A new product being sold on the Mormon merchandise market might make some people want to hide their young children, cover their ears and watch for flying elbows and out-of-whack egos.
That's right, Church Ball is coming soon to basketball courts and cultural halls near you.
Be warned: Beginning this fall, a synthetic leather ball, labeled CHURCH BALL in big, black letters, will bounce onto stores' shelves already stocked with LDS-specific items, ranging from CTR toe rings to baptismal balloons to Mormonopoly games.
Though the actual idea of Church Ball sounds like a gag or the perfect gift for the ex-jocks in your Elder's Quorum who religiously meet for hard-core hoops at the wardhouse on Wednesday nights at 9 the orange orb is indeed a real item. Brainstormed and manufactured by LDS Living Inc., the ball is official size and weight, features wide channels for gripping ease both indoors and out and includes a set of rules on one of the panels.
Judging by rough-housing legends on church courts, these rules won't keep you safe from flailing limbs or help you explain during a postgame interview with your bishop why you sounded like a sailor in the second quarter, but they are good for a reminder and a chuckle. As the ball states, don't forget when playing:
1. No foul language. (No mention if this includes all forms of faux-swear-word "fetch.")
2. Call your own fouls. ("No blood, no foul" is not supposed to be the accepted standard.)
3. Lights out and lock up. (And preferably before sacrament meeting starts.)
"No playing defense" and "No acting like you're Michael Jordan" should be considered for future versions. But the rules, according to an ad on www.ldsliving.com, are to ensure that "every player leaves with a great experience." One that, hopefully, doesn't include black eyes or require stitches.
Leonard Suprise, LDS Living vice president, joked about how a 15-year-old told him they had forgotten the most important church ball rule: "Start with prayer." And it would go perfectly with a T-shirt he's seen: "Church basketball: The only brawl that begins with a prayer."
In that regard, don't be too surprised if Church Ball face masks, mouth guards and elbow pads come out next.
After a weeklong e-mail blitz and a sales pitch at an LDS booksellers convention, hundreds of the tongue-in-cheek balls have been sold. Pre-orders are being taken online for $24.95 (retail $29.95), and they'll soon be found in LDS-themed bookstores like Deseret Book and Seagull Book. They should arrive in mid-September just in time for that big game against the 6th Ward.
"The response has been tremendous so far," Suprise said. "And once people see it, we think it will be a hot item."
Part of the Church Ball master plan, he added, is "to start building some excitement" for a namesake movie from the guys who directed "Singles Ward," "The R.M." and "The Home Teachers." Filming for the latest LDS comedy begins in October.Consider yourself warned about that, too.