If you”re looking for a quick to the question, “how many game balls are used during the Super Bowl?” the NFL has a quick answer: 54, according to a 2015 update to the official rules. But have you ever wondered about the ins and outs of the footballs used for the big game or the NFL games more generally? For instance, people refer to footballs as pigskins, but as Time points out, they”re actually constructed from cowhide. Is the league feeding you a bunch of bull by passing their balls off as bacon-adjacent? Let”s tackle the meat of the football together.
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Footballs used to be a pork product. As Time describes, back in the 1850s, the precursor to current-day football involved playing with a leather-encased pig bladder that people inflated by mouth. The idea of pressing your lips against a pig”s pee sack sounds vaguely revolting and raises the uncomfortable question of the “other white meat” has a yellow flavor.
That alone seems like a reason to switch to cowhide. After all, if you”re going to kill an animal and turn part of its carcass into a plaything, you don”t want to have to wonder whether it tastes like a toilet. But people had a different beef with these balls. The pig bladders leaked and tore too easily and would then have to be packed with straw or a similar filing. They were later replaced with less incontinent rubber bladders. Obviously, these beefy balls can take more of a beating because you don”t see many time outs for stuffing them with straw. But even if a beefy NFL player happened to bust a ball or deflate one, each football team has plenty of balls to play with.
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Since 1941, all of the NFL”s balls have been supplied by Wilson Sporting Goods, per Sports Illustrated. Every year, the company manufactures 700,000 footballs, and according to the NFL, Wilson furnishes each team with approximately 780 game balls, amounting to about 24,960 balls for an entire season. During the regular season each team brings 12 primary balls and 12 backup balls, for a total of 24 per team and 48 each game. The number jumps to 54 for the Super Bowl.
Prior to every contest, designated officials inspect the balls to ensure they fall within the accepted PSI range (12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch) and don”t have any other disqualifying characteristics. The NFL estimates that seven to 10 balls are typically discarded before the Super Bowl. Hopefully, these Wilson balls have faces drawn on them before officially being cast away.