Thursday, April 23, 2009

Catching a Buz

I think Robert Di Nero explained it rather well as Al Capone in 'The Untouchables' when he said in his thickest, 1920ish, prohibition-like, Mafioso accent,

Enthusiasms! What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man...A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team.

Baseball. Our national pastime. What could be better than sitting in (or if your 10 years old, under) the bleachers, eating a hot dog, and watching the big game? The smell of freshly cut grass, the crack of the bat, the crowd on its feet cheering their team on to total victory or humiliating defeat. A baseball sized ball is hurled toward a man with a stick who hits it in such a way as to avoid the players on the field who threaten to touch him with that self same ball in a manner that is none to kind. Then another guy adds insult to injury and screams, "Out" at the stick man while holding out his thumb as if to say, "My thumb is better than you!". That's how baseball always felt to me as a kid. Frankly, I was never very good at it. My parents would sit in the California sun all day to watch me not pay attention to the game on the rare occasions I actually made into the outfield. I was always in right field. I think it was because my coach instinctively knew that it was where I was most likely to not be paying attention when the ball almost always didn't come to me. But I'm not bitter! I have fabulous memories of standing in the sun baked field with no shade really, really having a great time enjoying our national pastime, which in my case was watching bugs navigating the freshly cut grass with that freshly cut grass smell. But it could have been worse. "How", ask all the non-jocks in my audience. I'll tell you how!

Afghanistan is an incredible nation. War, famine, pestilence and a million insect borne diseases make this nation one of a kind. Afghanistan has been through it all and yet in spite of having no official border and no particular currency and no particular taste, it has managed to maintain a stronghold in the world of sports. That's right. Afghanistan has a national sport. And like our baseball, it portends doom to millions of young Afghani boys with little or no jockitude. The sport of which I speak is that which answers the burning question of the day, "How could it get any worse?" Buzkashi...that's how. Buzkashi (pronounced booz-kawshee) is THE national pastime in Afghanistan. Its rules are simple. Each "player" gets on a horse which is coerced into running wildly at speeds approaching terminal velocity. As they whip around the field or court or ring they must catch the "buz" with the goal of...catching the buz. "Points" are awarded for something associated with the buz, like maybe putting it somewhere or hiding it or keeping it from other players / victims. Did I mention "Buz" is the Afghani word for "Goat"? True story. The ball in a game of buzkashi is a goat carcass. Please understand, this is not a live goat. In fact, often the only part of the goat present is it's skin. That's because it is often filled with sand to make it "challenging". As if trying to pick up a goat carcass from on top of a running horse is not a challenge.

So, next time you decide to go out into the yard and play catch with your leather covered baseball, be thankful for the foresight of our country's founders and their love of play. You could be tossing a whole cow!


Anonymous said...

So good to have you back. Places a whole new meaning to, that really gets my goat.

Popa Dave

Cami said...

Wow, this is a cultural education for sure!

(By the way, I, too, stood in right field as a young person, to be "out of the way"...must run in the family?)

Stuff could always be worse said...

It is strange how different cultures can be. Great post.

David said...

now I have to look for videos of this game. while I do that I will pray for you and your fellow soldiers

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all you do for both our God and our Country. RLTW...ATW!!