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June 15, 2014 4:00 PM   Subscribe

The World's Ball - the NYT reviews the design evolution of the soccer/football from 1930 to the present
posted by Blazecock Pileon (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Telstar design is the football of my youth, brings back a bunch of memories.
posted by arcticseal at 4:14 PM on June 15


So why change something so iconic as the Telstar ball? Was it a way to cut production costs? The 32 panels must take more time to cut and sew than the 6 panel balls.
posted by cazoo at 4:23 PM on June 15


So why change something so iconic as the Telstar ball?

Because you want to sell more balls, and you do that by creating a fantastic, bright, new (more expensive) ball that's cooler than the ball the guy next door has.

I mean, I'm not saying the new balls are crap and unnecessary - based on this page, there does seem to be useful innovation. But ultimately, they're selling a product, and products need upgrades to sell.
posted by Jimbob at 4:28 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Pentagons surrounding hexagons, no matter how decorated won't ease England's misery and that goal in extra time by Switzerland was beautiful.

Costa Rica is my team now because why root for the likely winner.
posted by vapidave at 4:29 PM on June 15


Because you want to sell more balls, and you do that by creating a fantastic, bright, new (more expensive) ball that's cooler than the ball the guy next door has.

And soccer has to catch up with other money-sinking sports like hockey...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:35 PM on June 15


Cheap balls are all still made on the Telstar model (pentagons and hexagons), so it's not production costs. The fewer panels, the better the ball will keep its shape. And the new materials and construction methods let you use fewer panels.
posted by asterix at 4:37 PM on June 15


cazoo: "So why change something so iconic as the Telstar ball? Was it a way to cut production costs?"
Not likely, as labour costs are already minuscule.

A Brazuca ball retails at $160 and takes 40 minutes to make. Let's say a worker makes 12 balls a day, then - that's about 250 balls per month, allowing for a bit of waste, for a combined retail price of $40,000. The monthly wage of the lady making 40k worth of balls is $100, or a quarter of a percent of the retail value.
posted by brokkr at 4:40 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


Because you want to sell more balls, and you do that by creating a fantastic, bright, new (more expensive) ball that's cooler than the ball the guy next door has.

When my younger brother played for middle school, he really wanted a Mitre ball for his birthday, because that's what the cool rich kids over the hill in Swarthmore had, so that's what he had to have. My... thrifty... dad got him an Adidas instead, which lead to a lot of complaining and grousing and general bad vibes. After a few hours of arguing, my dad said, "Enough!" He lept up, grabbed a fat black marker from the office drawer and then the ball, crossing out the word Adidas to write MITRE! in its place.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:00 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


The newer balls are also designed to be more waterproof, so they don't get as heavy as they might have in yesterday's downpours.

Everyone hated the jabulani so much, I'm convinced that a bunch of them are buried somewhere in a New Mexico landfill.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:05 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


I don't hate the Jabulani (then again, I'm not a pro player), but I have to say that even at my (low) level I can tell that the Brazuca's a much better ball. I'm not surprised the pros were complaining about the Jabulani.
posted by asterix at 5:09 PM on June 15


In the last photo, of the Brazuca, it looks like it is covered in dots. Is that for aerodynamics?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:15 PM on June 15


Footcube, Meatball, etc. (~12' mark)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:31 PM on June 15


Cool, looks like the Telstar was named for the satellite.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:58 PM on June 15


Dip Flash: yeah, the dots mean the ball doesn't knuckle as much as the Jabulani did, so it's a bit more predictable. It's also a little stickier on the foot.
posted by asterix at 6:11 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


How did they do up the laces on the early models? I don't see a knot, did they have to invert them through the fourth dimension or something?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:29 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Pretty cool, I wish the article was longer in history to go along with the ball design pictures.
posted by edgeways at 6:44 PM on June 15


Huh. I'm actually a bit mind-blown that the black-and-white soccer ball that is the soccer ball I think about when I think of a soccer ball is barely a decade older than I am.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:56 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Dip Flash: "In the last photo, of the Brazuca, it looks like it is covered in dots. Is that for aerodynamics?"

Exactly. It sets up a limited boundary layer that can slip through the air better. Just like a golf ball with dimples travels much farther than a smooth ball.
posted by notsnot at 8:39 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


For as terrible as they apparently were, those early balls are gorgeous.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


So why change something so iconic as the Telstar ball?

Well, I don't think they do it to be "iconic" although there is perhaps an element of changing the look. The main considerations seem to be sphericality and deformation, although there are probably others such as durability, machine-manufacturability, materials costs, and so forth. The Telstar, it appears, borrows the "buckyball" design originated by Buckminster Fuller and although it is a fairly good one it is, in the end, only an approximation of a sphere.

Certainly we know a lot more about the actual physical behavior of balls today, as we can not only examine them with better instruments (wind tunnels, exactly repeatable kicks with a robot foot, etc.) but both model behavior of an alteration of the design before it's ever made, and of course experiment much more precisely and quickly using CAD. It may be just a ball, but it's not really as simple as it seems.
posted by dhartung at 12:11 AM on June 16


That Telstar design is the football of my youth, brings back a bunch of memories.

Though I appreciate its design now, in my youth the Telstar just looked like a boring old football: the Tango was the one I desired. It was so beautiful to me, and still is. I never got to own one (apart from the Subbuteo version), but I did make my own (terrible) copy by applying marker pen to a plain white ball.

I often wonder whether kids still fetishise current balls, which to me often look so ugly. I guess they must do. Though the Tango and Telstar designs still look great, the other cool ball that we all wanted as kids was the Mitre Delta, which doesn't retain any kind of retro style.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:18 AM on June 16


I'm sad that the move away from the icosahedral group (icosohedron, dodecahedron, truncated icosahedron) appears to be permanent. All of the early balls and later ones are in the cubic group (cube, octahedron, tetrahedron). You can tell the difference by the simple distinction that the icosahedral group members have 5-fold rotation axes, while the cubic group members do not.

Year / Point group* / Comments (*idealized; removing stitches, labels)
1930-1966 / Th (Cubic) / Same family as a volleyball
1970-1974 / Ih (Icosahedral) / Rounded truncated-icosahdron (Archimedian solid)
1978-1998 / Ih / Pattern on ball is projection of a dodecahedron (Platonic solid)
2002 / Ih panels or T including pattern / Last icosahedral ball
2006 / Th / Back to the cubic group
2010 / Td / Rounded tetrahedron
2014 / O / Pure rotational sub-group of Oh; Rounded cube

It was a nice 32-year run for the icosahedron--one year for each panel.

I know that 1972-2002 inclusive is actually 33 years or 2006 - 1970 = 36 years…
posted by Didymium at 6:11 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


World Cup's soccer ball the most high-tech yet
posted by malocchio at 3:55 PM on June 16


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