It is rather interesting that a book that claims to contain more than one hundred of the most dangerous and bizarre forgotten sports in history does not clearly define exactly what turns an activity into a sport. That is something that at least I would have found to be a very interesting starting point for a deeper discussion. Instead Edward Brooke-Hitching, in his Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports, aims at providing light entertainment for the reader, an effort with which I think he is successful. I am lightly entertained.
It seems that the sports in this compilation can be divided in a small number of main categories: There is a surprisingly large selection of different ways to torment animals, a variety of ill-advised ideas in exploiting technological advances, a number of businessmen milking money from a crowd by offering something novel, and of course all the different ways village brawls can be codified. In my opinion only the last variety is what I would call sports. However, if I see the book as a collection of human ideas for physical entertainment through history everything makes sense. We, as a species, are very inventive in finding ways to spend our time, which this book is evidence of. It is nice to bring out the book to read about a “sport” or two and chuckle a little, while waiting for the snooker to start on TV after the Formula 1 broadcast.