Let’s Play Ball

Toa crashed into the tangle of players in the sharp corner of the ballcourt, the thud of her leather knee padding as she hit the hard gourd audible from the stands. Twisting deftly, she flung the gourd straight toward the hoop. Beneath the harsh sun, the spectators fell silent immediately in the stands, their collective breath held as the round little object hurtled through space.

Toa watched it just as closely, her teeth clenched. The gourd’s trajectory was shaky as it tumbled through the air, but it passed safely over the outstretched fingertips of the kickers.

“The third goal,” she thought desperately. “This is it.” They’d been at it for hours, the two teams battling beneath the hot sun for possession of the precious gourd. She clenched her dirty fingers.

The painted gourd hit the stone goal-hoop and exploded, its sweet water spraying the heads and shoulders of the closest ballplayers. The roar of the crowd rose like the howl of a storm, its intensity deafening her. Close by, her mates went wild. Their rough embraces and joyful faces as they bore her toward the stands made her bruises seem inconsequential.

At the food of the center stands, garlands of leaves decorated the boxes of the Magnates and Traders. She was too far away to see their faces, but their jubilant gestures told her what she needed to know. She’d done well. Coins and candies began to rain down around her from the stands, and she turned to her partner Shom and slung a companionable arm over his knobby shoulders. They grinned at each other.

“You done good,” he said to her. “With you an’ me carryin’, they’re gonna be up there awhile.”

  • Dajans have, for many years, settled political disputes among the Magnate families through the game commonly known as “sandball.” Some say the simple game was born from the long journeys that travelers sometimes had to make to bring water from the oasis to their home camps. Played on a triangular court, the game uses two teams of five players each. Using a water-filled gourd as a ball, the teams compete to move it — without using their hands — through hoops set at each of the three corners of the playing field.

    The northern corner of the field, at whose apex the big betters vie for seats, is a zone empty of a home team, roughly symbolizing the city’s devoted Leafbearers. Carrying the ball into this area is reserved for two special players from each team, called Carriers. They alone must battle for the goal by kicking the gourd through the low stone hoop. Play continues along to the other two hoops in order, each team doing whatever it can to prevent a point for its opponent. It is common to see blood spray, bones crunch, and folk heroes step into the light on the ballcourt.

    Sandball is steeped in Dajan lore. The teams represent Daja’s dual governing bodies, the Traders and the Magnates. A plethora of possible fouls have been invented, along with appropriate punishments. For example, if the Traders’ team were to touch their enemy’s Carrier, the offender would be banned from the game much as real criminals are tossed out of the city’s gates. Although played on a smaller scale among Dajan youth, the large political games command vast audiences whose ravenous gambling sometimes supplements the city coffers for months to come. The winner of the game decides which family will next take the prized seat among the Magnates.


  • 4 Responses to “Let’s Play Ball”

    1. 1 Reiv July 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      At first, I thought this was more akin to basketball.

      It seems more like soccer now. I like the idea.

    2. 2 cyberpatrol735 July 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

      As long as vuvuzelas aren’t involved.

    3. 3 Drinn July 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      My original inspiration for sandball was the ancient Mayan ball game. It also figured prominently in their social structure and was extremely violent. Once I had a good basis, I wove rules and practices from several other ballgames into the mix, basketball and soccer included. It ought to be, eventually, quite a large semiregular RPT in Daja and completely player-run.

    4. 4 Sandball Fan July 26, 2010 at 4:12 am

      Armageddon Reborn character idea:

      Name: Vuvuzela
      Concept: A Dajan sandball fan who works to promote games and certain teams (for a price). He also holds book and organizes exotic dancers to entertain the crowds pre-match.

      Between games Vuvuzela resides in a certain tavern known for it’s patrons love of sandball and yarns with the other bar flies over previous matches and argues constantly about the virtues of the past and present players!

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