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If in these troubled times there's something one can be sure of, it is that the artifacts of our various sports (pigskins, horsehides, golf balls and so forth) go along pretty much the same day in and day out without letting us down. It is unlikely that a hockey puck, say, will develop large blisters during the course of play and explode like a dropped light bulb; or that basketballs suddenly, let's say next Friday, at every bounce, rather than the crisp tank-tank-tank sound of ball against court, will give off a plaintive ma-ma-ma, like a squeezed doll; or that in football's Pro Bowl Game the center, just before the snap of the "Duke" official ball, will say "pshaw" and stand up and look back over his shoulder at the backfield judge: "Sir, the Duke's gone; damn thing just flattened out under my fingers," holding up the football, the air still sighing out of it, which the official will look at wanly and toss out for another.
And yet one popular sport—squash—has been plagued by a situation very nearly as traumatic as any of the above. Last year's crop of Cragin-Simplex squash balls (which is more than half the market, the Seamless Rubber Company providing the rest) turned out to consist of balls as fragile as Christmas tree ornaments. In courts across the country the balls have come off the front wall after a few moments of play with an odd plopping sound and have divided in half to roll at the players' feet like walnut husks. Breakage of squash balls during play is not uncommon, but there has been an epidemic. Players find that after a moment they must duck through the little entrance door of the court and shout for the club pro.
"Charlie, toss us down another ball. Just broke this one."
"Sorry, sir, we haven't any left."
"You can't be serious."
"None left at all. They've all broken."
"They've all broken?"
"The club's fresh out of them."
"The club's out?"—this last incredulously, and the player ducks back into the court to tell his playing partner the odd news.