Everyone has heard of “tossing the old pigskin around” at least once in their life, but have you ever thought of the origin of that phrase? A pigskin? From an actual pig? Sometimes. Early versions of the football were made of lungs or bladders of pigs and different animals. The bladders and lungs from these animals were inflated by mouth (gross), and tied like a balloon before being thrown about on the field. This creation also gave the common football we know today its shape and feel. But why was the original American football made of animal organs? Whose idea was that?!
The Evolution of The Pigskin
Although the original version of the football was unconventional – and arguably pretty disgusting – it has changed dramatically over time. Since the initial ball could not keep its shape due to being made of an organ, and due to his wife falling ill from inflating infected bladders, Richard Lindon, one of the inventors of the round and oval-shaped balls, began looking for alternatives to use. Eventually in the 1860s, he settled on using a natural rubber tube. In the 1930s, the balls were encased with a layer of stitched leather to make it more stable. This also caused the ball to keep a longer, slimmer shape giving it the ability to move further faster. This design is much like the one we see today, although there have been stitching designs added throughout the years to help with visibility at night, grip, etc.
How The Football Got Its Shape
Football was invented to bring together two popular European sports, soccer and rugby. Although it was originally meant to use a round ball, the ball wasn’t exactly what you would expect (I guess ‘Footbladder’ wouldn’t have caught on as well) and it ended up not being exactly round either. Since the original ‘ball’ was made from an animal’s organ and blown up with someone’s own hot breath, it didn’t exactly keep its shape while being thrown back and forth during a game. As a result of this, the ball was given its current shape, known as a prolate spheroid, that was found to be more aerodynamic and easier to throw long distances down the field to other players.
The shape also lends a more random aspect to football that sets it apart from other sports – randomness. The current shape of the ball causes it to bounce randomly. A bouncing ball adds an element of uncertainty to all of the players on the field that has been a focus of the coaches and players since the creation of the game. This unpredictability is not only powerful enough to determine the outcome of a play, but also the difference between winning and losing a game.
Today, millions of spectators fill stadiums and watch football games on television as a favorite pastime. Lucky for us, we don’t have to watch players toss around a ball that was once inside an animal. The football is just another example of continuous innovation and creativity at work.