February 24th 2016
Greetings, traveler. When exploring the universe we often find that, as enjoyable as the sights are, it is the people we encounter who make it truly special. That’s why the team at the OBSERVIST LIFESTYLE is here to bring you firsthand looks at the diverse tapestry of unique cultures that can be found across the Empire and beyond.
Sataball. A favorite pastime throughout the UEE. What started as a simple game devised by the children of early colonists has blossomed over the decades into an Imperial obsession and full-blown multibillion credit sports phenomenon. From a rowdy crowd gathered around a large screen in a bar to a few close friends intently peering at mobiGlas, it seems that no matter the planet or station you visit, you can be sure that you’ll be greeted by the familiar sounds of people enjoying a Sataball match. What you may be interested to learn, however, is the same is becoming true outside of Human space as well.
It wasn’t so long ago that you’d be hard pressed to find a Banu in the stands of a Sataball stadium, but these days, fans have grown accustomed to the sight of Banu cheering right alongside them. According to statistics provided by the Sataball Professional League, in 2944 Banu sales made up almost 35% of the total ticket revenue for the year, with border systems having even higher attendance numbers. In response, some locations have started catering to this unique demographic by offering Banu concessions and announcers.
To learn more about this growing phenomenon, I reached out to Joyce Teño, General Manager of the Nemo Crashers. According to her, Banu involvement in the sport didn’t quite start on the straight and narrow, “It used to be that you saw a Banu at a match, you could pretty much guarantee that they were there running book on it, but I guess somewhere along the line, between figuring out handicaps and calculating the spread, they sorta fell in love with the game. No surprise there, really. Sataball offers excitement and entertainment like few other sports can. Most people find themselves hooked after seeing the Crashers play. Wasn’t too long before we went from one, to a handful, to a few dozen, to now we’re getting entire sections that are just Banu cheering their hearts out.” But it appears that all that cheering may be causing a few problems of its own.
While many appreciate the Banu fans’ enthusiasm, it seems that some attendees are finding them to be a bit too boisterous. Conrad Hatch, a long-time Ferron Lancers booster, explains, “It’s not that they’re cheering that bothers me. It’s the fact that they don’t stop that’s so annoying.” It turns out that most Banu have eschewed the more traditional route of picking a favorite team to support and have instead opted to root equally for both teams when they attend a Sataball game. Fellow Ferron Lancer fan Mitch Drolt counters, “I like having them there. You can tell how much they love the game and they add a lot of great energy. Even the simplest play feels like a big deal. Makes you appreciate the athletes a bit more.” When I asked Joyce about this mixed reaction, she said, “To help alleviate complaints from some of the more vocal fans, the ticketing manager started separating the Banu out into their own area right between the home and away sections. That way it feels more natural when they cheer after every play.”
Of course, the only way to really find out what a Banu fan experience is like is to join them for a match.
My friendly neighbor, Halito Yuloin, shoves a steaming carton into my hand and encourages me to eat. All around me, Banu eagerly pop the fluffy pieces of fasa, a popular snack that is slightly reminiscent of a ginger shrimp nugget, into their mouths — when they are not busy shouting encouragement to the Sataball players that is. As the ball sails downfield, Halito leans forward and yells, “Defense is needed!” He had yelled the same thing when the possession was reversed just a few moments ago. Halito loves Sataball, and his favorite moments are when a team has to defend their goal, especially if they are behind a point. “That is great thrill for me,” Halito explains, “You can see their effort. The fear of points make them exceptional!” Halito then turns to the action, distracted, as the crowd erupts excitedly when a pass is blocked. The Banu to my right, Dasana Buleddon tells me that, “I love is scoring. When points are scored that is great thrill!”
It is the raw physical mechanics of the sport that make Banu so enamored of Sataball. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, what they are invested in is if the match is as exciting as possible. I hear voices around me arguing about which strategy is best, and if it would be better if the point spread was tighter or if a large gap would be the ‘greatest thrill.’ While the rest of the stadium is divided between fans in gold jerseys and fans in green, the Banu section is a rainbow of colors, many of them wearing merchandise for both teams or even teams that aren’t playing.
The best way to describe the experience is refreshing. Too often, Sataball spectating turns into hooliganism, an us-or-them scenario. How could you like that team? Your team sucks! My team is going to destroy your team! Instead, as I sit with the Banu, I am reminded of my love of the game itself. How exciting it is when the ball sails into the goal no matter who throws it. How a perfectly executed zero-g spin into a defender can be more beautiful than a choreographed ballet. And that when you’re not invested in one particular team winning, you can walk away from every match feeling like a winner.
As Banu become more a part of Sataball culture, it is hard not to appreciate what they bring with them, and it looks like their influence is only going to grow. Professional teams have begun to play games at stadiums built in Banu space and rumor has it that we may be seeing the first professional Banu player ever next season. It may not even be too long before we see systems like Yulin or Geddon getting their own SPL franchises. All I know is, next time I go to a Sataball match, I’ll be the first one to ask someone to pass me the fasa.