Kicked end over end, hurled, muddied, drenched, nearly frozen to the touch, only to be given a seat like royalty on other occasions. The leather football is one moment a peasant and the next moment a king, whether it caroms about in a peewee football league game or sits amidst a snowplowed placekicker?s lane?safe and protected from the elements?for a winning field goal on an NFL gridiron. To most, it is simply the nucleus for the most popular team sport in the U.S. Its value comes when kicked, passed, or carried; its shame revealed when fumbled, dropped, and soaring either wide or short of the goal posts. Off the field, however, fans and championship teams mostly herald its significance, whether it is the ball kicked in 1982 by New England Patriot John Smith to beat the Miami Dolphins in what is known as the "snowplow game," or an NCAA leather football from a University of Tennessee game with over 102,000 fans' eyes fixed on it. From vintage leather footballs to new Nike leather balls, reliable eBay sellers have the leather of sentimental value as well as traipse-it-through-the-mud value for a friendly scrum with the guys in the hood. Leather football aficionados even get their fingers on a laced ball of authentic leather with an antiquated finish, the type made in the days of Red Grange and Bronco Nagurski?long before the advents of snow plows and jumbo stadiums.
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