A Rounder Ball For the World Stage

When the strikers for either Germany or Costa Rica kick off the first game of the 2006 World Cup today in Munich, they will be doing so with what Adidas is hailing as the roundest soccer ball ever produced. The +Teamgeist ("team spirit") ball, as the New York Times deftly explained yesterday, was engineered with a "free-flowing" set of 14 pre-shaped panels—fewer than the traditional 32—resulting in a smoother, more consistently round surface that supposedly responds more accurately to the force of a kick. Adidas backs up this claim with its own experimental data, including tests with a robotic kicking machine that diligently shot the +Teamgeist against a wall a few hundred thousand times.

The changes are also being felt on the field. "It's very goalkeeper unfriendly," England's keeper Paul Robinson told the Times. "It's very light and moves a lot in the air." Oddly enough, the ball is actually on the high end of FIFA's maximum weight specifications, meaning this apparent lightness must be attributed to its new aerodynamic profile. And while the goalies don't love the new ball, spectators will probably be hearing "goooaaaaaaal" a bit more often this year, making the transition for us Yanks, accustomed to watching the Phoenix Suns score 120+ points a game, a bit easier to take.

If all this talk of robot kicking legs and aerodynamic profiles has worked you into a consumerist lather, you can get your own +Teamgeist for $129.99—John Mahoney