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10 Classic Toys (And Why They Suck)

Whatever new-fangled video games and hover boards are hitting toy store shelves this Christmas, there are some classics that just never go away. We're talking about toys that go back decades and even centuries. Why? We're not sure, because most of them suck.


What is it:
A floppy spring-shaped thing that's supposed to walk down stairs and was designed by Richard James (later of James Industries) in 1943. We're guessing the design phase consisted of him drawing a curly squiggle on the back of a napkin while on the telephone.

Why it sucks:
Throughout human history, we highly doubt anyone ever claimed that going down some stairs was a fun activity, yet this premise is entirely what Richard James based his toy on. And, it seems, two generations of parents agreed with him. They rushed out to buy their offspring a Slinky for Christmas, instead of a Total Death Chaos Raygun 3000 or other similarly named toys that promised instant awesomeness.

Those children promptly ran up to the top of the stairs, pushed the Slinky off the top step and watched it flop down to the next where it would stay, completely inert until they nudged it again. Then, it would roll sideways off the step and lay sadly against the wall. Sighing, children the world over would then pack their Slinky away then go outside and do something more fun, like poke some dog shit with a stick.

What can make it better:
It's hard to make something that falls down stairs better, but James Industries could have tried. Maybe, it would have been more interesting if it had negotiated something trickier than a staircase--a cluttered floor, a minefield, one of those tire drills they always have at the NFL combine. How they could get a spring to do that, we don't know, but then again, we never claimed to be toy makers, James Industries.

Fun fact:
The Slinky has been named the Official State Toy of Pennsylvania as of Nov 4, 2001. We're thinking the Amish might have had a hand in that.

Space Hopper

What is it:
An inflated rubber ball with a handle thing. Originally called the Space Hopper, it also has been marketed as a "Hoppity Hop," "Hop-A-Roo" and any number of equally retarded names. The idea is that a person sits on the ball, grasps the handle and propels himself along using the power of bounce.

Why it sucks:
A Space Hopper is an awesome idea in premise, and the kids in the commercials always look like they're having a blast. Every kid who watches it sees himself bouncing over houses or zipping across the yard as if mounted on a round, rubbery steed. The name alone suggests that with one bounce, a child can be launched into the stratosphere.

In reality, the bouncing properties of a Space Hopper equate to those of a dropped egg. And, forward movement is approximately that of an asthmatic beetle with two missing legs. Still, parents around the world saw those ads and, for many of us, at least one Christmas featured a huge, almost round wrapped gift under the tree.

"Gee, what do you think that is, Sport!," your father would say.

"Gosh, I just don't know." You'd lie, while secretly hoping it might be two BB guns and a poster of the chick from Weird Science wrapped up with a soon to hatch Gremlin. But, you knew you were just fooling yourself.

What can make it better:
Just making it out of some kind of actual bouncy material would help. As it is, you feel like you're really doing all the work, trying to drag yourself and the ball across the yard with the sheer force of your pelvic thrusts. Though, we seem to remember the teenage girls in our neighborhood saying it was a brilliant toy, for some reason, and that it could never be improved. We all sneered at that, because what did girls know?

Fun fact:
Ashrita Furman from New York, holds the world-record for the fastest 100-meter dash on a Space Hopper. Ashrita Furman is a serial record breaker, and holds 25 current world records, including the longest pool cue balance, the longest underwater juggling and the longest pointless existence on Earth.

Ball in a Cup

What is it?:

Sometimes called a "balero" depending on what part of the world you're in, it's a wooden cup on a handle, attached to a ball on a string. The idea is to toss the ball into the air and catch it in the cup. And then you...well, nothing. That's it.

Why it sucks:
Catching things is not that hard, and catching a ball in a cup doesn't make the task any trickier, especially when the ball is attached to the cup by a piece of string about 18-inches long. The re-playability factor is also sadly lacking: Once you catch the ball in the cup, that's it. There's no smaller cup to move on to, or bigger ball or longer string. Thus, when a child is presented with this toy from well-meaning parents on their 7th birthday, they duly toss the ball into the cup three or four times, then put it down and go back to drawing on a younger sibling's face with permanent markers.

What can make it better:
Removing the string. At least children could fling a ball without a cup connected to it hard up into the air or hard at each other's heads. And, as a plus, the ball would quickly get lost, meaning they would never have to play with the fucking thing again.

Fun fact:
The TV show Family Guy parodied the toy in an episode, and pretty much captured the futility of the whole thing.

Hula Hoop

What is it:
A hoop, usually made out of plastic, that can be twirled around the hips, waist or neck. It was 'invented' in 1958 by Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, founders of the Wham-O toy company.

Why it sucks:
"Playing" Hula Hoop involves holding the hoop around you at waist level, then trying to spin it at a rate approaching 1,000 rpms. Then you stand with your feet planted on the spot, spasmodically twitch your waist and hips as the hula Hoop drops to the floor. You sigh, pick the thing up again, and restart. But this time, you manage to keep it off the ground, at which point the Hula Hoop ricochets up your body and smacks you in the face.

Chances are there will be someone nearby whose body seems to be made of rubber, who can somehow gyrate their way to having five of the fucking things spinning around their waist and neck. They'll claim in a loud voice that it's so easy, that you just have to put your hips into it and you'll be fine. It is always OK to throw rocks at this person.

What can make it better:
Ignoring its toy factor altogether and instead, marketing it to tubby people as a novelty belt.

Fun fact:

The current endurance record for hula hooping is held by Roxane Rose, who hula hooped for 90 hours in April 1987, probably due to some kind of mental illness.

Aerobie Sprint Flying Ring

What is it?:
Frisbee designed to be thrown over great distances.

Why it sucks:
Frisbees are quite fun, for the short term, especially when three or four people are in a park and tossing it between themselves. The Aerobie attempts to improve on this with a design that enables it to be flung over great distances, sometimes upwards of 200 yards. This feat of toy engineering has the effect of rendering the toy useless for every child whose yard isn't the size of a football field.

A game of Aerobie usually consisted of you throwing the Aerobie to a friend, or more accurately, toward a black speck on the horizon. Your friend will then have to go looking for the Aerobie, which has been predictably blown off course and ended up in a dog-shit infested clump of bushes 150 feet away. After an indeterminate amount of time, your friend emerges, covered in burrs, twigs and poop, and flings the Aerobie back at you. The Aerobie will, naturally, sail 20 feet over your head and land in the stagnant pond 100 meters behind you. The game will then be held up indefinitely as you and your friend decide "motherfuck an Aerobie" and go home.

What can make it better:
Toy makers stop dicking around with something that was fine the way it was.

Fun fact:

The word "Aerobie" can be used to refer to the sport of ultimate Frisbee, which is a non-contact sport and thus totally pointless.

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