MEL for DSC Magazine, July 2020

In this month's issue, we're talking about our balls. *ahem*

Mini_Web_Mag_header_july-2020

Mistook your monthly magazine for a pack of One Wipe Charlies and flushed it down the toilet? No worries, here’s the online version!

In this edition:

  1. How to Take Care of Your Balls
  2. The (Ball) Pit of Doom?
  3. How Low are My Balls Gonna Go, Anyway?
  4. A Lot of Balls in the Air
  5. Are Balls the World’s Most Important Invention?
  6. Oh FAQ! How Do I Use This Fancy New Ball Spray?

Welcome!

Ballon. Mpira. Pelota. 球.

Among the more than 6,900 human languages, there are many, many different words for “ball.” But balls themselves are not all that different: They’re generally round, like a basketball, or at least ovoid, like a rugby ball. Sometimes they’re hairy, like a tennis ball, and more times than not, they’re wrapped in some sort of skin, like a baseball, often called a “leather.” You can play with them, like a cue ball, or, uh, just leave them be, like a golf ball. And if you don’t wash them adequately after prolonged use, they can get quite stinky — like a football. 

That’s right, our balls all have a lot in common. Which is why, in this edition of the MEL for DSC Magazine, we’re talking all things “balls” — not just the kind we play all different kinds of sports with, but also the kind that hang a little closer to home. And while you might think that we’re doing this because we’re now selling something called Ball Spray — more on that on pages 12 and 13 — it’s mostly just because we’re suckers for cheap innuendo.

But, of course, you probably figured that out already.

1 – How to Take Care of Your Balls

Sports memorabilia collector Mark Mancini talks about his prized collection of balls, and how he keeps them safer than the family jewels.

What’s your favorite ball in your collection?
The first Babe Ruth-signed baseball that I obtained, I won in a 125-spot raffle with just one spot that I bought for $65 — even though the ball was valued over $8,000. I have never considered selling it because it’s what really kick-started me into autograph collecting. I consider it the centerpiece of my collection. 

What’s the best way to take care of your balls?
For the most valuable balls, I tell my friends to pretend you’re a doctor — take them out once per year, with gloves on, and use two fingers (on the laces, never on the panels or near the autograph). But seriously, the most important thing is to keep your memorabilia out of direct sunlight and away from UV rays. Also, keep the temperature around 65 degrees and humidity at 50 percent at all times!

How do you show off your balls?
Personally, I use different display cases with locks which are bolted to the walls. But there are a ton of memorabilia groups on the internet which can help to get ideas of man caves and display ideas.

Any advice to novice collectors on how to get started?
Beware of scammers, and understand who the top experts are for autograph authentication prior to purchasing.

What’s the strangest item you’ve collected?
Not so much balls, but I did win a pair of Mickey Mantle’s autographed underwear that he purportedly wore once. I still have yet to frame them, now that I think of it. I think that’s my next project.


2 – The (Ball) Pit of Doom?

On the surface, ball pits appear to be good, clean fun. But it’s underneath where things start to get a bit nasty.

Snakes Alive!
In the mid-1990s, a rumor began circulating that fast-food workers in South Carolina had found a family of snakes that’d taken up residence at the bottom of their restaurant’s ball pit. But according to Snopes, the whole “snakes in a ball pit” thing turned out to be nothing more than urban legend. Which makes sense, considering that snakes are far more likely to hide where it’s warm and quiet, than in the bottom of a cold ball pit among a bunch of noisy kids.

Buggin’ Out
If a den of snakes seems a bit far fetched, according to Jason “The Germ Guy” Tetro, it’s what’s really in ball pits at the microscopic level that’s worth worrying about. “There are microbes like klebsiella and enterococcus, which are fecal bacteria,” says Tetro. “There’s also staphylococcus, which can cause skin infections and pneumonia, and fungi like aspergillus, which can cause lung infections.”

Ball Pit? More Like Trash Pit
It’s not just germs that people bring with them into ball pits — playground workers have found all types of things nestled among the thousands of plastic balls, from diapers to syringes. All the more reason to “ask the owner about their method and frequency of cleaning,” says Tetro. “If a regular cleaning schedule is performed and it involves cleaning all balls, then there’s probably no problem. But If it doesn’t smell like it’s clean, it probably isn’t.”


3 – How Low are My Balls Gonna Go, Anyway?

Call a free-swinging sack a byproduct of the aging process. And though you may fight it, resistance is futile.

Like fur in our ears, liver spots on our face and back hair on, well, our backs, a saggy scrotum is a fact of life. That said, what exactly are we dealing with here? Are our balls simply getting heavier as we age, or is some other black magic at play? And it’d be one thing if our balls hung just slightly lower — but why does it seem like the older we get, the lower they go?

“It’s a combination of gravity and changes within the scrotal skin,” explains urologist and men’s health expert Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt. “As a man ages, the skin with the scrotum loses its elasticity, and the muscles that are responsible for keeping the skin ‘tight’ lose some of their function.”

Sadly, that means our balls are going to hang — and hang low — and there’s little we can do about it. Worse yet, when it comes to rock bottom, “there is no set limit that I am aware of,” says Brahmbhatt. 

That said, don’t let a free-swinging scrotum get you down. “It’s not a cause for concern.  However, if you experience pain or enlarged testicles, then for sure get checked by a doctor.” Fetch the wheelbarrow!


4 – A Lot of Balls in the Air

They’re (mostly) round, but other than that, balls in sports are quite different. Here’s what makes them so unique.

1. Football
Though early balls were fashioned from pig bladders, the ol’ pigskin was never actually made from pig skin. Also, footballs were originally round, or, at least, they were at kickoff. After 60 minutes of being kicked, thrown and carried, they ended up looking more like an egg. After a while, the shape stuck — likely because it was easier to throw.

2. Baseball
Why is the stitching on baseballs red? To help batters see the spin, of course — which is why the sport adopted the color around the start of the 20th century. More recently, evidence has suggested they’ve also adopted a less dense cork-and-rubber core than in previous seasons. Probably why home-run totals smashed league records last year.

3. Cricket Ball
The balls in cricket also have stitches, but theirs traverse the ball’s equator, as opposed to baseball’s peanut-shaped panels. Of the balls’ many colors, red balls last the longest, while white balls are easiest to see. Pink balls, however, are easy to see and last a long time, making them a solid choice for night matches.

4. Water Polo Ball
Have you ever tried to pick up a water-logged leather ball in the water with one hand? Pretty slippery — and heavy, to boot. But that’s what water polo players had to deal with until 1936, when a rubber, inflatable ball was invented. Now, water polo balls have a textured layer on the outside specifically designed to improve grip, allowing players to shoot at more than 50 miles per hour.

5. Jai Alai Ball
Think water polo players throw their balls hard? Jai Alai, a Spanish sport where players wear curved baskets on their hands and launch balls called pelota against a wall, can throw at speeds of more than 180 miles per hour. Because of how hard they’re thrown, each pelota has to be re-covered after only 15 minutes of play.

6. Golf Ball
Did you know that there’s no set rule as to what a golf ball needs to be made of? Yes, balls need to be of a certain size, weight and not differ wildly from “traditional and customary form and make,” but other than that, it’s at the manufacturer’s discretion. Oh, and those cute dimples? They add spin and change the ball’s resistance through the wind, allowing it to travel further in the air.


5 – Are Balls the World’s Most Important Invention?

When it comes to essential human innovations, ‘the wheel’ and ‘fire’ are cool and all, but the ball may be man’s biggest breakthrough.

When the infamous Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés returned to Spain in 1528 after conquering the Aztecs in what is now Mexico, he brought with him, in the bowels of his ships, great wealth that he and his men had plundered from the New World. Gold, cocoa beans and obsidian dazzled the court of Charles V, but so did another of Cortés’ treasures: A rubber ball.

What’s so interesting about a rubber ball, you say? These days, not much. After all, you can buy one online for ten bucks and have it show up on your doorstep in about a day — which is to say, balls are cheap and ubiquitous. But there’s also a reason why, when you see a basketball emoji, you think of sports, and that rubber ball, itself a relic of a more than 3,000 year old Mesoamerican sport, is the reason.

Hyperbole? Hardly. The influence of one rubber ball, and to a greater extent, balls in general on human history, is that great. And not just in the games we play for fun, as amateurs or professionally — balls have touched almost every aspect of our society in ways that might give fire and the wheel a run for their money.

About that Rubber Ball…
Balls, as in generally round spheres of varying material used to play games, have been around a long time. Balls made from stone, animal bladders or leather were rolled or tossed around by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. But the ball that Cortés brought back from New Spain hundreds, if not thousands of years later in the 16th century, was special, because it was made from rubber. The product of the Olmecs — one of the first Mesoamerican civilizations, whose name is an Aztec word that roughly translates as “the rubber people” — that rubber ball was used in a game called ulama, where players tried to bounce the ball off their hips and into stone hoops suspended on walls high up off the ground. Played by the Olmecs, Aztecs and Mayans, ulama dates back more than 3,000 years to the 2nd century B.C., making it one of the oldest known sports around.

A plain ol’ ball is one thing, but that rubber ball amazed the Europeans because it bounced like crazy, as rubber balls do — and it wasn’t long until rubber became the ball material of choice for sports where a little bounce goes a long way.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot
While balls in sport might date back thousands of years, there was another kind of ball that was equally, if not even more important to human history: round shot (yes, as in pew pew), which only really started gaining popularity as a weapon of war around the year 1450. That’s when Samuel J. Besh, a French artillery engineer, introduced the mega-hard cast iron cannonball to soft(er) English castle walls during the Hundred Years War. 

Gunpowder weapons, of course, had previously been invented by the Chinese in the 9th century, and cannons with stone round shot first appeared on the battlefield in 1327. But combining gunpowder’s explosive power with dense, easy-to-make metals like iron — and then soon, with lead shot in rifles — had a devastating effect on personnel and material alike. In fact, thanks to the widespread adoption of metal shot by the world’s armies, how wars were fought and won would change completely, and forever.

Get Your Bearings
Hopefully you’ll never have to see round shot in action (other than in the movies), but ball bearings, on the other hand — ancient versions of which actually predate the wheel — you likely see (or hear) in action every day. That’s because ball bearings are the critical components in many, many types of machinery, and have been, in a modern sense, since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. 

What makes ball bearings such an important human invention is their ability to transfer loads between moving parts while minimizing friction, making them perfect for machines that need to spin fast and often. Without ball bearings, we likely wouldn’t have common, everyday things like industrial water pumps, propellers, turbines or cars. They’re even in your computer (or its cooling fan, at least). 

The Wheel and Fire — Who Needs ‘Em?!?
Look, the inventions of fire and the wheel are certainly cool as balls, no one is saying they aren’t — no doubt, they both help us get around, warm our homes, convert things in the ground into usable energy, etc. etc. etc., yadda yadda yadda — but are they as cool as balls? There’s an argument to be made that, no they aren’t. After all, the Egyptians painted balls all over their walls, just because they liked them so much, and Leonardo Da Vinci drew sketches of ball-bearing parts when he screwed around and invented the helicopter. And if Leonardo Da Vinci thought they were awesome, they’ve got to be, right?


6 – Oh FAQ! How Do I Use This Fancy New Ball Spray?

Dollar Shave Club product guru Kyle Zimmerman explains how and why ball spray keeps the sweaty stank away.

1. Da heck is a ‘ball spray’? “It’s an aerosol powder spray, to keep your balls cool and dry. In other words, it’s a ball spray. Ball spray does two key things: absorbs moisture and reduces chafing. So it can be applied proactively in anticipation of crotch sweat, or it can be applied reactively to help relieve chafing.” 

2. Why — and where — should I use it? “You literally can — and should — use it when and wherever you think you’re going to sweat through your shorts: Prior to going on a hike; before sitting in the stands at a baseball game in the middle of summer; on the way out of the door to go on a lunchtime walk; or even before you sitting down at your desk to start working.”

3. Why is this better than, say, talc? “Because it’s a no-mess, spray-on powder, it’s not going to get all over your bathroom floor or leave white streaks in your underwear. Plus, it’s got a nice, light peppermint tingle and scent that’ll leave you feeling refreshed and confident.”

4. Stop talking and just tell me how to use it, please “It works best if you hold the can upright. Then, (1) unlock the cap (it locks in case you want to take it to the gym — keep it locked when you’re not using it so it doesn’t accidentally spray in your bag), (2) shake shake shake and (3), spray anywhere you sweat and/or chafe, like your groin, butt and back.”

5. Anywhere I shouldn’t spray, like the rest of my junk? “Even though it’s called Ball Spray, we designed the formula to be gentle enough to apply all over, so spray away. Not to get too technical, but we tested it to see if it would irritate the skin. It passed with no issues, so your junk is safe.”

6. Great, so no more showers, right? “Ball spray is perfect for when you’re in a pinch and desire a fresh feeling down there. But it’s not an alternative to showering, you sicko — you definitely still need to take a shower.”


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