Sunday, September 02, 2012

Further Notes on the Nacirema

I have been inspired to write these further comments on Nacirema society and culture because of the approaching llabtoof season. The llabtoof season can be described in our language as an annual occurrence of supreme importance to the Nacirema. It begins in what we consider autumn when the deciduous leaves just begin to turn, known to the first Nacirema, the snaidni, as the Full Corn Moon, continues through the Hunter’s moon when the leaves are truly falling, the Full Beaver Moon, and the Long Nights Moon, finally culminating usually in the Full Wolf Moon. It begins conveniently when it does because it is usually during this time the beasts are slaughtered that provide the niksgip for the sacred llabtoof, the primary ball-like object, pointed at both ends to enhance its aerodynamic qualities, used in all the games.

Llabtoof is described as a game by some, but for others it might well be considered a religion. Although it is played everywhere in Naciremaland, it is considered much more important in certain regions than others, although I cannot explain why this should be. During the season it dominates virtually all other activities for the Nacirema. It is played by Nacirema males from a very early age and on up in age until the players are in their twenties or thirties. Although it is not completely banned for Nacirema females, that gender only very rarely engage in it directly, preferring instead to dress in brief costumes and jump up and down hollering and waving brightly colored shredded paper as the games progress.

Those young Nacirema that prove to be the most talented and adept at the game gain in importance to the point where they are rewarded by free admittance to the institutions of Nacirema higher learning, the seitisrevinu. As the seitisrevinu are the intellectual centers of the Nacirema, and there is nothing intellectual about llabtoof, this is by no means easy to explain. It is also virtually impossible to explain why the most exalted high priests of the game, the sehcaoc, some of whom attain mythical proportions for their successes , are rewarded far more handsomely than the even the highest placed leaders of the seitisrevinu that employ them. Each of the most important sehcaoc is provided with a number of specialized assistants that instruct the players in skills like throwing and receiving the llabtoof, head-slapping, leg-whipping, and what is described in general as “smash-mouth llabtoof.”

Llabtoof is played in gigantic stadiums that sometimes will accommodate 100,000 or more spectators who often dress in rather outrageous costumes, wear funny hats, shout encouragement as loudly as they are able, drink and eat, and also wave towels and other things. These stadiums are extremely costly and are most usually built at public expense, even though the revenue generated by them is claimed by those already very wealthy individuals that own the teams. The teams are most usually named after totemic creatures such as bears, falcons, tigers, and lions, but sometimes after mythical creatures such as giants or saints, and sometimes, more rarely, after local names like packers or oilers. Although these names have lost the former totemic significance they once had for the snaidni, they are of great importance to those who claim them as their own. The owners compete with each other for the best players available and often must pay exorbitant salaries for those considered the very best. The leader of each team, known for some unknown historical reason as a “quarterback,” is usually assisted by halfbacks, fullbacks, and a host of other specialized players variously known as ends, tackles, guards, and so on. The quarterback is almost always the most highly remunerated player on the team and also the most difficult to replace, so the rules have had to be changed over time to protect him from injury. The modern day players now wear elaborately padded costumes, helmets, face masks, and other protective gear that has evolved over time from the original much simpler uniforms of the past, and the rules regarding specifically what kinds of violence is permitted have been modified. To reduce the need for holy-mouth-men the players wear special rubber mouth guards. In spite of these precautions players sometimes still have to visit a latipsoh or a holy-mouth-man. Even so, as llabtoof has always been considered a vicarious substitute for warfare, emphasizes only manly virtues of strength, courage, bravery and stamina, as well as strategy and defense, and as it is most basically a violent sport, these changes have offended the most committed aficionados of the game who believe the game is being ruined by becoming more and more “sissified.” Similarly, a well-known Professor who once wrote an essay suggesting certain homoerotic elements to the game immediately began receiving death threats. Players and fans take llabtoof very seriously. Each llabtoof team has its own medicine men and many now employ their own specially trained “listeners,” that attempt to exorcise the devils that sometimes cause poor performance by the players, especially the quarterbacks and all-important specialty “kickers.”

Llabtoof is a uniquely Nacirema phenomenon that has virtually attained the status of a religion. It has replaced what was long regarded as the quintessential Nacirema pastime, llabesab. Llabesab still exists of course, and has been even more successful at becoming an international sport than llabtoof, but here in Naciremaland it is llabtoof that now prevails unchallenged, with lower level games played on Friday nights, seitisrevinu games on Saturdays, and the most high-powered, highly paid, and prestigious professional llabtoof now played religiously every Sunday. It must also be mentioned here that what once began as a young man’s amateur sport, played for fun, has now grown into a serious billion dollar capitalistic enterprise. Those who participate at the highest levels, players and sehcaoc alike, increasingly regarded as entertainers, are paid staggeringly large sums of money. The revenue generated from advertising and sales of memorabilia runs into the billions.

Some people think llabtoof is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.

Bill Shankly

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