Rubber band ball on TV
As you might already know, I have a rather large rubber band ball. My mom helped me start it when I was four, and I’ve posted several photos of it through the years. Two months ago, I posted this photo of the ball on Reddit, and somehow the whole thing went viral. An Irish TV station got in touch and interviewed me via Skype. Then a European photo agency requested more images. Then this article was written about me by a newspaper in England called The Daily Mail. (They got my age wrong, but hey, still cool.) And finally, just when I thought it was winding down, I heard from the Canadian branch of the Discovery Channel. They invited me to appear on a show called “Daily Planet,” but get this — in order to do it, I had to drive *with* the ball from my home in New York City to their studios in Scarborough, Ontario. Long story short: I recruited some friends to help me lift the ball into a car, and three of them joined me for this bizarre road trip.
Now that you know all of that, let’s get to the photos. Here I am with the ball outside the hotel in Canada:
I thought about leaving the ball in the car overnight — that certainly would’ve been the easiest thing to do — but it was so damn cold that I was worried about it freezing.
Best way to remove the ball from the car? Roll it out, of course!
The ball now weighs 259 pounds, which is much too heavy for me to lift, so this was the first time I’d seen it bounce in more than a decade. It held up remarkably well, as I expected — a good thing because the folks at the Discovery Channel were planning to drop it the following day from much higher up.
By the way, in the photo above, the guy on the right is my friend Mike Zimbouski. You might remember him from my trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
I should mention that most of these rubber band ball photos were taken by another friend — a professional photographer named Dave Stewart. If you see his initials (“ds”) following the numbers in the file names, it means they’re his. And they’re copyrighted. Therefore, if you feel like grabbing one and posting it anywhere, you must credit him and link to his website: www.david-stewart.net.
Here’s one final photo of me with the ball outside the hotel:
In case you’re wondering why the ball looks shiny, it’s because I’d covered it with Cling Wrap and clear packing tape. My plan was to keep it like that until it reached the studio, then uncover it for the filming and wrap it back up for the journey home.
Best way to get the ball to my hotel room? Roll it, of course!
As you might imagine, this caused quite a scene, but what else was I supposed to do? The employee who checked me in offered a luggage cart, but that would’ve required lifting the ball onto the cart. Not worth it.
In the photo above, the woman with the camera is my friend Mala Kumar. (To refresh your memory, my three friends on this trip were Mike, Dave, and Mala. You’ll see a lot more of them as you keep reading.)
Here I am rolling the ball along an elevated walkway . . .
. . . and yes, that’s a water slide in the background. I resisted the urge to roll it down THAT and headed into the elevator:
Then I proceeded to my room on the fourth floor — or rather *our* room. The four of us shared it. It was . . . interesting. And crowded, not to mention annoying, fun, and ridiculous — pretty much what I expected.
After throwing my jacket in the room, I returned to the hallway and posed with the ball:
Here are my friends in the room — Dave on the left, Mike in the middle, and Mala on the right:
Mike graciously offered to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. That left me and Dave with beds and Mala with a cot. Prior to this trip, none of us had ever slept in the same room together, but it worked. Kind of.
The next morning was THE morning. I was due at the studio at 9am, and my friends joined me. They were allowed to hang out for the taping as long as they didn’t make noise or interrupt in any way.
Here I am rolling the ball back along the elevated walkway:
I paused for a photo at the front desk . . .
. . . and then headed outside to get the car.
Before I tell you what happened next, here’s a video that shows the entire process of rolling the ball downstairs:
Lifting the ball back into the car was going to be the biggest challenge of the entire trip. I just knew it. Back in New York, there were five or six of us who barely muscled it in, but here outside the Delta Hotel in Scarborough, Ontario? Mike filmed while Dave and Mala and I tried to lift it. (The Discovery Channel had requested that we get footage of the ball being moved. That’s why Mike was filming, so don’t accuse him of being lazy.) Here’s a screen shot from the video:
Not only did we fail, but I strained my biceps in the process — not a serious injury, but my arms felt tight for the rest of the day.
Mike had no choice but to put down the camera and help us make a second attempt. This resulted in another failure.
The studio was only a few miles away, but we were now going to be late. It was nearly 9am, and I had no idea what to do. I’m telling you, we could NOT lift the ball into the car. It’s not that 259 pounds was too heavy to lift. The issue was that the ball was big and round (and in this case slick because of the wrapping), and there was nothing to grab onto.
I ran back inside and asked some employees if they had a ramp or even just a plank or wooden board. The only solution, it seemed, was to roll the ball into the car, but they didn’t have anything on hand. They called maintenance and told me to wait five minutes — but that was more time than I could spare.
Back outside, my friends and I had a collective epiphany: why not try to get some other people to help? Yes! Did you notice the buses in the background of the screen shot above? They must’ve been there to pick people up for a tour of some sort because there were dozens of Chinese folks milling about. These people had seen us struggling, and they were intrigued, so when I waved a few of them over, they were glad to help. One guy had a lit cigarette dangling out of his mouth that nearly poked the ball as he crouched down to get a hold of it, but I didn’t say anything. I just hoped the nicotine rush gave him strength — and perhaps it did. I’m not sure who else was helping or how many of us there were, but somehow we managed to hoist the damn ball into the back of the wagon. And somehow we neglected to take any photos or videos. Aarrghh!! I was tempted to roll the ball back out and do it all over again and get someone to film it, but screw it. We were already late. And it was freezing. And my arms hurt. And I was sweating. And I just wanted to get moving.
After missing a turn and wasting an additional five minutes, we finally made it. We were greeted by two people — the Associate Producer named Riley and a cameraman named Jay. They wanted to get footage of me removing the ball from the car and rolling it inside to the studio. Here’s how it started:
Here I am heading inside:
Here I am entering the lobby:
Here I am rolling the ball past Riley and the cameraman:
In the photo above, I was heading toward a door which led here:
I was SO sweaty at that point and wanted nothing more than to take off my jacket and hat, but for the sake of continuity, I had to leave it on. And keep the jacket zipped up.
Several shots required multiple takes, including — you guessed it! — the ramp. Of course, in order to keep shooting it, I had to keep rolling the ball back up it. Here I am getting a running start and giving the ball as much momentum as possible:
Here I am heading back down and through the hallway:
It was fun, but did I mention that I was sweaty?
Oh. My. God.
And to make matters worse, I’d only gotten five hours of sleep.
(Yes, I know . . . first-world problems.)
Here’s the ball sitting in an office hallway:
Here’s the ball nearly taking out a random employee:
That guy was not supposed to be part of the shot, and when he saw the TV camera, he apologized. Riley told him it was cool. In fact, she loved it because his baffled reaction to the ball was spontaneous.
I was told to roll the ball into this pile of boxes . . .
. . . which was lots of fun. My only regret was that I didn’t make a more direct hit, but at the time, I didn’t realize that Riley wanted the whole thing to come crashing down.
Finally, after half an hour of rolling and re-rolling my rubber band ball through the lobby, up and down the ramp, several hallways, and a warehouse, I reached the studio. Here I am just outside of it with a guy named Greg, who was going to be lifting/dropping the ball with a 5,000-pound forklift:
While I chatted with him, Dave poked his head in the studio and took the following photo:
Did you notice the huge, elevated, wood frame-like thing in the background? That’s where Dave, Mike, and Mala hung out for most of the morning, so they had a nice view of everything from above.
Here I am talking to the director named John:
In the photo above, that’s Greg on the right and Riley directly below with her arms folded.
Here I am with Greg and the enclosure that he constructed:
As you can kinda see, the forklift was attached to the barricades, which were linked up to each other and bolted at the far end to the hockey goal. In order to get the ball onto the forklift, I had to roll it onto the two big metal prongs and then hold it there for a moment while they tilted up. That’s what’s happening here:
In order to drop the ball, Greg gently tilted the prongs back down so that it rolled off. That’s why he built the enclosure. The ball wasn’t going to fall vertically; there was going to be horizontal movement.
Here’s a four-part photo that shows it bouncing from a slightly greater height:
Here’s a screen shot from a video that was filmed at ground level:
Although we didn’t measure precisely, it appears that the ball was dropped from a little under four feet high and bounced nearly two feet up. (Nice!) The plan was to drop it on camera from three different heights, the greatest of which would measure about 10 feet. When I predicted that the ball would bounce over the hockey goal, the others were like, “Naaaah, you think so? Really?” And I was like, “Trust me.” That’s when the crew moved all the fancy cameras out of the way.
Some people were concerned that the ball would explode, but I was certain that it would hold up pretty well. At worst, I thought the entire outer layer of bands might break because of the force. More likely, though, I figured a few bands might snap, but that seemed like a worthwhile sacrifice.
Here I am chatting with John and Riley:
After a few minutes, it was time for makeup. Here I am in the chair . . .
. . . and here’s a closer look at the torture I was put through:
I really REALLY don’t like makeup. I think it looks bad, smells bad, and tastes bad, but I know it’s important on TV.
Back in the studio, I got miked up . . .
. . . and then unwrapped the ball with some help from a guy named Grant:
I’d been asked to bring some rubber bands, so here I am showing them to the folks in charge — explaining the various sizes and sharing other info that might’ve been important:
In the photo above, I was wearing goggles for protection because I’d just added a band to the ball. Many years ago, I had a band snap and hit me just below the eye, so yeah, goggles are a must.
Here I am going over some last-minute details with Ziya Tong, the host of the show:
Once the camera was actually rolling, we greeted each other with a handshake:
(Wow! Look how pretty the ball is!)
Then we talked about the ball for a bit, and she decided to try to add a band to it. Here she is pre-stretching it . . .
. . . and here she is going for it:
I was impressed. Most people struggle the first time they attempt to add a band to the ball, but she nailed it.
The second half of the segment featured the forklift. Here I am rolling the ball in that direction:
The first drop was only about three feet high, but as you can see based on my posture in the following screen shot, I was really excited:
At the time I had no idea that I was crouching down so low. No one told me to do that. I wasn’t acting. I guess I just wanted an eye-level view of the bounce.
This was the greatest height from which the ball was dropped — not quite 10 feet as originally planned, but more like eight:
(What IS it with me and balls being dropped from high up?)
Did you notice Ziya’s reaction in the background? Did you notice that we were standing farther back this time?
Here’s the ball plummeting toward the concrete floor:
As you can see in the following photo, it bounced more than halfway up!
Look what happened next:
It landed on top of the hockey goal and kept going:
I darted after it, and Ziya (whose name, by the way, rhymes with “papaya”) stayed close behind.
Here’s a short video of the bounce, which Mala filmed:
I’m happy to report that the ball didn’t suffer any damage. Not a single band snapped at any point on the entire trip.
Many thanks to the Discovery Channel, not only for inviting me to be on the show, but also for allowing my friends to be there and use their own cameras.
After the segment was done being filmed, Ziya and I got a photo together:
That was not the first time I’ve been photographed standing on my rubber band ball.
Unfortunately it was time to go, but there was still one more thing to do — re-wrap the ball with my packing materials:
When I finished, we could’ve headed straight back to New York City. It was only 12pm, so if we’d begun the 500-mile drive right away, we would’ve gotten home at a reasonable hour. But what would’ve been the point of that?! The Discovery Channel had offered to pay for two nights at the hotel, so we decided to take advantage and spend some in Toronto — and I asked Riley to store the ball for me overnight. That way it would be kept warm, and the forklift would be able to lift it back into the car the following morning as we began the long drive home.
Here I am with the ball on the forklift:
Greg took it to a storage area . . .
. . . inside a different building. And that was it.
Next stop? Toronto.
Here’s Dave, Mala, and Mike walking alongside a park downtown:
After wandering around aimlessly, freezing our asses off, and trying various donuts at Tim Horton’s, we picked a random sports bar for an early dinner:
Here’s a closer look at what I was eating:
That’s mac-n-cheese wrapped with bacon . . . and then fried. (Oof!) Then I had a couple of chicken taquitos and some “deep fried cheesecake.” I rarely eat like that, but hey, this was a special occasion, or something like that.
After dinner, Mike, who’s obsessed with music and occasionally blogs about it, headed off to go check out some record stores. Dave and Mala, meanwhile, joined me for a short cab ride to the Rogers building. Here they are outside:
My plan was to visit my friend Jeff Sammut, who hosts a sports talk radio show on a station called “590 The Fan.” He was scheduled to go on the air at 7pm, so I got there at 6:30 just to say a three-minute hello. To my surprise, Jeff rushed me into the studio and taped a 15-minute interview with his co-host, George Rusic, which aired the following night.
Here’s a photo that Dave took during the interview:
Here’s another photo that shows me talking to Jeff:
Can you feel the love in his eyes? That happens to people when I talk about my balls.
Seriously, though, Jeff is a great guy and was nice enough to let me plug my appearance on the Discovery Channel, even though it had nothing to do with sports. By the way, do you remember this photo of us from 6/28/12 at Yankee Stadium? We always have fun together. I just wish we didn’t live in different countries so that we could catch up more often.
It was only 7pm when I headed back outside with Mala and Dave, but we were wiped out. And it was freezing. And we’d already eaten dinner. We thought about seeing a movie, but eh, we decided to head back to the hotel instead. Here’s a cool photo from our taxi ride:
The following morning, we packed up all our stuff and checked out of the hotel and headed back to the Discovery Channel studios. Here I am pacing around outside, hoping that the rubber band ball was still there:
See the big white garage-type door in the photo above? Here’s what was inside:
I figured it would’ve be tough for anyone to steal the ball, but then again, these people *did* have the necessary equipment.
Before the forklift hauled it to the car, Grant (the guy who had helped me unwrap the ball) took a shot at lifting it himself:
That was as high as he managed to lift it, which probably doesn’t seem like much, but trust me, that’s VERY impressive. And by the way, Grant is about 6-foot-3 and probably weighs 250 pounds. Normal-sized people can’t lift the ball.
Here’s the forklift with the ball . . .
. . . and here’s Grant easing it into the car:
It was a smooth transfer — no issues or damage whatsoever.
Before hitting the road, Riley and I got a photo with the ball:
She was great to work with. The whole crew was fantastic. I’ve encountered some rather obnoxious TV people over the years, but there was no attitude here at the Discovery Channel.
On the way back to New York . . .
. . . we took a detour to go visit Niagara Falls. Here I am:
I’d never been there before and was thrilled to finally see it. The main riverbed (if that’s the proper word) was mostly frozen and covered with snow . . .
. . . but the Falls themselves were going strong:
Everything was coated in a layer of ice because of the mist, including the guard rail. Here’s a random kid with a snazzy chunk of ice from it:
I took dozens of photos at Niagara Falls, but I won’t bore you with any more of them. Instead I’ll just say that we made it through customs without incident (“So, what brought you to Canada?”) and shared lots of laughs on the way home. Here’s a photo of Mala and Dave at a rest stop in upstate New York:
In case you’re interested, Dave wrote his own blog entry about this trip with a few photos that I haven’t posted here, so check it out. And when you’re done with that, take a look at Mala’s personal website, which has nothing to do with balls.
Mala drove for a few hours in the afternoon . . .
. . . while Dave and I looked at all of his photos in the back seat.
Finally, look what we saw on the back of a truck as we approached New York City:
How perfect is that?
Oh, and one more thing . . . click here to watch the actual rubber band ball TV segment, which aired in Canada on March 10, 2014. It might take a moment to load, and then there’ll be a 10-second promo, so be patient. It’s worth it.