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Jewish World Review Jan. 4, 2002 / 20 Teves, 5762

Steve Young

Steve Young
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PLAY BUZKASHI! -- AS the morning sun begins to peek out over the desolate mountains of Kabul, little Billy Mohammed awakes from nightmares of repression and horror to the realization that life has changed.

Billy and his friends fly out their doors ready to hear the cheerful cries of "Play Buzkashi!" Even before a breakfast of sambosa and challow kabu, Afghani youth joyfully attach some kind of rat-eaten animal carcass to their makeshift "horses" made out of old brooms, assorted shrapnel and sundry limbs left over from recent bombings, eager to emulate their heroes and play the country's national sport...Buzkashi.

The traditional Afghan game of buzkashi, recently resurfaced in the capital, Kabul, after being outlawed by the Taliban. There are virtually no rules in buzkashi, the literal translation of which is "take away the goat." Both sides fight over the body of a headless goat, though if unable to find a goat without a head, they'll happily use a calf. To score a point, they have to carry the carcass around a flag and then drop it in a circle. Children armed with their toy whips, beat whoever has the headless goat's body while his teammates try to run defense.

Said ten year old Bobby Shariff, "It's so fun!"

Many of these enthusiastic kids dream one day to become professional buzkashi players who can make upwards of a hundred trillion Aghanis a season ($12.57 American).

Of course, not everyone is happy. Already buzkashi purists are upset with the way the game is played today. Eighty-five year old buzhashi hall of famer, Mickey Momar, says things just aren't the same.

"In my day, you played for the love of the headless goat carcass. Now it's all about Afghanis and drachmas." The complaints don't stop there. Forty-five-year old, Hank Musheraff, who played minor league buzkashi before losing his leg in a bizarre buzhashi accident says, "The kids are ruining it for themselves. They've forgotten about fundamentals. They're all going for flash; the quick drop of the carcass in the circle." Referring to his leg injury, Musheraff gave this advice. "Before you play, make sure to behead and kill the goat first."

In an attempt to build a bond with our new Afghani friends, President Bush has named baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, as head of the newly formed Department of Buzkashi. "I expect Secretary Selig to put together the best Booshamooshi players America has to offer." The Spalding company has already begun to churn out the headless goat carcasses.

Selig doesn't expect the U.S. players to play world caliber buzkashi right away. "We'll start slow, but within the year I can see the American kids playing with headless goat carcasses on every empty sandlot and street corner. Buzkashi Little League, American Legion Buzkashi. This thing's gonna spread like wildfire. ESPN's gonna jump on this like a horny salmon swimming upstream to jump on...another salmon." Can Buzkashi Nintendo and contraction be far away?

JWR contributor Steve Young, Prism Award winner and Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing, is contributing editor at the Writers Guild of America's "Written By" magazine. He is the author of the forthcoming "Great Failures Of The Extremely Successful," Tallfellow Press, 2002 Comment by clicking here.

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© 2001, Steve Young