Ball games, later evolving to a concept called ball sports, have become million dollar industries since humanity first discovered the joy of moving round objects with their extremities or with equipment designed for this.
Throughout history ball games have always been popular. Ancient Mayans played a violent game similar to basketball called Pok-a-Tok, where the players were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands or feet while trying to get the ball through a vertically fixed loop above. The Chinese played a similar game to soccer called Cuju which dated back to 1600 BC. The Ethiopian Genna could be considered as the predecessor of field hockey while Ancient Greeks played a ball game called Episkyros in the 5th century BC.
The idea of using balls as a form of entertainment is not that surprising considering the ball-shape to be perfect as it rolls on the ground upon impact, adding a hint of unpredictability to the game depending on the momentum and the players’ skills. Secondly, thanks to aerodynamics, a ball can also be guided much more easily than any other shape and this skill can be improved by training. Lastly, the ball-shape is safe; it does not have sharp edges, pointy ends or damaging looks. It’s as smooth as it can be, even in high velocity. A ball can hit a player countless times and it still won’t do any kind of damage to players (See Dodgeball) (I am also excluding bowling balls here for obvious reasons :)).
Perhaps it’s not the ball-shape but the circle that drives us into obsession. We are born and one of the first things we see is the eyes… the perfectly round irises of our mother’s, the midwife’s or any other person who slaps our butts to initiate the first breath. We are mesmerised by the sight of the shining sun and the full moon, both of which are perfect circles, as we grow up. Moreover, recent studies show that the circle shape triggers the sensations of calmness, safety and security in our minds. And that’s probably why the circular shape made it into designs in our daily lives: coins, medals, fabric buttons, elevator buttons, dinner plates, wedding bands, wreckballs, etc…
Maybe we should consider our secret obsession of round objects and circles from a different perspective. We all have stardust in our existence as every atom in our bodies were created inside some star before Earth even existed. The stars are where we come from and this obsession of circles and spheres may just be our longing to end up where we belong. How else could you justify our desire to explore space when we haven’t even solved the mysteries of our own planet? Or that all the celestial bodies in space are spheres? Or that crystal balls were used to predict the future?
The future where we end up where we belong!