SBS Guide to the Mayan game Pitz

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Published on : March 29, 2016


Pitz is an ancient ball game played by the Mayan people going back to 1,400 BC. With similar contests (some call it ulama) being enjoyed all over the Mesoamerican region. The sport is kind of like if racquet ball and basketball had a violent baby. Oh yeah, there was also sometimes human sacrifices before show time, so it was just like a Raiders game. We must not lose our sports history. So let’s take some time to honor the Mayans AKA the original hoopers. Here is the ScoreBoredSports Guide to Pitz.


Before we start throwing human heads around, let’s go over all the rules and customs so you don’t piss off your more “traditional” friends. There is a lot to know beyond the fact the hoop is sideways (from basketball standards) and the rubber ball is smaller. Here is how it all works.


pitz team


Please pay attention. There are stone tablets that show losers of the game being executed. Not always something that happens but it could. So don’t let your lack of knowledge of the rules lead to your demise. Maybe write this next stuff down or screen-cap it.


The Rules

No hands allowed! You can’t catch or throw the ball. Think soccer style for making contact. If you do use your hands then the other side gets a goal. Lots of the old art shows players striking the ball with their hip. Plus you get to do it all in a loincloth. Score.


Teams face off against each other both trying to get the ball through the hoop. This was super difficult and scoring a goal often ended the game. Most contests were just about keeping the ball afloat. Historians reason they added the hoops later but the original game was just about keeping the ball from hitting the ground.




Your team must keep the ball in play. If it falls and hits the dirt or is booted out of the court then the other side gets a goal. The game has no time limits. A match could go on forever as long as the players continued to legally hit the ball.


Team with the most goals wins. The victors are treated like gods with a feast and epic celebration. The losers, well, it’s not great for them. This wasn’t just Sunday Night Football: Ancient World Edition. These games were part of a bigger ceremony that held a deep importance in the culture. The Pitz match helped tell a story for the whole community to enjoy. It was sport and religion and theatre all rolled into one. It sounds epic and I’m jealous we don’t get to enjoy it.


great court
                                                                                Great Ball Court, Chichen Itza


The ball courts were also used as a venue for other events. Records show music, festivals, and other sports like wrestling took place at these large arenas. The Mayans understood how sports and athletics can bring people together. I was lucky enough to visit the Great Ball Court in Chichen Itza and it is massive. Truly inspiring. In some ways, Pitz is the spiritual ancestor of the Super Bowl.


There you have it. I think we should start a league. Email me and we can start making teams. But maybe none of the rough stuff. Or maybe I can just be coach or the GM.


Game on!



3 thoughts on “SBS Guide to the Mayan game Pitz”

  1. It is not clear whether losers or winners may have been executed. Some Indigenous scholars have said that winning was frowned upon.

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