On The Ball

Balls — and the sports built around them — are key to understanding different cultures, argues Denver-based sportswriter Josh Chetwynd. And a trip to a London park to toss around a baseball with his son helped get the ball rolling on his new book, The Secret History of Balls. “We started walking around the park and found an Irish hurling ball — it’s called a sliotar — and then a tennis ball and a cricket ball, each representing different sports and different aspects of the countries and cultures they came from,” says Chetwynd. “It got me thinking about balls as a basis for looking at culture.”

Although he’s a baseball man himself and has played minor-league pro ball in both the United States and Sweden, as well as doing a stint with England’s national team, Chetwynd says new favorites from his research include the rattan raga used in the Southeast Asian sport of takraw, the handmade pelotas used in jai-alai, and the Maori ki, woven from indigenous plants for New Zealand’s national game of ki-o-rahi. It takes balls to talk about this topic in public, he admits: “I’ve heard it all: ‘How are those balls hanging?’ ‘Are you done playing with your balls yet?’ It’s been a lot of fun.”

Chetwynd will share stories and sign copies of his book tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street in Boulder (go to http://boulderbookstore.indiebound.com or 303-447-2074) and tomorrow night, also at 7:30 p.m., at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue (www.tatteredcover.com or 303-322-1965).
Mon., May 9, 7:30 p.m., 2011

 
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