As I watched the recent basketball playoff game between Virginia and Texas Tech, this thought came to me: Has anyone ever written a complete history of balls? Also, when is the last time you or I stopped to think of what would happen if, in a blink, balls disappeared from most of the world’s sporting events?
Books have been written about the invention of the wheel and its importance — both good and evil — to humankind. History has recorded the times and places that specific balls — required for football, baseball, tennis, golf, billiards and so forth — first appeared on earth. But I don’t know of a single sentence telling when the very first ball came to be.
The book of Genesis describes Jehovah all wrapped up creating heaven, earth, light, air, oceans and humans. He should have taken a minute or two to invent the ball. If nothing else, a ball — and the many games and contests that require a ball — might have prevented much of the warfare and bloodshed found in the Old Testament. Examples: David and Goliath; the Hittites vs. the Canaanites. Take away the slingshots and swords, and give them a ball to fight over.
But that would not have prevented violence. Come forward a few thousand years and witness the riots that often take place when European football (soccer) teams collide.
Here’s the partial plot of a sci-fi movie that might be titled “The Day the Sports Balls Vanished.” One day, with no warning or explanation, most of the balls used in sports simply disappeared. In the blink of an eye, everywhere on the globe, wherever a ball was used in a money-oriented, profit-intended sporting competition, every one of the balls vanished. They disappeared from the playing fields, from the replacement lockers, the sporting goods stores and manufacturing companies.
However, this did not happen to balls used by people or groups just for having fun. Playgrounds, schools, small colleges, religious organizations, nonprofit groups — these and similar entities somehow kept the balls that were needed, as long as their sporting events were not intended to line the private pockets or profit-and-loss ledgers of individuals, corporations or governments.
Within a few weeks, an enormous economic shock occurred throughout the globe. Without balls to play with, professional sports collapsed at every level. All such games — present and future — were cancelled. No games meant no fans buying tickets, and no TV coverage. This killed the advertising that helped to pay for the games.
Team owners and stockholders went broke. Players, coaches, ground crews, food and drink vendors — all of these, and others, lost their jobs. Gambling organizations were paralyzed. With for-profit, ball-using games became virtually non-existent, there wasn’t much left to bet on.
Inventors tried to come up with a replacement for a sports-using ball. But even when they succeeded, the substitute vanished on the day the new, round “ball” was used in any game designed to earn a profit for a private citizen or entity.
In addition to the economic catastrophe caused by the vanishing balls, the social outfall was enormous. With so many sporting events no longer available to occupy their time and attention, millions of men and women had little to think about or even live for. Divorce rates climbed as couples found nothing to say to each other. Unwanted pregnancies and infidelities increased, as sexual pursuits took the place of sports enthusiasm.
On the plus side, alcoholism and obesity declined. Many people discovered hobbies other than drinking beer and eating junk food while their eyes were glued to sports broadcasts.
I’ve listed only a few likely effects of what a no-balls world would be like. But no-balls sports would prosper. They would include ice hockey, fencing, swimming, track and field, boxing, skiing, martial arts, auto racing and the most heart-pounding game ever invented: curling.
So there you have it, sports fans — an imaginary look at a fantasy world that will probably never happen. And even if it should, the biggest ball of all — our beloved earth — will keep on turning.