When it comes to recreational activity in the US, the country is home to more than a few unique pastimes. There’s cornhole, which has little to do with corn, along with frisbee, kart racing, and kickball. There’s an even longer list of obscure sports that residents helped develop, including inner tube water polo, roller derby, and cowboy polo (to name a few).
But the country also gets credit for a few other popular pastimes that weren’t actually Born in the USA. The first that comes to mind are popular foods like hot dogs and apple pie, which actually come from Germany and the Netherlands, respectively. Even more conceptual ideas like democracy and the word ‘yep’ have their roots in other nations.
American democracy, for example, was modeled on the practices of the pre-Revolution Iroquois Confederacy, which included the Native American tribes of Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, and Oneida. And ‘yep’ was first used in Shakespearean plays, which makes it a British English phrase first.
When it comes to popular games, the waters can get even more muddied. Think you know fact from fiction? Keep reading to myth-bust the origins of four games whose existence is credited to the US.
Poker was born in the US, a combination of games like the German pochen that evolved slowly on the frontier. Poker is considered an American pastime, rooted in the era of the Wild West. Today, players countrywide carry on this tradition. Most are active via online poker sites, where thousands gather to compete in table games and tournaments. In fact, the Global Poker platform has over 250,000 active players, highlighting just how popular the game is today.
However, poker evolved slowly over time—and even in the dusty saloons of the Wild West, grizzled countrymen were more likely to play Faro over poker. So, where did the mix-up come from? Pop culture has confused many on the origin of the game, from titles like Red Dead Redemption to films like The Ballad of Lefty Brown.
Canadians invented ice hockey… but the US created basketball, American football, and baseball. Or that’s what many people like to think. Unfortunately for diehard fans of the sport, its origin comes from England—and it dates back centuries. During the late Middle Ages up until the mid-1700s, bat-and-ball games picked up popularity in the UK and Ireland.
The game was originally known as ‘base ball’, along with other titles like ‘fetch-catch’ and ‘stool ball’. In its earliest form, teams pitched to themselves and ran through the bases from left to right. Still, not many would argue that baseball is English. Instead, it’s part of a colonial inheritance from the former empire.
Quidditch: Fact… Sort Of
For those who never read the Harry Potter series, Quidditch is a fictional sport invented by author JK Rowling. But back in 2005, fans of the series at Middlebury College decided to bridge fact and fiction by creating a real-life adaptation of the game. Today, Quidditch (also known as Quadball) includes an international rulebook for standardized play around the world. In fact, there are a series of regional and international tournaments where fans can compete in formal teams—all thanks to the brilliant (and obsessive) minds at Middlebury College.
Rodeo is a competitive sport that’s hugely popular throughout the American southwest—along with rural areas in Canada and Mexico. Though considered a pastime linked to the Wild West and its cowboy culture, rodeo actually comes from Mexico. Before there were cowboys, there were vaqueros. These skilled herders were the predecessors to cowboys—and one of their favorite forms of competition was the rodeo. However, the first officially publicized rodeo was held in Pecos, Texas back in 1883, which many Texans will be happy to hear.