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.