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The Ball: The Object Of The Game

From tennis to soccer to the NBA, the surprising history of why we play ball.

(Rebroadcast: this show was first broadcast May 14, 2012)

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, right, puts up a shot as Denver Nuggets power forward Al Harrington defends during the first half in Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff basketball game, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 102-99. (AP)

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, right, puts up a shot as Denver Nuggets power forward Al Harrington defends during the first half in Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff basketball game, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 102-99. (AP)

“Play ball!” we say, and that’s baseball.  But there are endless ways humans play ball.  There is something about that rolling, bouncing, flying sphere that we, as a species, just cannot get enough of.  It was there in prehistory, as we stepped up to the evolutionary mound.

It was severed heads and stones and every kind of bladder before it was our sleek game balls today.  Ancient Romans had their ball games.  Ancient Mayans’ were blood sport.  Now our closets and back seats are jammed with every kind of ball – golf to racket to basket to volley.

Up next On Point:  humans and the history of the ball.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest

John Fox, an anthropologist, he’s the author of the new book The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game.

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN “From the courts of the ancient Pharaohs to a simple game of catch on a spring afternoon; the ball has a centuries-long history of play. It’s one of our simplest yet most enduring inventions. While the games have evolved, the ball in all its various forms continues to play a key role in different cultures around the world.”

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