Organized team sports assume a key role in modern culture and have become vastly integrated into media, advertising, and entertainment industries across the world. Despite the leisurely nature of sports as a whole, competition and rivalry among athletes is notorious for causing tension between teams and is often a catalyst for conflict and intense feelings of animosity. Can you imagine how competition would be affected if the stipulations for any given game were life and death? The concept may seem barbaric and inhumane, but to ancient Mesoamerican civilizations these games were a sacred ritual and were not taken lightly. The Mayans and Aztecs are perhaps the most widely known for their affiliation with these ballgames.
The object of the game incorporated elements of modern day soccer and basketball, involving a large court with two hoops attached to parallel walls. Players bounced a rubber ball off of their head, knees, and elbows to teammates and tried to direct the ball through small stone hoops on either side of the arena. The use of hands was strictly prohibited. It is rumored that some balls contained a human skull at the center, making them hollow and easier to bounce. The exact rules are unclear and varied from civilization to civilization but in many cultures the game ultimately resulted in human sacrifice of one or more members from the losing team. Those sacrificed were decapitated in one stroke with a sharp obsidian blade and offered to the Gods. The Mayans firmly believed that the Gods chose the winning team. Individuals who were able to secure the ball through the stone hoops gained much recognition and were highly regarded in society.
In Mayan culture, the game may have symbolized an ancient myth of the Hero Twins, depicting two twins who challenged the gods of the underworld to a similar ballgame. Their battle represented the struggle between life and death in the third creation.
What do you think the repercussions of a similar ballgame would be in our society today?
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