A friend and I were walking the mean streets of Columbus’ West Side one Saturday afternoon. Our destination was the nearby Toys R Us store where we hoped to find a new toy we’d seen advertised on TV, a toy called Skyball. And find it we did. If I remember correctly, it was tucked away on the bottom shelf of the Nerf section, packaged in a thin rectangular tube and retailing around $10. Finding the Skyball, we both purchased one and then walked the mean streets back to our local park where we unpacked and tried them.
Now this Skyball was basically a square black and yellow net stretched between two PVC pipes. The user placed the included rubber ball in the net and then snapped the pipes apart, pulling the net tight and sending the ball flying into the air. This allowed for a version of “catch”, either a solitaire version in which the user caught the ball himself or a multi-player version in which the ball was caught by another Skyball user. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as exciting as it had seemed on the TV commercial. What we had seen on the commercial was groups of five or six people throwing and catching the Skyball while doing flips and cartwheels to the products driving theme song (“Skyball, never let it fall, never let it hit the ground”). In contrast, my friend and I had great trouble just throwing and catching the ball, much less doing so while flipping around (and the fact that we couldn’t do the flips to begin with probably had something to do with that; reality trumps commercial once again). After we got through the learning curve, though, we did fairly well. We figured out how to throw the ball to each other (we had to angle the Skyball as we snapped the pipes so that it would arc instead of shooting straight up) and how to catch it (we had to let the Skyball net hang slack so that the ball would stay in it rather than bounce off it). Eventually we were getting some good volleys going so that we came rather close to never letting it fall or hit the ground. I even continued to play with the Skyball for months after that afternoon and got to the point where I could shoot it high into the sky (I would have said “100 feet!” back then, but today I’m fairly sure it couldn’t have been that high) and then catch it on its return. So I was fairly satisfied with the Skyball even in the absence of flips.
Today, the Skyball has vanished. I’m pretty sure I somehow ended up with both Skyballs, but I don’t know what happened to them. I can’t find any on eBay and I could find only one picture of it on Google. There is now another toy using that name and that is pretty much all that comes up on any of the searches I have done. Not only so, but I seem to be the only one that remembers it; nobody else that I know recalls Skyball, not even those who saw me playing with it. I did, though, find the commercial for it on YouTube. There in that commercial are the kids, throwing and catching and flipping as they did 25 years ago. And I was one of them; maybe I wasn’t flipping around as they did, but I was still one of them.