On the day after Thanksgiving Day, 2002, my wife Carol and I took our children to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. After seeing the dinosaurs, gems and minerals and diorama collections we wandered into the Ancient Latin America gallery.
This small but beautifully appointed room featured an exquisite collection of Precolumbian Mesoamerican artifacts, though few, if any of them attributable to a “Latin America” period.
In the center of the room, but now removed, we viewed a display and several artifacts related to the ancient Mesoamerican ballgame, arguably the world's first ball sport. When the kids asked me where we might go to see such a game, I found myself at a loss.
Some time prior, a children’s book author, the late David Wisniewski, had come to their school in Pasadena, California, to present his latest work, Rain Player. The story follows Pik, a young Pokatok player as he challenges the Maya rain god Chac Mool to end his village’s drought.
Later we went to the movies and saw the amusing Road to El Dorado and there it was again, this time in a mash up of an indigenous culture and two improbable Spanish rogues bashing a balled up armadillo around with their hips.
The following spring we visited Cancun, Mexico and made a side trip to a spectacular environmental and cultural preserve called Xcaret [esh-car-ET] www.xcaret.com To our delight, they presented a spectacular show including a ceremonial version of the very same ballgame. The next day we visited Chichen Itza and walked the great ballcourt there and learned that both men and women, young and old, common and royal played various ballgames.
The week after we returned, we began thinking and designed an idea of what a modern, safe, sustainable, exciting, competitive, colorful and scalable game derived from this spectacle might look like and how it might appeal to a sufficiently broad and loyal paying audience to be economically feasible.
The following is the result of that effort.
As the first outreach of the Modern Royal Ballgames program, this co-ed practice ballgame program, playable by ages 8 to 80, is designed to introduce and experience the unique combination of common ball skills that will be required to play Tlachball. We chose Los Angeles to begin in order to also fulfill our educational and cultural mission by presenting a fuller picture of the achievements of the Mexican and Central American peoples.
The archeological record portrays women intensely involved in all aspects of the game.
• Culturally, the game will serve as a pedagogical vehicle introducing the public to a largely obscure people, period and place in history, and stimulate students to study and learn more.
• Artistically, it will produce a unique new set of sights, sounds and images to enjoy.