Length: 1750 words (5 double-spaced pages)
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As an amateur anthropologist, I was to participate in my observation, which I did to the best of my ability. Choosing my topic was the most difficult for me. Coming to America there are so many options that I could choose to research. So what was I to do? Well, being in the state of Kentucky, Lexington at that, I decided to research a sporting event in which Americans call basketball. As soon as I stepped of the big metal bird, I saw a picture of a wild cat holding a round orange ball. I remember thinking, "I could never hunt these animals, they are too smart, they are nothing similar to the ones in the Outback of Australia. So I stopped the person that rode next to me on the metal bird, "What is that animal doing with that ball?" He remarked, "We are in Lexington, home of the Kentucky Wildcats." With that he walked away. How could Kentucky be considered the home of the wildcat? We have many in the Outback. So, I continued down the nest where the birds drink and rest. Then it finally hit me, the name of the basketball team were the Wildcats. I was well on my way to find these "Kentucky Wildcats."
I arrived where they house the wildcats that play ball. The name of the cage was Rupp Arena. Apparently, I was not the only one interested in watching these trained animals play the sport of basketball. The price to watch these animals were extremely expensive; thirty dollars in American currency which would translate into 300 of my own currency.
Once inside the cage I found that it was not at all what I thought it to be. There was an enormous amount of people present. In my observation this event is the biggest that people in this culture attend. In this cage you could smell a variety of things. Some smells were all too familiar from home; the urine smell as you walked into the place where people went to relieve themselves reminded me of the "Hole." They had many different foods that smelled nothing like anything that I have ever smelled before. They had a brown thing that was twisted into a weird design; they had something that was in the form of a triangle that looked like a piece of bread with cheese on top and round meat.
I later learned that this food was called pizza. I was introduced to sweet dirty water that they call Pepsi. They gave me little square chunks of ice to keep my Pepsi cold while I watch these animals play basketball. I was ready to go watch the animals. What a weird event that brought an extreme amount of people. As I enter the main room of the cage I find that the floor is made of wood with writing on it and there are two weird looking trees, one at each end of the court. I was overwhelmed by what I saw, I had to go down there and see what was going on. I figured there are a lot of people down there looking at the weird trees and the wood flooring with writing on it so why not join them. But what I was confused about was the fact that there were twenty-six people on this floor throwing orange balls into a ring attached on the trees. Maybe this was a ritual before the wildcats were brought out. As I try to take my first step onto the floor a man that was wearing a yellow coat with black lettering stopped me. He tried to explain that only payers could be on the floor. The expression on my face may have shown him that I was an outsider and he explained that the game was about to begin and I should take my seat. So before I found the correct seat after sitting in three other people's seats, a man wearing a blue vest finally showed me to my seat. After sitting for ten minutes the villagers began standing. In order to attempt to fit in I did this also. After I stood, music began to play and for awhile it appeared that everyone was starring at me, but after a few moments I realized that they were looking at a flag which represents the United States. After the song was over, I did as the rest and sat down. I was ready to see the wild cats play basketball. To my surprise 10 of the twenty-six people that was throwing the orange ball into the rings on the trees walked out wearing their tribal colors, five on each tribe. Then three guys that were dressed like zebras walked out on to the floor with the two different tribes carrying the same orange ball that the tribal men were throwing up earlier. After everyone walked out onto the floor everyone began to yell as loud as they could and stomp there feet and clap there hands yelling, "Go Wildcats." In absolute joy I stand up expecting to see the animals playing basketball, but instead it is the tribal men. They are running back and forth with the orange ball. Several of the men would throw the ball to the ground and it would bounce back up to them, as they would run with it. The tribal men would group themselves up in pairs and take turns standing in front of them waving their arms like they are crazy. I think that it was a ritual to do this to each other as to show respect for one another. The zebra looking men never touched the orange ball except when the made a loud noise through a little black thing they blew into. The zebras controlled tempers that both tribes would let explode into anger. Every time a tribe man would get hit by an opposite member of the tribe the zebra would blow his little black thing and hold up fingers towards the villagers in the bleachers. I noticed that this culture would use hand motions to communicate. As a participant I would mimic their actions and throw my hands in the air when they did. It was strange because the same motion would show either disgust or joy for their tribe. Some would even display their middle finger, which I took as a demeaning gesture. After twenty minutes of the tribes playing basketball, a loud horn sounded calling the tribes off the court. At this time all the villagers got up from their seat and go to the cage's meeting place, where one could get food and beverage or urinate. Some would even put a small white stick to their mouth and proceed to catch it on fire. After thirty minutes everyone shuffled back into the stomping grounds in which were for before the big horn blew again. Once again the two tribal men took to the big wooden floor and the weird trees. I noticed that the chief was not wearing the same garments as his followers. He wore clothes that covered all his body except his face. The tribe men wore shirts with the sleeves ripped off and pants with half the legs cut off. I think that maybe the tribe's men have battled prior to this meeting and this was the reason for their ragged garments. The chiefs never stepped onto the big wood floor. He did however wave his hands like a crazy man and even jumped up and down like the followers under him. Some of the men would even dive into the villagers to see if they were paying attention to what was unfolding before them. The assortment of the villagers was amazing. It seemed no matter if you had colored or you were pale you were accepted if you did well for the tribe and considered a disgrace if you hurt the tribe. Both tribes had people of different colors and ages. Some had graybeards and wrinkly skin and others were too young to talk and show their approval for their tribe. All come out to show support and to encourage their respected tribe.
After spending a Thursday night in a cage called Rupp Arena I learned that the tribes name is called the Wildcats and it is a competitive sporting event and nothing more.
However, some of the villagers always think that they can do better than who represent them. I have found that if I live by these three rules in Rupp Arena one can successfully fill his/her role in compiling data; one- go along with the crowd, they have been around for awhile and know the ropes; two- yell loud for the tribe that traveled the least amount to get to Rupp Arena; three- smile and hit others hands when the orange ball goes through the ring on the tree. It is wise to yell for the tribe that you sit amongst. I would always have a person helping me to learn the game of basketball as Barbara Anderson had someone show her the ropes in the bathhouse. And to find out information about what was happening, I would ask just as she did to find out more about the culture in Denmark. As I just sat there observing the actions I found that everything was universal, the yelling, the hand gestures, and the jumping up and down. They were all actions that showed either disgust or joy for what was happening on the floor. This is a way that people can enjoy life and kick back and enjoy the actions that took place in front of them or it was a way for them to live their past through the current competitors. The weird trees I found out later are called goals in which the players would shoot the basketball. They would pass and dribble and the coach would teach his players to play defensive on the other team. I found it very hard to be just an observer and sometimes I would catch myself enjoying my surroundings and not doing the thing that I was there to do in the first place. I enjoyed it though because it enabled me to sit back and catch some people doing idiotic things that I probably sometimes do. Overall this was a fun project to take part in and I am glad that I was able to do it at a University of Kentucky basketball game.