In the days before television, going to a sporting event meant attending one in person. Amazingly some of these events became very popular and had some super stars (their version, anyway ).
Photo credit: Joseph Becker.
In the 19th century, competitive walking was the most popular spectator sport in America. The sport, known as pedestrianism, was born out boredom by the people who migrated to the cities after the Civil War and needed a new form of entertainment. In filled arenas, competitors walked around tracks almost nonstop from Mondays to Saturdays in front of spectators. (Sundays were excluded because public amusement was not allowed on that day.) The competitors walked to see who could cover the most distance during the race’s duration. Some of these competitors would reportedly walk up to 160 kilometers (100 mi) in 24 hours.
The sport was so popular that celebrities were known to visit arenas during the event. Future president Chester Arthur was a regular spectator at the arena. As in modern sports, there were rivalries among the stars, who earned a fortune from the prize money and sponsorship deals. There were scandals over fixing games and over drugs.
Pedestrianism was eventually replaced by competitive cycling after the invention of the safety bicycle by John Starley in 1885.
Somehow I have a hard time finding any excitement in watching someone walking around a race track. Doesn't really get my juices flowing, ya know?
Coffee out on the patio this morning. We can watch the grass grow for excitement!