Anything’s a Sport: A look at the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Festival.

The fundamental actions in sports can be strange. For example, throwing a leather ball, kicking a rubber ball, hitting something with a stick and hitting something with a stick but on ice. The oddities of sports are often overlooked due to their competitive nature, the immense skill they demand and the cultural significance they possess. Yet while all sports can be seen as strange, there are some that could be considered unique, bizarre or even befuddling.

The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll is one such sport. Netflix’s We Are the Champions pilots their limited series on uncommon competitions around the world with the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll in Brockworth, England. On the last Monday of every May, contestants start on the top of a steep 200-yard hill as a wheel of cheese is sent rolling down. The contestants then race at full speed, falling and rolling down the hill, to chase the cheese and reach the bottom of Cooper’s Hill first. The winner of the race is awarded the 8-pound wheel of cheese and goes down in legend with the former winners. Brockworth’s Cheese Roll is a very old tradition that dates back to at least the 1820s. No one knows quite why this sport originated (some local lore consists of barrel racing and pagan rituals) but it could be traced back to the large cheese industry in Gloucester, wherein the village of Brockworth is located.

As expected, this event leads to many injuries spanning from small bruises to broken or dislocated bones. While no one in recorded history has died during the cheese roll, the English government has canceled the event in past years due to overcrowding and general health. Despite the injuries, weird looks and government intervention, the people of Brockworth continue to hold the annual cheese roll. A question arises from such an activity: why? Why do regular people annually throw themselves down a hill to win a wheel of cheese?

Well, it isn’t really about the cheese. All sports have cultural value and significance, but cheese rolling and other wacky sport traditions reach back to the roots of the area. At their best, sports can bring people together and push people to live more boldly. The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll is only one example of a sport reflecting the unique personality of its people. However, the publicity of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll has grown exponentially since being featured on Netflix. The annual cheese roll now has contestants and spectators from all over the world. There are three men’s races a year on Cooper’s Hill but only one women’s race a year. Chris Anderson holds the record for most wins in the men’s races with 22, and Flo Early holds the record for most wins in the women’s races with four.

Source: Netflix, We Are the Champions

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