4. Fox Tossing
Going back much further, once can imagine that the opportunities for amusement were even more scarce in the 18th century. One forgotten sport, described in a German hunting manual from 1720, was known as “Fuchsprellen”—roughly translated, “Fox Tossing.”
The idea was to lay a series of tarps over a large outdoor playing area. Then, several foxes—along with badgers and small wildcats—would be let loose. Participants would chase them around, waiting for the moment when a hapless animal was positioned perfectly on one of the tarps; two players would then grab the tarp at either end and quickly pull it taut, launching the animal as high into the air as possible.
While one might think that such ridiculous activities involving cruelty to animals are a thing of the distant past, this is not necessarily so.
5. Balloon Jumping
Yes, the 1920s loved futurism, and nothing was more futuristic than flight. Science fiction of the time was packed with flying cars and bizarre airships, and some rich sportsmen thought of a way to bring the future into the present: balloon jumping.
The jumper was attached by a harness to a large balloon, large enough to provide some lift but not so large (ideally) that the jumper would drift off into the sky. Participants could achieve a kind of moonwalk-type bounce, flying up over trees, fences, and even houses. Sports publications throughout the 1920s fawned over this new sport, calling it safe, easy, and fun, but it never quite caught on among the public at large—perhaps due to a 1927 balloon jumping death in the UK, in which an experienced parachute jumper died while partaking in the activity.
The phrase “Keep On Truckin’ ” originated with a Blind Boy Fuller blues song in the 1930s but seemed to really catch on the ’70s, when it seemed to appear on every other shirt practically overnight. It appears to simply be an innocent way to express that one should keep going no matter how difficult things become, but American college students—with some inspiration from artist Robert Crumb—turned the phrase into a strange and pointless activity.
Crumb’s comic strip, “Keep On Truckin’,” featured caricatures of men walking with a pronounced, exaggerated strut, leaning back while making wide, swooping leg motions. College kids—the strip’s target audience—took this immediately to heart, and began copying the cartoonish walk in real life. The phenomenon was first documented in campus newspapers in 1970 but died out by the mid-’70s. Perhaps this was because Crumb was finally granted a copyright for his original image, used without license on merchandise for years, in 1977.