What a week for sports balls. Never before have the inflated orbs that make these games go been thrust into the limelight so. We speak, of course, about ” DeflateGate ,” the New England Patriots’ pre- Super Bowl scandal that turned the entire web into a classroom of giggling 12-year-olds.
It’s not just the NFL, though — everyone’s got balls. We sniffed around a bit, talking to all the major pro sports leagues in America, to get the lowdown on their balls.
In the NFL , home and visiting teams must supply 12 official game balls for use on offense. Those balls must be available for referees to inspect 135 minutes before kickoff. The home team, meanwhile, must have 12 more backup balls just in case; the visiting team can, but isn’t required to, supply 12 backups as well. All balls must be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI). An additional six brand-new balls, “sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer” are marked exclusively for use in the kicking game.
America’s pro futbol association, meanwhile, requires fewer balls. Before each contest the home team provides 14 official match balls, according to a Major League Soccer spokesperson. All 14 must be inflated to between 12 and 14 PSI, with 13 being the ideal mark.
Basketballs go through a more ritualistic process. At the beginning of a season, every team is sent 72 official game balls by the NBA , according to a league spokesperson. Before each game, three are brought to the referees’ locker room — one step closer to glory before 20,000 screaming fans.
The night’s officiating crew-chief then inspects all three balls for wear and tear, and to make sure they’re inflated to the league’s required range of 7.5 to 8.5 PSI. While the game’s two teams warm up pre-game, the crew chief brings all three inspected balls out to the court. He selects one for play; the other two serve as backups. Basketballs don’t fly into the stands as often as soccer balls or footballs do, so they need to be replaced less often. But baseballs, which are constantly being fouled off into the upper deck or smacked out of the park entirely? Major League Baseball goes through almost 1 million per year.
Between spring training, batting practice and actual games, about 900,000 baseballs are used by all 30 clubs in a given season, according to an MLB spokesperson. Each club uses about 30,000; about 200,000 are used for actual games.
For a particular game, 8 to 10 dozen are prepared for use. A park attendant massages each ball with Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud — essentially a sludge culled from New Jersey — to break them in. Once the balls have been rubbed down, umpires check them, approve them and — voila — there’s your pool of game balls.
Finally, we have the National Hockey League , which doesn’t use balls but pucks, those vulcanized-rubber discs you can (sort of) see whizzing about the ice on TV broadcasts.
For any game, the home team must provide at least 15 “appropriately frozen” pucks per period, according to an NHL spokesperson, which translates to a minimum of 45 per game. Those pucks are mandated to be chilled to between 16 and 24 degrees Fahrenheit — much colder than anyone should ever keep their balls.
1. Golf Cart Fail
This runaway vehicle wreaked minor on-field havoc following a high school football championship in Texas last December. But a heroic bystander hopped aboard and put on the brakes.
No casualties occurred, and the clip immediately became Internet legend.
2. Penalty Kick Fail
Watch out for the ricochet, goalie! This kid gets it in the right in the chops.
3. Mascot on Rollerblades Fail
What happens when you put an inflatable dinosaur on rollerblades and ask it to skate down a flight of stairs? Amazingness, that’s what.
4. Flopping Fail
In sports, to “flop” is to exaggerate the force of contact in hopes of drawing a favorable call from officials. But you’ve got to time it much, much better than this guy does.
5. Hockey Celebration Fail
Apparently, if you hug a member of the opposite team after scoring a goal in hockey, you will get punched in the face.
6. Innocent Bystander Fail
This kid is just in the wrong place at the wrong time…to the benefit of the rest of us.
7. Representing Your School Fail
College football mascots are supposed to represent their schools in a fun, positive light — which doesn’t typically include picking fights. Here, the University of Oregon’s duck slams the University of Houston’s cougar.
Bonus points for the sick elbow drop, though.
8. Weightlifting Fail
Not saying we could successfully lift 432 pounds above our heads, but dang, that looks painful.
German weightlifter Matthias Steiner dropped this massive barbell on his neck during the London Olympics this summer, but escaped serious injury.
9. Trampoline Dunk Fail
Sometimes, when you fail, you actually win.
10. Hurdling Fail
Why jump over hurdles when you could just RUN STRAIGHT THROUGH THEM?
File under: Never, Ever Gets Old.
11. Paying Attention Fail
After what could best be described as an “optimistic” shot attempt in a game last season, NBA center JaVale McGee showed some nice hustle getting back on defense. Only problem? His team still had the ball.
12. Judgment Fail
But that wasn’t McGee’s only legendary moment. Here, he shows why it’s not a good idea to try dunking from the free throw line mid-game.
13. Olympic Promo Fail
For some reason, London’s Olympic promotions this summer involved hanging Mayor Boris Johnson on a zipline while waving a pair of tiny flags.
Then he got stuck halfway through and it was pretty much the best, funniest, awkwardest thing that could have happened.
14. Grand Slam Celebration Fail
Major Leaguer Kendry Morales broke his lower left leg while celebrating a game-winning grand slam in 2010. This edited video provides the before, during and after rundown.
15. Slam Dunk Fail
See? White guys can jump? It’s just the landing that’s the hard part.
16. High Dive Fail
The announcer here sums it up perfectly. She calls this attempt from the 1992 Olympics “an absolute failed dive.”
17. Piggyback Ride Fail
What begins as an innocent enough piggyback ride atop a fuzzy mascot turns into a pretty epic collision — and YouTube gold.
18. Long Jump Fail
Dude! If you’re gonna pump up the crowd like that, you can’t just faceplant into the sand.
19. Touchdown Celebration Fail
When you think about it, is there any better way to celebrate a touchdown than by pegging an unsuspecting spectator in the face? Bonus points for originality, at least.
20. Pro Golfer Fail
You’d think a professional golfer could put the ball in the hole with less than 16 strokes. Kevin Na — and the rest of the world — found out otherwise on this par-four hole at the 2011 Valero Texas Open.
21. Head-First Slide Fail
Well, that’s one way of doing it…right?
22. Time Management Fail
Tie game, clock winding down — it’s always better to get one last attempt up than just let the game go into overtime. A full court desperation heave with a 11 seconds to go is never the way to do it, however.
This classic gaffe by the University of Connecticut’s Roscoe Smith came during a matchup of top teams in 2011.
23. Boogie Boarding Fail
Its veracity may be suspect, but this 2008 YouTube classic has more than 12.7 million views, despite a mind-numbing soundtrack.
24. Sportsmanship Fail
The summer of 2011 was a tough time for NBA star LeBron James. It was full of lingering ill-will for his decision to the leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and snarky schadenfreude over his initial failure to win a championship with the Miami Heat.
So it makes perfect sense that he’d let off some steam by viciously dunking on a tiny kid at summer camp, right? That’s what happens at the 0:43 mark of this video.
25. Standing on a Basketball Hoop Fail
We’re not quite sure why this mascot thought standing on top of a basketball rim was a good idea.
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