As is typical, I am working on Super Bowl Sunday. Years ago, I decided to completely divorce myself from the orgy of consumption, social pathologies, and unearned loyalty that is professional sports in these here United States. The National Football League is an unholy farrago, destroying its players (on the radio today, a physician noted that football is not a contact sport, but a collision sport), countenancing violence against women despite claiming to be dealing with it, devalues the work of women, further victimizes the most marginalized persons, and transfers taxpayers' dollars into the pockets of billionaire owners. I refuse to involve myself in the whole dirty spectacle...
I'd rather watch a bunch of amateurs playing something, anything for the love of the game and a spirit of fellowship.
Given the appetite people have for bruising displays of athleticism, I'm surprised that nobody has ever started a hadaul league. Hadaul is a fictional sport invented by the late, great Jack Vance, one of my favorite authors, and detailed in The Face, the fourth of his 'Demon Princes' pentalogy. Mr Vance describes the sport in minute detail:
From Games of the Galaxy, by Everett Wright: the chapter entitled "Hadaul."
Hadaul like all good games is characterized by complexity and the multiple levels upon which the game is played.
The basic apparatus is simple: a field suitably delineated and a certain number of players. The field is most often painted upon the pavement of a plaza; occasionally it will be constructed of carpet. There are many variations, but here is a typical arrangement. A pedestal stands at the center of a maroon disk. The pedestal can be of any configuration, and customarily supports the prize money. The diameter of the disk ranges from four to eight feet. Three concentric rings, each ten feet in width, surround the disk.
These are known as "robles" and are painted (from in to out) yellow, green, and blue. The area beyond the blue ring is known as "limbo."
Any number of contestants, or "roblers," may participate, but usually the game starts with a maximum of twelve and a minimum of four. Any more creates excessive congestion; any less reduces the scope of that trickery which is an essential element.
The rules are simple. The roblers take up positions around the yellow roble. All now are "yellow roblers." As the game starts they attempt to eject the other yellow roblers into the green roble. Once thrust or thrown into the green, a robler becomes "green" and may not return to yellow. He will now attempt to eject other green roblers into the blue. A yellow robler may venture into the green and return into yellow as a sanctuary; similarly a green robler may enter blue and return to the green, unless he is ejected from blue by a blue robler.
A game will sometimes end with one yellow robler, one green robler, and one blue robler. Yellow may be disinclined to attack green or blue; green disinclined to attack blue. At this stage no further play is possible. The game halts and the three roblers share the prize in a 3-2-1 ratio, yellow receiving the "3" or half share. Green or blue may wager new sums equal to the yellow prize, and by this means once again become yellow, a process which may continue until a single robler remains to claim the entire prize.
Rules in this regard vary from hadaul to hadaul. At times a challenger may now propose a sum equal to the prize, the previous winner may or may not decline the challenge, according to local rules. Often the challenger may propose a sum double the prize, which challenge must be accepted, unless the winner has suffered broken bones, or other serious disability. These challenge matches are often fought with knives, staves, or, on occasion, whips. Not infrequently a friendly hadaul ends with a corpse being carried off on a litter. Referees monitor the play assisted by electronic devices which signal crossings of the roble boundaries.
Conspiracy is an integral part of the game. Before the game starts the various roblers form alliances of offense or defense, which may or may not be honored. Tricks, crafty betrayal, duplicity are considered natural adjuncts to the game; it is surprising, therefore, to note how often the tricked robler becomes indignant, even though he himself might have been intending the same treachery.
Hadaul is a game of constant flux, constant surprise; no one game is ever like another. Sometimes the contests are jovial and good-natured, with everyone enjoying the tricks; sometimes tempers are ignited by some flagrant act of falsity, and blood is wont to flow. The spectators wager among themselves, or, at major hadauls, against mutualization agencies. Each major shadestages several hadauls each year, on the occasion of their festivals, and these hadauls are considered among the prime tourist spectacles of Dar Sai.
Vance being a competent writer, he was fully aware of the Checkov's gun rule, so he placed his protagonist, a man honed since his childhood into an instrument with one purpose (to hunt down and reap vengeance on the five criminal masterminds who killed or enslaved the bulk of the populace of his boyhood home) in a game of hadaul which turns sinister, then fatal. That's pretty much to be expected in a action-packed tale of revenge. Of course, on a planet which generally adheres to the rule of law, referees would be expected to make sure a match doesn't devolve into a bloodbath. It's no more violent than calcio storico, which is played in a city widely seen as one of the jewels in civilization's crown:
And there wouldn't even be a silly old ball on the field to distract anyone.