Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ancient Football

Three thousand years ago, Mesoamericans built their lives around football just as Americans do to this day.

Now, the old game was a little different. For one thing, it's likely that the losing captain got his head lopped off. This was to appease the gods, so maybe it was worth it.

But the similarities are more startling than the differences. Players adopted animal imagery to make them feel more fearsome, and armored up with chest protectors, hip, knee and thigh pads, helmets and jockstraps. The game was highly ceremonial, and played in large stadiums at the center of town, often by professional athletes. There were ongoing rivalries between towns. The fans gathered and rooted for their teams and gambled (and sometimes lost their shirts). There was a halftime show with music.

Players were often gravely injured. Most likely that held the same fascination it does today. We might think we're more advanced than ancient peoples, but in some respects, the more things change, the more they stay the same.