the maritime version of the World Series, but with fewer hotdogs and more yacht clubs.
Sailing’s lack of popularity might also be due to the fact that it’s often associated with the wealthy and privileged, who have the means to actually participate in the sport. Plus, let’s face it, sailing doesn’t exactly have the same level of excitement as say, the X Games or UFC.
5 | Archery
If in a post-Hunger Games world, archery STILL charts this low, the fifth-least popular sport in the world may actually be its peak.
4 | Polo
Polo is way less popular than water polo, which ought to lead to quite a few people gasping in horror, monocles falling into brandy snifters in the process. It might even be less popular than Marco Polo at this point. (The pool game, and quite possibly also the explorer.)
3 | Fencing
Kind of a raw deal for fencing. Time to change the rules. Instead of points for touching your bendy sword into someone’s chess, award points for plunging your sword deep into their heart. That would certainly make fencing more interesting, but probably not any more popular.
Fencing is one of those sports that people tend to associate with old-timey aristocrats or swashbuckling pirates. It’s not exactly a sport that the masses can relate to. Plus, it’s hard to imagine anyone taking it seriously when they’re wearing those goofy-looking masks.
2 | Motocross/motorcycle racing
I combined the rankings for motocross, MotoGP, motorcycle racing, superbike, and everything else motorcycle related because (1) I wanted to give them a fighting chance and (2) I couldn’t really differentiate between them even though I’m sure there are people out there who would punch me in the head for saying that.
Other sports I combined (like various skiing and running sports) managed to dodge this list; the umbrella of motorcycle racing barely escaped absolute zero. Too bad. Vroom vroom vroom.
1 | Kabbadi
Kabbadi is the national sport of Bangladesh and, from what I can tell, it’s a mix of rugby without a ball and red rover. It has no chance of ever getting over in the U.S. now; if they weren’t letting kids play this when I was in school, they certainly won’t let today’s children play.
Anyway, it’s huge in Southeast Asia and almost no one else in the world has heard of it.