How Much Do You Know About the Origins of Sports?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Unless you’re the XFL, you don’t generally invent sports leagues out of thin air. Athletic events tend to evolve slowly over the years, gathering more and more players, and then associations, and then leagues that dictate games between the elite. Do you think you know the origins of the world’s popular sports?

You already know that baseball is considered “America’s game.” But was this sport truly born in the United States, or did it come to life in, say, Africa? There are many legends regarding baseball’s birth – do you think you can pick out the facts from the falsities?

Pro football seems like a fairly modern invention, right? Did you know that football has been around for well over a century … and that it used to be even more dangerous than it is today? The Super Bowl is the world’s biggest TV production, but did you know that it’s a relatively new concept?

From soccer to volleyball to hockey, sports are one of the most popular programs on live TV. The Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil, for example, drew about 3.6 billion viewers in 2016. Not bad for an athletics event that got its modern start in 1896.

Grab your favorite sports ball (or a beer) and put away your smartphone, cheater! Take our quiz and see if you know anything about the roots of America’s favorite sporting events!

American football evolved from which two sports?

It's easy to see how both soccer and rugby greatly influenced American football, which implements a blend of tackling and a weird-shaped ball. Football is the most popular sport in America.


Modern ice hockey emerged in which area?

Various primitive versions of ice hockey popped up in other places around the world. When it comes to modern hockey, though, Canada is recognized as ground zero.


The very earliest evidence for soccer emerged in which country?

From its ancient origins, soccer has come a long, long way … from China, of course. Way back in the 2nd or 3rd century, there was a military manual detailing a soccer-like game.


In China's ancient military version of soccer, players had to shoot the ball into a tiny net while ______.

True to the military origins of the game, Chinese soldiers had to score goals while withstanding attacks from other players. And the kicker was not allowed to use his hands.


What was a common early name for the game of baseball?

Baseball had a whole list of alternate names in the beginning. One was "fetch-catch," along with "goal ball," "stool ball" and others.


When was the first indoor hockey game played?

In 1875, in Montreal, the first-ever indoor ice hockey game was played. It featured two nine-player teams made up of a hodgepodge of young men.


The birth of modern soccer dates back to which era?

In the 1860s in England, sports were in the middle of a crucial evolution. What emerged is now known as modern soccer, the world's most popular sport.


What was a name for one of the games that predated ice hockey?

In the 1780s at Canada's first college, the boys played ice "hurley." It was similar to hockey but employed the use of a ball instead of a puck.


Early Canadians used a puck during their ice hockey games, but Americans used _______.

Canadians had the right idea in using a flat-sided puck. Americans, however, had the odd idea of using a ball, an object that undoubtedly changed the game in a multitude of ways.


Modern soccer evolved from which sport?

Rugby is very different in that players can use their hands. In 1860s England, soccer players broke from rugby rules to create a set of regulations that banned the use of the hands, except for the goaltender.


The first formal rules for baseball emerged in which location?

In the 19th century, a group of sportsmen formed the Knickerbocker Club in New York. It was there that they developed early rules that eventually became baseball.


Where was the first professional hockey league formed?

In 1896, the first pro hockey league was formed. The Western Pennsylvania Hockey League paid and traded players and brought hockey to cities for the first time.


England's earliest version of soccer came from which area?

The Romans played a version of soccer that used a very small ball and a lot of deft passing. It was popular in the Empire for hundreds of years.


Who is the inventor of basketball?

In 1891, in Massachusetts, a gym teacher named James Naismith invented the game of basketball. The first version required people to shoot a ball into fruit baskets suspended in a gym.


Why did James Naismith come up with the idea for basketball?

Naismith was ahead of his time -- he saw the violence of football and set out to find a less harmful alternative. Basketball required far less physical contact and didn't, you know, kill people.


True or false, did Abner Doubleday invent baseball?

For decades, historians attributed Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball. But the Civil War hero would've been surprised by that claim because he had nothing at all to do with the sport's origins.


Where was volleyball invented?

Sorry China, you can't claim volleyball. It was invented in 1895 in Massachusetts, by a teacher named William Morgan. It was meant to be an alternative to basketball, which itself was invented as an alternative to the suicidal game of football.


True or false, when the game of basketball was invented, was the jump shot immediately part of the sport?

For decades, shooters used a set (standing) shot to score points. It wasn't until the 1930s that players realized jumping and then shooting would provide more clearance from defenders.


How did defenders tag out base runners in one of the early versions of baseball?

Woe to anyone who hit a single in old baseball. Defenders were allowed to chuck the ball at runners in order to tag them out, an act that sparked more than one fist fight along the way.


The rules of volleyball were borrowed from which sport?

In the late 1890s, volleyball emerged on the East Coast, and it was based on the rules of badminton. It also borrowed some terms and concepts from handball and tennis.


What year was the first NFL Super Bowl played?

There were other pro football championship games before the Super Bowl … but these days, we identify the modern era as the Super Bowl era. The first one was played in 1967 when the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers.


When did volleyball make its first appearance at the Olympics?

The 1964 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo, were the first to feature volleyball. Since then, volleyball has exploded in popularity around the world.


The first game of organized baseball was played on which famous field?

in 1845, two New York baseball teams trotted onto Elysian Fields for the first-ever game between organized clubs and with modern rules. Elysian Fields, located in New Jersey, is now a legendary place for the sport.


Before it was called the "NFL," the nation's football league was named the _______.

In the early 1920s, the American Professional Football Association became the first pro league. Just two years later, it changed its name to the NFL.


The first basketball games used a peach basket … meaning the ball got stuck inside after a successful shot. How did players retrieve the ball?

Early basketball used a complete peach basket, so the ball got trapped every time a shot was made. Players used a long stick or a ladder to retrieve the ball and then continue play. After a few years of this, someone got smart and cut off the bottoms of the baskets.


In 1984. the United States _____ team won its first ever gold medal at the Summer Olympics.

The men's national volleyball team has found very good success on the international stage. It won the gold medal in 1984, 1988, and 2008.


American football was spectacularly dangerous in its early days. How many players died on on the field in 1905?

In 1905, 19 players were killed during games. Football was so brutal that President Theodore Roosevelt announced that he was considering outlawing the game unless player safety improved.


Which college football team won its first national championship after beating Washington in the Rose Bowl?

In 1925, Alabama was the best team in the country and finished with an undefeated record. After the team's Rose Bowl victory, it won the national title … the first of many for the Tide.


In 1967, the ABA was introduced as an alternative to which league?

The ABA, or American Basketball Association, was created as an alternative to the NBA. It emphasized certain fun aspects of basketball, like the three-point shot. In 1976, the ABA was folded partly into the NBA.


When was the first roughing-the-passer penalty introduced in American football?

You might think of passing as a relatively modern component of football, but even in 1914, officials were worried about protecting the guy throwing the ball. That year saw the implementation of the first roughing-the-passer rules.


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