But of all the games, not one received so much horrified
disapproval from the friars as "that devil's own game of football."
So set against this game were the pious missionaries, that in 1676,
Capt. Juan de Florencia, Governor of Apalache, abolished the sport. For
this accomplishment he was rewarded by the dedication of a book
written by Fray Juan de Paina, pastor of San Luis de Talmali
(Tallahassee). In the dedication Father Juan gave thanks "for the honor
and glory of God who has enabled the governor to wipe out the deviltry
of the game."
It is apparent why this sport aroused the antagonism of the godly
friars. In preparation for the game, the players went into serious training.
This consisted of spirit and animal worship and a complex system of
magical practices and devices that accompanied conditioning, day and
night. Claws of bear, panther, alligator, eagle feathers, and sometimes
hanks of hair from the opposing players, were used as lucky pieces. Each
lucky piece represented a certain quality thus conveyed to the player as,
for instance, speed from the panther.
Practice began in the spring and when the days drifted into
summer, the big game in July drew near. A formal challenge was sent to
rival villages by heralds, picked for their skill in banter and the higher
forms of verbal abuse. With much bragging and many