Thursday, June 08, 2006

Why soccer balls will forever be black and white, with hexagons.

Today's NYT has an article about Teamgeist, the new Adidas soccer ball made especially for the 2006 World Cup. The article talks about the balls developed for World Cups past:
At its headquarters in this Bavarian town, Adidas displays the balls that will be used in all 64 matches, stamped with the names of the teams and cities. It keeps famous balls from years past under glass.

The Telstar, used in the World Cup in Mexico, introduced the familiar pattern of 32 alternating black and white pentagons and hexagons, designed to make it easier to see on TV (the old ones were brown).
Interesting that the iconic soccer ball is the one developed for TV, not a more traditional variant, which reminded me of this passage:
Tradition, in its old meaning, has fallen victim to flux and dispersal, and to the broadening, homogenization, and scattering effects of the electronical media. On the other hand, these media have assisted in the perpetuation of another stream of tradition, one which is often lumped under the rubric of nostalgia. . . .

. . . [I]n the late 1920s and thirties, when the United States was just beginning to subject its culture to a truly national media network, when the influence of radio and the movies was beginning to erode regional characteristics in speech, music, customs, and mores. Leading writers, artists, and filmmakers who had been young in the 1890s looked back at that decade with fondness and disbelief across a gulf of technological change . . . . These works, particularly those on film, were disseminated to subsequent generations, who retained images from them even if they were totally ignorant of their historical context. Such images stand as archetypes in the popular imagination even today: the bartender with his handlebar mustache and spit curls; the crook with his striped sweater, cloth cap, and domino mask; the soubrette with her petticoats and rouged cheeks; the bohemian with his beret and flowing necktie; the poker player with his sleeve garters and green eyeshade; the cop with his twirling nightstick and Irish accent. They appear in cartoons, on menu covers, on the musical comedy stage, in the public domain of clip art -- places where the shorthand of conventional imagery requires a jocular turn, as well as contexts in which imagery is least examined by viewers, and thus is most involuntarily absorbed.
Luc Sante, Low Life xi-xiii (Vintage, 1992).

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