In Case You Missed It

Kalyn Kahler from Sports Illustrated chats about her recent story “From Farm to Field, and Every Point Between: How a Cow Becomes a Football“, the origin of an NFL ball–or how painstaking the process is to get every detail just right.

It sounds absurdly self-evident, but football can’t be played without footballs. And yet people rarely pay attention—Deflategate notwithstanding—to the one piece of equipment that has been the central figure in more than 1.5 million plays and counting since the NFL settled on an official ball in 1941. Measuring 11 inches in length and 22 inches in circumference at its widest point, an NFL football weighs between 14 and 15 ounces depending on the thickness of the four leather panels. On the outside, eight white laces are laid across the fat belly of the ball, and one panel is embossed with the league’s shield, the commissioner’s signature, the ball’s nickname (The Duke, after Giants patriarch Wellington Mara), and the manufacturer (Wilson). Inside, a rubber bladder is inflated to 13 PSI before it leaves Wilson’s factory in Ada, Ohio, where 130 employees make nearly 25,000 game balls for each new season. But not every official game ball will find its way into a pulsating stadium: About 20% end up on retail shelves and online stores, at about $100 a pop.

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To make the hide viable for an NFL football, the Rodabaughs use a mechanical hide puller, instead of knives, because any nicks or scores from them would disqualify it from being made into football leather. Fixed to the ground, the hide puller is a large roller with a two-ton motor that pulls sets of chains in opposite directions. One chain is attached to the meat; the other to the hide. The beef gets pulled toward the ceiling and the hide toward the floor, spooling it around the roller like Saran wrap.


ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, Angela Lee, chats about her move up in weight to face ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champ Xiong Jing Nan and what it’s like to be a part of ‘ONE: A NEW ERA’, the biggest event in ONE Championship history.