It Is Time to Appropriate Pasola, Indonesian Sport of Kings
Pasola is half ultraviolent rock-and-spear polo and half religious ritual. It's the perfect sport for America.
Illustration by Andrew Janik
There's no denying that America's No. 1 awareness-raising, Pentagon-money-taking, Budweiser-branded sports league has come under fire for a lot of troublingly actual problems. From concussions to domestic abuse, to more domestic abuse, to murder, to sexual violence, to profiting hugely on the physical destruction of dozens of people at a time, to even more awful domestic abuse but this time it's fans and coaches, the NFL has had kind of a rough go of it lately. The NFL's "Football Is Family" ad campaign will surely solve all this soon, but in the meantime it doesn't look great.
Friends, my name is Malt Schlitzmann, Founding President of the International Pasola Federation. I'd like to take advantage of this crisis to talk to you about athletics, and America, and how stealing from another country can make everything OK again.
America was founded on the idea that the rich shouldn't have to share their money with the people who earned it for them. It's very clearly explained in the Prosperity Gospel: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, save for withholdings, gambling losses, or that which is hidden in offshore accounts." It is this fundamental doctrine that provides the moral justification for unpaid interns and student athletes, and it hurts me in my soul-wallet to see free labor come under attack.
It's clear that football has been taken from us, and by "us" I mean us straight white American men, specifically. This assault on our sport inspires at least twice the amount of fear normal people get when they see one of us, Cheerful American Male, open-carrying an assault rifle at a Target. It's like America isn't America anymore, and your kids are watching the NBA now, and what's next, disc golf? Nice try, Johnny Socialism, but not on my watch!
The fact is, we may already have lost football, which has been ruined by college liberals and the color pink. We need a savior. We need Football 2. This is where my stupid ass comes in.
Introducing Pasola, the most beloved sport of the East Nusa Tenggara region of Indonesia!
Once referred to as "a gut-wrenching spectacle of gory horror" by some pissant carelord on the Lonely Planet forums, Pasola is equal parts religious ritual and equestrian skirmish. Two teams of up to 25 people on horseback competeto inflict horrible wounds on one another with dulled bamboo spears, and then it ends. There are no points, no goals, no strategy, no governing goal besides violence. That sweet, sweet not-happening-to-me violence.
It celebrates the arrival of the Nyla worm, which is used to divine the size of the coming harvest. If the worms are fat, it will be a good year. If they are thin and brittle, hard times are coming.
You laugh, but tell me this: When a little league player takes a line drive straight to the crotch, who profits? Do apples get ripe faster when your peewee tennis hero skins her whole body on the indoor court's weird artificial surface? These are rhetorical questions. The answer is that the suffering of amateurs is meaningless. But when Pasola players show up on that hardscrabble bloodstained field, they do so to ensure their families have enough to eat. And you can't eat a participation trophy.
Pasola is the last great sport unsullied by dreadlocks-having caucasoid expats. Jai alai and even Afghani Gun Juggling have fallen to the scourge of the White Dread, which exists only to remind you how much cooler everything was before you heard of it.
And do you know why this is? Because when tourists first showed up and ruined the Nyla breeding, they were fucking executed. When the police tried to intervene, people responded by rioting. This is a sport born of a nation enamored with war; they wound or they starve, and they strike to prevent others from striking first. There is no sport with a more thoroughly American ethos than Pasola. Except for Afghani Gun Juggling, but whatever, that's gentrified as hell now.
How does it work?
Simple! Pasola begins after the gods send the Nyla worms up from the Underworld, usually sometime between February and March. This is part of a month-long series of celebrations, fights, riots, sacrifices, brawls, and parties that serve to kick off the planting year.
Thankfully, village elders now coordinate the arrival of the worms, in order to promote Pasola as a tourist event. I'm unclear on how it's coordinated and have not been able to contact any of these village elders, so I assume they attach notes to sacrificial animals so the gods know what's up.
Two teams of 25 men gathered from different villages come together in an open field and throw spears at each other. Play lasts all day or until everyone involved is too wounded to continue, or the crowd breaks through the police barricade and starts hurling rocks. Spears should be thrown, not stabbed; any player found guilty of getting too close before throwing is disciplined. By an angry mob that is wielding machetes. This is not a fucking game, people.
But that sounds really expensive!
It is! Owning a horse is a lot like owning a Bugatti, in that internet perverts will definitely want to fuck it. But thanks to professional sports' chortling stranglehold on America's capacity for critical reasoning, enterprising owners will be able to con the locals into footing the bill for their enormous vanity project.
I'm talking PILOT exceptions, tax breaks for horse feed, federal security grants, hospitality visas for Ukrainian hot dog venders, the works. You'll get to call yourself a job creator as you bulldoze an entire city block to lay down turf that sits unused for ten months of the year, and the grain-fed hooligans decked head to toe in made-in-China merchandise will call you a hero for it!
How do you know people will be interested in Pasola?
Have you not been paying attention? Americans love sport-sanctioned brutality! Sure, Pasola is pretty hardcore with all the spears and riots, but MMA felt pretty hardcore, too, and look how we've warmed up to it. Now it's an excuse to sell nail polish to the perpetually insecure.
Last year, Pasola brought over 2,000 tourists to a part of the world so poor even a middling mad scientist could set up a secret volcano lair. White people who would otherwise have spent money on drugs in Bali instead went to West Sumba, an island with less than zero name recognition in the West, for no other reason than to watch firsthand as people engage in orchestrated, spear-aided self-harm.
Goofus backpackers named Linus skipped out on Bali beach drinking to get stabbed in the chest with a spear—literally to get stabbed in the chest, with a fucking spear—just so they could brag about it at home:
"Linus Strandholm, experienced firsthand that the modern version of the pasola is not entirely safe – he was struck in the chest by a spear and hit in the head with a rock. "I've saved the rock as a souvenir," he said, adding it was all part of the experience."
Oh yeah, baby, there's demand. You sell this right, and it'll make American Ninja Warrior look like American Gladiator.
Won't people be upset about the whole appropriation thing, though?
I figure we'll still come out looking better than the NFL if we just avoid naming any of the teams Literal Racial Slurs. Next question.
OK, so how will I, a hardworking and determined franchisee, profit?
Merchandising! Football team owners are allowed to sell a person's face as decoration in a video game, so it'd make sense that Pasola franchise owners would be able to sell latex reproductions of famous player's violently severed heads. It's got cross-gender appeal, as well: little girls would love nothing more than stuffed horses they can dress in traditional rattan fighting garb. Girls love rattan!
Men suffering physical violence always makes for great entertainment, which is why action films are so popular. Once Pasola's broadcasting rights wind up going to Lifetime or whatever, the league can just lay back and bask in the lucrative controversy that follows.
But who is going to play such a dangerous sport in the U.S.?
Socially maladjusted white males. Same dudes who made airsoft and paintball such a money machine. The kind who end a moment of silence by hollering racial slurs. You show me a guy who thinks he should be able to take his katana on public transit, I will show you a future Pasola superstar, or more likely a hypertensive and extremely angry Pasola superfan. You know, assholes. Call it a full-contact LARP and they'll even show up in their own uniforms. The teams will practically manage themselves.
Now that America fights wars with robots, we need a profession that'll keep our violent white males from acting on their aggression. In this sense, it's not just a business opportunity—it's a chance to save this nation from itself.
Thank you for your time.
Malt Schlitzmann, Spear President
Pasola: It's Ours Now