“The Game of Footfall” / Memorable Fancies #1741

[In Irian Jaya, “One was free to stand on another man’s shadow.” – J.H. Boelaars]

Standing on another man’s shadow was, however, considered impolite, offensive. Except in The Game of Footfall, that is, where the object was to stand on another player’s shadow for the maximum number of seconds, until the owner of the shadow managed to push the intruder away. In one strategy, teams made a solid phalanx facing their shadows, ready to push back anyone daring to approach.

In another technique, players pretending innocence would sidle up to an opponent’s player, surreptitiously place one toe on the other’s shadow, as the ever-watchful official’s count began. Of course, each player was constantly looking around, pushing off intruders, running away from them if necessary.

As The Game traditionally began at noon, there was almost no scoring at first. But as shadows lengthened, defending one’s shadow became more and more difficult, and points on the scoreboard, scarce at first, began to soar.

Our ancestors used to play The Game until sundown. Now, with our modern artificial lighting, our overwhelming need to compete against each other until one is vauntingly victorious, the other abased and shamed, we never stop. Never stop. Never stop.


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