You're Poor: 10 Sports You Can't Afford

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz of Spain riding Fuego competes in the Individual Dressage on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Park on August 9, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

There are a lot of sports we'd like to try that are just way above our price range. Here is a list of the very best sporting events you'll never be able to afford.

There were a fair number of events at the 2012 Olympic Games in London that we have had difficulty getting into. In the early going, it was brought to our attention that perhaps we didn't care for sports like dressage because we simply didn't have the money to afford it. And the people voicing that opinion were right! We are pretty poor. But you know what? So are most people in America. There are an enormous number of sports that the average person will never have the means to even attempt.

We're not talking about becoming an Olympic athlete or becoming competitive or becoming the best in your field. In that sense, every sport can be an immense sunk cost. If you want to play golf obsessively, you'd better have darn close to a six-figure income. Team USA swimmer Missy Franklin's parents spent around $100,000 a year helping her further her career in order to reach the Olympics. But if you just want to play golf, you can find a $10 driving range or airport golf course. If you want to swim, you just need a crick or a YMCA membership.

No, we're talking about sports that you can't even do unless you've got copius amounts of money and nothing better to spend it on, or had the misfortune of being born somewhere these sports can't possibly exist.

Spencer Hall and I have teamed up to bring you the best of the best. The cream of the crop. SB Nation proudly presents the 10 sports you can't afford.


Yes, this is the one that started this whole sordid affair. "Equestrianism," as written, is not horseback riding or cowboying up or performing in a rodeo. It specifically is not that. This refers distinctly to three events: dressage, show jumping and eventing. The ones in the Olympics.

Mitt Romney, as you may know, owns a world-class dressage horse. You know where that horse placed in the Olympics? 28th. But again, we're not talking about being the best of the best. We're talking about ground-floor type stuff.

The average person might be able to buy, or might be able to have access to a horse. This is true. You know what they won't have? Access to a dressage horse. Because while Joe Forklift Driver may have the money to feed and stable a horse, he sure as hell doesn't have the money to buy a horse that can dance in time to music while it practices good posture atop it in jodhpurs. You might be able to buy a horse that can canter a bit, but brother, you ain't gettin' into no dressage meets.

You might be able to get a horse that you can train to be nearly passable at dressage, but you'll have to train them yourself. You know what that doesn't leave time for? A job.


Everything I said before, about how a normal person can probably get a horse? Well how about a team of horses? Specifically, a team of polo horses? Because that's what you'll need! Yep, polo is a sport that requires you to change horses several times per game. Or they might die. So you need a bunch, man. Just a whole mess of horses. Ones that are just hanging out in a really nice stable somewhere for the once or twice a month that you can get together with your rich friends and play horseback croquet.

The closest that the average person will ever get to polo is the little dude embroidered on their shirt. And even those things are so expensive that people are more than willing to get the knock-off bootlegs of those shirts.

Formula 1

Formula 1 racing may be the most expensive sport to be in at any level, and not just because it is European. (All European things are expensive because of the socialisms and the Illuminatis. I know these because AMERICAN.)

To even sniff Formula 1, you first have to claw your way up through the karting circuit at a young age. Your parents will have to pay for that because you have to do this in your teens, and teenagers tend to have no money. If you are a teenager with money, you are a drug dealer, and have a bright future in racing thanks to a.) cash b.) needing to race to get away from Anselm the Blade and those guys you owe money to in Rotterdam.

You then must successfully negotiate a series of Formula circuits to get to Formula 1.

  • Formula 9: donkeys. Just donkeys.
  • Formula 8: Matchbox cars on electric tracks with the trigger controls. Whoever gets the inside track always wins. Formula Eight is unspeakably dumb.
  • Formula 7: discarded Mardi Gras floats racing through narrow Italian streets.
  • Formula 6: motorized penny-farthing bicycles. Loss of top hat is instant disqualification.
  • Formula 5: Dodge Neons. Speeds are low, but use of firearms and explosives is not only allowed, but encouraged.
  • Formula 4: Beat NES classic Battletoads.
  • Formula 3: Reliant Robin Racing. This is real and terrifying.
  • Formula 2: like Formula 1, but run in really uncomfortable, scratchy turtleneck sweaters and flannel pants.

You must pay for most of this yourself, or charm money out of sponsors by promising to not be the one who turns a sponsored car into a pile of branded fire and twisted metal. That will cost you around $190,000 total. Then, if you get to F1, some horrible, evil rich person sponsors you, and you get spend the rest of your life having sex with beautiful people and eating food doused in gold leaf. (Downside: being used as a doomed hit man in your retirement by said horrible, evil rich person. All wealthy Europeans have doomed hit men who were athletes in their youth.)


When was the last time that getting in a boat and going somewhere was practical for the majority of the population? Washington crossing the Delaware? People still ride bikes because they get you places and are inexpensive and fun and good exercise. Same with running. Cars are a necessity for a lot of people. People have rowboats for fishing.

Sailing is a wistful anachronism for people who have money to spend on an otherwise superfluous boat. It's a lot of upkeep and you need a place to dock and/or store it for the 95 percent of the time you're living your life and not horsing around on a sailboat.

Picture a person who goes "sailing." What are you seeing in your mind's eye. A white dude, right? A guy with sun-reddened skin and an L.L. Bean anorak. Now he's playing tennis in immaculate white tennis gear. Now he's laughing and drinking white Zinfandel at a country club. I didn't do that. Your mind did. All on its own. Because that's who goes sailing.

Modern Pentathlon

Okay, so you got a horse. Awesome. You've got access to a body of water (perhaps the aforementioned crick). Check. You've got a nice stretch of land to run. Gotcha. You got a gun? Oh. Okay, hotshot, nice gun. But how about this: do you have fencing equipment? Yeah. Yeah, that's what I thought. Now we're getting a little cost-prohibitive. Oh, you'll also need the space to do all these things, one after the other, all in one day.

Back before the 2012 Olympics started, I wrote a bit about how crazy/silly/wtf the modern pentathlon is. Much like the dressage-dissing that got us chastised by the one percent, my comments regarding mod-pen (which I'm guessing is what enthusiasts shorten it to) did not sit lightly with the practitioners of the noble sport. One gentleman wrote to me and offered to train me in modern pentathlon for free, so that I could learn to appreciate this storied event that was originally created as a way to test the skill of cavalrymen. He even offered to train me for free! ... In Minnesota.

Because people who participate in modern pentathlon operate under the assumption that anyone, at any time, can jump on a plane to Minnesota for an indeterminate period of time.


Maybe we should discuss the definition of "expense." Maybe you should also be informed of how terrifyingly easy it is to purchase a wingsuit. Here is the order form. If you have $2,500 at the ready, you can get a fully tricked-out wingsuit rush-delivered to your door anywhere in the United States: in-flight GPS, more pockets than cameraman's jockstrap, custom colors, the whole wingsuitchilada.

$2,500 really is not a lot of money, relatively speaking. But about that redefinition of "expense." Wingsuiting implies a lot of sunken costs. It assumes you have paid for skydiving lessons, and then paid the $5,000 or so for premium skydiving gear. Then there's plane rides, travel expenses to get to places to BASE jump without killing yourself, and all the other sick/extreme/bro costs of your aspiring wingsuiting lifestyle.

Then, if you're not a complete idiot, you have to find places to learn--spendy places like France, for instance--and then and only then can you begin your wingsuiting career. The payoffs? Few sponsorships, the thrill of unencumbered and temporary human flight, and absolutely zero chance of recouping the value invested in the sport.

You also might hit a bridge and die. Then again, if you're this far along the bad math curve, the price of "death" probably can't dissuade you. Maybe you should just blow $2,500 on the wingsuit and wear it to formal events and funerals.


First, you're going to need to live somewhere that gets cold. Then you're going to need three friends. Then you're going to need access to a bobsled run. Then you're going to need an incredibly expensive bobsled. If you don't have any of those things, you need to be four affable Jamaicans who have access to John Candy. But I have bad news for you, buddy: John Candy is dead.

Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air god dang ballooning. Around the World in 80 Days type stuff, son. We're not just talking dropping a few hundred bones so some guy in a windbreaker can pull a cord and make a fire go FSSSSSHHHHH and you tool around over a meadow for an hour. We're talking The Chipmunk Adventure-level hot air balloon racing. Flying along in a wicker basket thousands of feet in the air while you're trying to beat Chester J. Thadwick's best time from Milan to Minsk. That ain't cheap, pal. You gotta pay through the nose for that kind of insanity.

Ski Jumping

I found a breakdown on the Internet (always a reliable source of information) that a person's first year of ski jumping will only run them about $1,500 - $3,000. That doesn't seem too bad! Hope you live in one of the few dozen places in the Unites States where they have a fully-functional ski jump course and an instructor. Oh, you'll also probably want to get plenty of insurance. Like, every insurance there is. And make sure you have plenty of vacation time accrued at work. Because you will be spending time in the hospital.

Whitianga Festival Of Speed

The Whitianga Festival of Speed is where they do just all kinds of ridiculous shit. They have the New Zealand helicopter championships there. Guessing you need a helicopter for that. Those run like, what? A couple grand? I think those are in the special section at the back of the Auto Trader you can pick up at the 7-11.

If you're not into just straight-up, head-to-head racing your helicopter against a friend's helicopter, Whitianga has you covered. You can race a helicopter against a rally car, or race a helicopter against a speedboat. The important thing is that you have a helicopter. And are willing to race it balls-out against something. It's probably not dangerous at all. It's probably just like a footrace! Except for the whirling hundred-foot knives that propel your glass-walled death pod.

For all news and information regarding helicopters, please visit SB Nation's dedicated helicopter hub.

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