The moment mankind learned to throw a ball, he was destined to forever try to see if he could throw it harder than his fellow man ... and to make other people pay to watch him do it. Thus, we have "sports."
However, there once existed a sport that made all that came after it pale in comparison. A sport so great that versions of it have been played for nearly 3,000 years. A sport simply known as ...
The Mesoamerican ballgame
Forget everything you know about modern sports -- uniforms, pads, sportsmanship, not murdering the losing team -- all of that bullshit. In fact, give us any five professional football players, or UFC fighters, or five of your most brain-dead, toothless, hard-hitting Rugby players. All would be shitting themselves at the mere sight of the Mesoamerican ball game as it was played in ancient Mexico, in 1000 BC. Why?
The rules seem simple: A bunch of guys would put on loin-cloths, gather in a stadium and knock a ball around until it went through one of the team's hoops. Sounds pretty innocuous. So what's the catch? Well, first, there's the fact that the hard rubber ball weighed nearly 10 pounds, and (under some rules) you could only hit it with your hips and stomach. If you don't see the problem, have a friend throw a bowling ball at you and bounce it back at them with your gut or hip. Notice how the slightest miscalculation leads to the ball crushing your nuts.
Most scholars now agree that the Mayans died out due to a sudden surge in shattered penises.
They played this game for days straight, without pause, with people just dying -- or winding up wishing they were dead -- constantly. Not out of exhaustion, but because a 10-pound ball made of solid rubber shattered their pelvis.
Although historians aren't sure about the exact rules of the game, we do know that the game ended once the ball went through one of the (20-foot-high) hoops. Guess what else ended? The lives of some or all the players on the losing team. That's right: In many cases, if you lost, you were decapitated and had your head stuck on a pole and displayed like a flag. Something tells us the Pittsburgh Pirates would have never made it back in the days of the Mesoamericans.
Above: This year's MVP and the severed head of last year's MVP.
If that wasn't brutal enough, the Aztecs stepped it up a notch. Not only did they decapitate the losers, but they carved their skulls out a la Predator and laid them out for the gods. As terrifying as that would be for the players, think about the life of a Mayan sports fan. One day, your favorite player makes the game-winning shot, and the next day he gets his spinal column ripped out. Then somebody tosses your newborn off a pyramid.
Hey, people needed some way to pass the time in the days before Xbox Live.
Needless to say ...
You would be hard-pressed to find someone today who believes sports are as important in their lives as this game was to the Mayans and Aztecs. Maybe at a soccer riot, where you might run into a Liverpool fan whose teeth look like they were designed to cut glass and whose face has all the symmetry of a Picasso painting. That guy might try to convince you that his life completely revolves around the success or failure of his football club. Sorry, Mr. pin-the-tooth-on-the-lunatic, but the Aztecs and Mayans played a sport that was way, way more important than anything we'll ever see.
Modern baseball games don't quite have the same draw.
See, the gap between sport and politics didn't exist in the Mesoamerican world, where this very ball game was actually used for a number of political reasons, one of which was in deciding the outcome of wars. That's right, instead of sending in Seal Team Five, or whatever the fuck Mayans and Aztecs used for combat, often proxy wars and other conflicts between societies were resolved with nothing more than a ball game. Rulers would put their best athletes together, and they'd go shatter each other's penises for a while until some Beyonce-hipped bastard ended the conflict with one gyration of raw talent.
And we consider ourselves more civilized? Why the hell didn't society just do it that way from then on? Imagine it's 2003, and the president sends in Peyton Manning and the Colts for a gridiron battle against Iraq's finest. Our best intelligence operatives would sit on the sidelines trying to figure out which offensive package Saddam will call on the next play. Brent Musburger would call the game, while Charles Barkley and the NBA on TNT crew would run the halftime show.
The Iraq War: With music by the Black-Eyed Peas!