5. Battle-Ball was the most complicated sport ever invented
Dudley Allen Sargent M.D. (1849-1924) was a pioneer in the field of physical education. He was employed by Harvard for around forty years, where he served as director of the Hemenway Gymnasium and assistant professor of physical training, and set up his own school of physical education to train teachers in the art. In 1894, Sargent turned his critical eye onto sports themselves, and decided that none was not up to his own very high standards. Thus he invented Battle-Ball, âa game which embraces at once some of the features of bowling, base-ball, cricket, foot-ball, hand-ball, and tennis’.
If that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Although the basic premise was simple enough – hurling a rubber ball across the opposing team’s goal-line – Sargent decided that a sport could only be interesting through its complexity, and thus devised a bewildering set of rules and tactics which hardly anyone could be bothered to untangle. Sargent’s intention of inventing a sport anyone could play was nonetheless noble. As well as providing good exercise and use of the respiratory system for every participant (unlike football and baseball, according to Sargent), Battle-Ball could be adapted for any available space, indoors or outdoors.