Don’t leave home: Sports are stranger in other countries |

Don’t leave home: Sports are stranger in other countries

Rick Chandler, Tribune correspondent

In this time of great uncertainty, we Americans need to bolster our self-esteem in every way possible. This column is here to help. With so many in the world community heaping scorn on us lately, we thought we’d take a moment to explain the reason everyone out there hates us.

It’s because the rest of the world is nuts.

Yes, as it turns out, we’re the sane ones. And to prove that point, take a look at this sampling of true sports stories collected by this column since the beginning of the year. We repeat: These stories are true, and they all occurred in other nations, where, unlike us, the inhabitants are clearly insane.

A goalie for an English professional soccer team played for ten minutes on the field completely by himself, unaware that the match had been postponed due to thick fog. According to the London Daily Star, Richard Siddall, the goalie for the Stocksbridge Steels, near Sheffield, couldn’t see much beyond the penalty box due to the fog, but assumed that all of the action was at the other end of the field. He might be there still except that his manager, Wayne Biggins, realized he wasn’t in the locker room and went looking for him.

Of course, there’s nothing more boring than playing soccer by yourself. Or is there?

After suppressing a riot between fans at a one-day cricket match between India and New Zealand, Auckland police cited boredom as the reason for the unrest. Bottle throwing, fistfights and racial taunts resulted in 41 arrests at the match at Eden Park.

Recommended Stories For You

“The main factor was that it was probably a very boring game,” said police inspector Derek Davison, who noted that one man broke his hip when he toppled through a steel security fence during the scuffle. New Zealand won the match by three wickets.

Eden Park managers say that security will be stepped up for the next match, between New Zealand and Australia, which promises to be even more boring.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve always wondered why there weren’t more household-appliance-related sporting events. Well, you’re in luck. The Extreme Ironing World Championships is currently being held at sites throughout the world, including Holland, Iceland and the Dakar Desert through April 31.

According to the Extreme Ironing Bureau’s web site (, the sport “combines the thrill of extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” Apparently all one needs to participate is an ironing board, an iron and a wrinkled clothing item, which are hauled to the most desolate areas possible, where ironing then commences. One group from England has just left for Nepal, where it is attempting to establish the world ironing altitude record during a 21-day trek to the top of Kala-Patar (5,100 meters).

There’s no logical way to lead in to our next item so we’re just going to say it: a British man and 18 of his closest friends will sprint around a racehorse track dressed as emus, while patrons bet on the outcome. The David Morton Memorial Classic Emu Sprint was organized by John Morton in memory of his father, who recently died of cancer. Wagering proceeds will go to the Marie Curie Cancer Care Foundation.

John Morton, a 31-year-old auto mechanic from Oxfordshire, will be running as “Sue’s Delight,” in honor of his bride-to-be, Sue Twite, of London. Why emus? No one is saying, and quite frankly no explanation would be good enough.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, police are looking for two men who pelted opposing soccer fans with sticks of celery. The attack occurred at halftime of a Scottish Second Division game at Shielfield Park, according to the Scottish Daily Record. Police believe the attack was in retaliation for an earlier scuffle involving squash. (Note: The Daily Record reported this as a straight news story, right between two other stories on the Gulf War and an IRA suspect’s extradition to Germany).

In another act of senseless violence, a British professional soccer coach has stepped down after slapping a player in the face with a dead pigeon. John Lambie, manager of the Partick Jags, admitted that he hit Declan Rochie with the pigeon, which had died from disease. He explained his behavior as “just a bit of fun.”

And finally, a Brazilian soccer fan is living in a tree in protest of his team’s poor play. In a gesture that U.S. protesters should study, the man, known only as Roberto, has tied himself to the tree outside the home stadium of his favorite team, the Corinthians. The man, who spoke to journalists while eating bananas and throwing the skins at the stadium door, said that he would stay there “until things improve.”

The lesson for us all? Don’t leave the country unless absolutely necessary.

— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at Contact him at