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Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy Fun Ball

(Our belated review/coverage of the World Cup continues...)

Ah, the Jabulani!  No, that's not some South African delicacy that you can find at a quaint little restaurant in Bloemfontein. It's the official ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. According to everyone, it was an amazing success... if you consider aerodynamic unpredictablity and universal loathing a success.

Everyone got on the anti-Jabulani bandwagon. Goalkeepers hated it because it moved around a lot in the air. However, goalkeepers hate all footballs that don't fly straight into the keeper gloves on contact and stick like warm flypaper.*

Forwards and midfielders hated the ball because it didn't fly true on passes and shots, although this also left them with an easy excuse for the shots that wound up in row 57. A shrug of the shoulders and mouth the word "Jabulani." In all honesty, it's better than the excuses with a more consistent ball, which involve covering one's head and bouncing around like Basil Fawlty.

Coaches hated it because it was a distraction from things like tactics and lineup selections. The press enjoyed getting an easy story on the controversy but hated the ball itself because it was a terrible interview, especially compared to the classic Adidas Tango, which is considered the raconteur of footballs. (Ask it about the "penguin incident" in the '74 World Cup.  You won't regret it.)

Fans hated it because it cost a bajillion dollars and so they had to buy the cheap replica ball that didn't do any of the crazy things the real one did. So, for the cost of $25-40 the only privelege you get is to ostentatiously use the word "Jabulani" in casual conversation on the field.

Finally, NASA hated it.

Yes, that NASA.** NASA, being freed up from shuttle missions and other outer space work, discovered that at speeds exceeding 44 mph the ball's flight becomes very unstable and unpredictable. So, essentially, almost every time the ball is shot by world-class players who regularly hit the ball at 60-plus mph, it's going to do something weird ...just like the Mars Polar Lander.

Many people are wondering what the design folks at Adidas were thinking when they produced the Jabulani. I think I have an answer: Jabulani is Zulu for "celebration." Celebrations are happy and fun.  Therefore, I have concluded that the Adidas football manufacturers have created the very first "Happy Fun Ball" ever used at a World Cup.

Unfortunately for Adidas, no one remembered one of the most important rules about Happy Fun Ball: "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball."

* Or the silly string on Warehouse 13.
** As opposed to the National Aeronautics Soccer Association, not that you'd know.

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