Tuesday, January 27, 2015


SuperBowl XLIX-Arizona

It is a busy sports week in Arizona. They will play golf, and expect enormous crowds on Saturday. The Arizona Coyotes will be on the road, playing the Leafs, the Senators, and the Canadiens. The Phoenix Suns entertain Washington Wizards, and the Chicago Bulls. The football teams will arrive in time to practice a little, and to drive the press corps absolutely crazy. The media have limited opportunities to grill the players and the coaches, and that is not a bad thing. After all, this is supposed to be about a game.

For those of you who spend a little time following American football, it comes as no surprise that there has been some discussion about the amount of air that should be inside a football. There is a great story in the local rag here, the Fort Myers News-Press. One of the sports writers for the paper, David Dorsey, ran the issue by one of our local residents, Larry Rose. Rose worked for 17 years in the NFL as a side judge, and his insight into the issue is well worth noting. Ever since the Patriots soundly trounced the Colts 45-7, there has been a furor over the condition of the footballs. The Patriots have been accused of some skullduggery, hissing a little air out of the balls so that Tom Brady could get a better grasp of the pigskin.

Mr. Rose outlined the process of getting the game balls into the game. There are a dozen balls used for kicking that are delivered to the officials prior to the game at their hotel. “Those balls are in a box, sealed. We take them with us to the stadium. We clean them. We rub them. We scrub them. We do everything with them.” In other words, the officials look after the kicking balls.

His next few statements shocked me. “Each team brings in their own balls. The balls have their own logos burned into the rubber.” The ball boys deliver the balls to the officials. They clean, scrub, put a marking on them, and fill them with air. They bag them, and lock them up.  When they take the field, they deliver the balls to a supposedly secure area. Rose added: “Once we get to the field and drop the balls off, it’s out of our control. We’re out refereeing the game. We’re not worried about the balls.”

Rest assured, there will be better controls from here on in. I watched NBA basketball referees at courtside before the game. They carefully marked three game balls, the two reserve balls remaining at the scorer’s table. Reflect back to the pranks of the Harlem Globetrotters! They had some great ball tricks, including deflation! NHL pucks are frozen before each game, and are carefully guarded at the timekeeper/scorer table. Major League baseball umpires rub down baseballs before a game with special mud, taken from the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. The balls are then kept from the teams, until the umpires put them in play. Pitchers may take liberties with the balls after they receive them, subject to penalty.

In conclusion, no other major sport allows teams the opportunity to mess with game equipment before the start of the game. I am certain the practice has ended for the NFL.

Russell Wilson and Brady will go head to head in a classic SuperBowl encounter. The Seahawks will attempt to spring their running backs early, whereas the Patriots will rely on Gronkowski, Edelman and company to pave the way. You still have three days to stock the fridge and fill the chip bowls. Enjoy!

But first things first! Off to see the Florida Panthers and the Detroit Red Wings tonight!

James Hurst
January 26, 2015  

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