The national pastime of Ghyll, Bindlet Ball is also pretty big business. The Ghyll Bindlet League, founded in -54 EC, consists of 27 teams, with most cities of any significant size having a team. The annual championship is held as one of the highlights of the Day of Champions.
Most people in Ghyll take Bindlet Ball very seriously, with team allegiances even influencing politics. The most famous example of this came in -38 EC, surrounding the Folktown Mayoral election. Although it was a foregone conclusion that the incumbent mayor was going to win, three nights before the election he was overheard expressing a preference for the Egron Eagles, the team from a neighboring city. Although he vociferously denied making the statements, his political opponent, a convicted felon, member of the Darvekian Party, and frequent puppy kicker, won the election easily, with 97% of the popular vote. Incidentally, although the man who claimed to have overheard these statements was later found to have been incarcerated in Egron at the time of the alleged incident, the former mayor was never able to win another political position, and the allegations haunt him to this day.
The rules of Bindlet Ball are confusing at best, and downright maddening most of the time. Games can often last as long as 5 or 6 days, if a member of the Bureau of Forgotten Knowledge is not readily available to mediate disputes among the referees, and must be summoned from a faraway place.
The longest game on record started in -7 EC and has only recently finished. Since players are not permitted to leave the field during game play (the penalty being forfeiture of the game) a number of small homes were built on the field during the first of the Mediations of this now famous game. Although they were knocked down after this first Mediation, and after the second one, by the third Mediation it was becoming accepted that this game would last a while, and the homes were just left on the field, where, strangely, they don't seem to hinder play much.
The rules of the game are (roughly) as follows:
Game play is between two teams. The exact number of players on each team, officially, is calculated by a complex formula involving the phase of the moon, the geographical coordinates of the field of play, and the date of the game. Since, invariably, the three referees will arrive at at least four different answers (In the case of the currently-running 7-year game, one of the referees arrived at the answer "eggplant", which sparked the first Mediation) it has become the convention to simply agree on the number 12. Often one team or the other will challenge this ruling as a way to buy more time for their players to warm up.
The object of the game is to get a small ball (approximately one nanit in diamater when at rest) into the bindlet, which is a hole in the center of a wall at each end of the field. The hole is slightly less than a nanit in diameter.
The real thrill of the game has to do with the interaction between the players, the ball, and the crowd in attendance. This is because, due to the phenomenon of Awal shrinkage, the ball can vary greatly in size during the course of the game. And sudden changes in the volume of the crowd, or particularly deep-voiced fans, can cause the ball to rapidly shrink, as well as emitting bursts of light. It is, of course, while it is in this state that one must get it into the bindlet.
Game play lasts for 7 periods, one of which is over when the ball has successfully been put through the bindlet.
Sure, that sounds really simple. But everything is open to interpretation. For example, if the cheering of a fan in the crowd assists the wrong side in gaining possession of the ball, this can generate a penalty. People attending the game with no particular team alleigance can cause considerable problem in the advancement of the game. And, although it's probably already obvious to most of our readers, it should be noted that none of the players are, at any time, permitted to touch the ball.
Readers wishing to familiarize themselves with all of the rules are encouraged to obtain the definitive reference Bindlet Ball, Its Rules And History (Published -19 EC, Aliens Press, 964 pages)
Like most popular ball games, this history of the game is unknown. It clearly has existed in more primitive forms for centuries, as it can be seen in artwork stretching back at least 400 years. However, relying as it does on the phenomenon of Awal shrinkage, it has only existed in its current form for about the last 60 years. Prior to clear understanding of the phenomenon, or at least the ability to reliably reproduce it, bindlet balls were unreliable, difficult and expensive to manufacture, and would frequently explode, or simply sit on the field doing nothing while the players gathered around shouting at it.
Prior to the production of reliable balls, most people played the game by simply kicking the ball down the length of the field towards a goal. While it is difficult to believe that this sort of primitive game play existed as recently as 60 years ago, we have at least some photographic evidence to support this claim. Of course, children still play this way in school playgrounds, but this is usually termed "football" rather than being real bindlet ball.
After the formation of the GBL, the popularity of bindlet ball skyrocketed, with employers frequently having to give days off on the days of important games. Having a successful team which is not knocked out in the early stages of the national tournament can often lead to severe financial downturns caused by extended work stoppage.
In -14 EC, after the 4th consecutive bindlet player was elected to parliament based solely on scoring a winning goal, an act was passed forbidding any current or past professional bindlet player from holding political office. This triggered 3 days of rioting in bindlet cities around Ghyll which was halted only when the players' union threatened to refuse to play games unless people would chill out.
The current reigning bindlet champions are the Glossfordshire Maurlons, who won the Day of Champions championship with a score of 6-1 against the Evesque Warriors in a record time of 5 hours, 17 minutes. The town of Glossfordshire, having been essentially on an extended holiday for the last 4 months, is now in the process of applying for government financial aid.
-- DrBacchus 21:05, 12 Sep 2004