Bouncy Balls

Ah, those red vending machines at the grocery store. For only a quarter, you could get a gumball, an ounce of blue slime that made fart noises, or lame pseudo-jewelry. But if you were a smart kid, you went straight for... the Bouncy Ball.

For just 25 cents, you could buy an entire afternoon's worth of fun. Especially if you got the football-shaped one.

Just The Facts

  1. The bouncy ball was invented in 1965 by Norman H. Stingley and sold as the Super Ball by Wham-O, famous for other childhood accidents waiting to happen such as the Frisbee and the Slip N' Slide.
  2. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. When I was a kid, I had a blue one with white swirls, and it was as big as my fist is now. Good times.
  3. Damnit Timmy, you're going to end up smashing a window or something and then my mom's totally gonna yell at me.
  4. The average bouncy ball can retain up to 70% of its kinetic energy when thrown at a hard surface.
  5. Agh, you knocked over the clock! Don't worry about it Timmy, I think I can fix it.
  6. The Super Bowl actually got its name from Lamar Hunt watching his kids play with a Super Ball.
  7. You know the ones with weird shapes, and you could never tell where they'd bounce so you'd end up accidently whapping your friend in the face? Those were the best ones.
  8. Oh no, you accidently broke mom's vase, she's gonna kill me! Everyone, back to Timmy's house!

So You've Got a Bouncy Ball. What Now?

Step 1: Stand on a hard surface. No matter how hard you throw that ball into sand or the couch or whatever other ridiculous thing you were going to use, it just won't bounce off a soft surface, and nothing is sadder than a bouncy ball that doesn't bounce.

Step 2: Slam the bouncy ball as hard as you possibly can into the ground.

Step 3: If you're outside, look up. Holy shit, that ball has got to be in the stratosphere by now. If you're inside, this is the part where you keep your head down and run for cover as it pinballs everywhere, and then your mom yells at you for throwing that damn ball around in the house. Add a week of being grounded if you broke something, and a "just wait until your father gets home" if you managed to pelt your sister with it.

Step 4: Damnit, where the hell did it go? Spend the next ten minutes looking for it. If you had one of the non-standard ones, like the football-shaped one or the one that was a bunch of regular bouncy balls glued together, it could be anywhere within the county by now, so be prepared to spend another quarter to replace it.

Every kid dreamed of this happening.

Every kid tried their damnedest to do this.

Trivia

  • An average adult can slam a bouncy ball down hard enough for the bounce to clear a three-story building. Actually trying this will probably earn a stern talking-to from the cops, but it'll be totally worth it.
  • The Super Ball prototypes would often break apart mid-bounce, sending bouncy, rubbery pieces everywhere. Parents tend to frown on selling their kids things that send shrapnel flying directly into their eyes, though, so it was back to the drawing board.
  • The spin of a bouncy ball reverses on each bounce. That's kind of neat but there's no real way to make this funny.
  • Bouncy balls transfer kinetic energy really well. If you manage to drop one without any spin and with a metal ball bearing on top of it, the ball bearing will bounce really high. There's got to be a way to weaponize this.
  • As a promotional stunt, Wham-O made a Super Ball the size of a bowling ball and dropped it off the roof of a 23-story hotel, just to see what would happen. On the second bounce, it destroyed a parked car. Have fun explaining that on the insurance forms, buddy!
  • I've managed to go the entire article without making a joke about testicles, which I'm pretty proud of.
  • You can buy these on the internet in bulk. Twelve bucks can get you one hundred and forty-four of them. Twelve bucks and you'll be chin-deep in balls for the rest of your life. Bouncing balls, everywhere you look. There would be so many balls. Smooth, shiny, bouncy balls, all over the place. Balls of all shapes, sizes and colors. You'd never want for balls again. Balls.