The 2005 New Years Ba’, Kirwall, Orkney Islands. An innumerable mass of sweaty men throwing fists and covering their privates as they slowly push the ball (the ba’) towards their goal. Its a brutal, vicious game with no rules and a long tradition. Having no idea what the game was about, I decided the best way to learn was to put on my rugby jersey and throw my lot in with the men. I am still not sure why I jumped in, and it may not been the smartest thing to do, but i am glad I did. Our team, the Doonies (those south of kirkwall) lost again against the nasty, pagan Uppies, for the 14th year. Next year, I should invite the New Zealand rugby team to help us out.
The best photos are at bagame.com. In this photo, taken nearly 2 hours into the game, I am bottom left, wearing a bumble-bee rugby jersy, sandwiched between a concrete wall and a hundred bodies. We were pinned in this position for about 25 minutes without moving an inch. The ball was just a few feet from me, but was well hidden underneath the swarm.
I played for a few hours before sustaining a minor injury to my right arm – a sprain that knocked me out of the game which went on for a few more hours, in freezing rain and a wicked cold gale.
The skinny on the Ba? Its great. A good and healthy release of energy and rage and a tradition worth keeping.