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Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play 2015

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Alexander Street Press, 350 7th Ave/Ste 1100, New York, NY 10001
Produced by Andrew Napier for Wrecking Crew Films
Directed by Jerome Thelia
DVD , color, 88 min.

Middle School - General Adult
Animal Behavior, Social Psychology, Sports

Date Entered: 01/06/2017

Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH

There is something about a sphere, whether solid or hollow, that is appealing. This video tells the story of ball games from the natural fascination of mammals with natural ball-shaped items such as coconuts and acorns, to manmade balls like baseballs, footballs, soccer balls and marbles. It also explores the complex attraction that humans have for games designed to make use of spheroids. Though it may be a slight exaggeration, one scientist noted that more people watch the World Cup soccer championship game than belong to organized religions.

The film begins by observing the natural attraction that animals have to balls and ball-shaped objects. Behavioral scientists note that balls invoke “play” instincts in mammals, even across species. It is fascinating to see how balls are played with among bonobos and dolphins, even more so view the ball game naturally developed between a dog and a deer. The history of human ball games is shown to evolve from ulama (the game of life or death), a game descended from the Aztecs, up to modern soccer and American football. Graphics do a nice job of identifying the source for ulama and modern soccer as ritual decapitation. The invention and standardization of other ball games (rugby, basketball, baseball and American football) is described within the context of social evolution of Western culture. The footage, description, and interviews conducted to explore the twice-yearly Kirkwall, Ireland ba’ game is one of the highlights of the film.

Bounce is highly recommended. Though many books and movies have been made about sports teams and sports traditions, it is rewarding to have a film that takes a more comprehensive approach to the behavioral aspects of play, games, and fandom. One of the experts states that soccer and American football are “meaningless without the crowds,” and then proceeds to explain how spectators neurologically project themselves into the game. This film is an excellent introduction to the psychology of sports and may lead to a greater understanding of the sports fans in your community, even your family.


  • Winner, Best Documentary, 2015 Northeast Film Festival, New Jersey