A Game of Life and Death

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Andreas Luh finds it fascinating how pre-modern cultures defined performance and
Andreas Luh finds it fascinating how pre-modern cultures defined performance and practiced exercise culture. But he also has a soft spot for modern sport. ’There are two hearts beating in my chest. I’m also a regular at soccer matches,’ he says. Damian Gorczany
The Maya did not strive for individual glory. They achieved top sporting performances primarily to avert the wrath of the gods and the downfall of their culture. The price they paid was often their own life.

The modern idea of competitive sport gained traction with the advent of industrialization. Still, pre-modern cultures did achieve top sporting performance, too. They often did so in the interests of the common good, however, not in order to stand out from the crowd as an individual. A ball game was at the center of life in the Mayan civilization of the Stone Age, for example. It decided wars, the fertility of the fields - and, according to Mayan beliefs, even the continued existence of the world. ...
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