As any regular viewer of The Brady Bunch can attest, mom always said, “Don’t play ball in the house.” Well, over the years, technological strides were made, and thanks to an inventor named Reyn Guyer (who also gave the world the game of Twister,) we can finally throw out that old axiom. For he invented the Nerf ball and changed the world as we know it, allowing us to finally play ball in the house.
First introduced in 1969 by Parker Brothers, the Nerf ball touted the promise that “You can’t damage lamps or break windows. You can’t hurt babies or old people.” That might have been stretching things a little far, of course, but these squishy foam playthings did make it possible to toss the ball around the living room without too much collateral damage. And it turns out that there was quite the market for such a toy, to the tune of four million units sold in the first year alone.
Originally dubbed the “Moon Ball” by its inventor, the name was wisely changed to Nerf and soon encapsulated a whole line of balls, sporting equipment, and accessories. There were baseballs, golf balls, soccer balls, and, of course, the basketball – complete with a patented Nerfoop. For those who preferred things less spherical, a Nerf Frisbee and dart set were also available. But in 1972, perhaps the greatest addition to the line of Nerf products was introduced – the Nerf Football.
Overwhelmingly popular with all of those future quarterbacks, the Nerf Football was soon a staple of every backyard BBQ, beach party and picnic across America. Stash one of these babies in the trunk of a car and a game of football could be had at a moment’s notice. Softer on the hands (and wallet) than a traditional pigskin, Nerf footballs actually outsold the real thing and have retained their market share over the years with such innovations as the Vortex and Turbo models.
In the 90s, Nerf strayed from their line of sports gear to introduce a series of products that even the non-jock could appreciate – weaponry. Nerf Blasters arrived in the form of Blast-a-Ball, and soon eager fans were taking aim at their cohorts, firing little foam balls with reckless abandon. Or, if Robin Hood was more your style, the Nerf Bow and Arrow allowed one to brush up on their archery skills. As the years past, weaponry became more sophisticated with the introduction of crossbows, rapid-fire machine guns and the motorized Ballzooka.
Parker Brothers passed the Nerf rights to Hasbro in 1991, which continues to produce the classic products as well as new innovations including video game accessories for the Playstation, Nintendo and Wii game systems.
For almost 40 years, Nerf has been providing a little non-destructive stress relief to an appreciative populace, who have not only embraced the products but also thrown them at their friends and siblings at every opportunity – with nary a trip to the emergency room. And for all the kids of the 50s and 60s that had the misfortune of turning mom’s prized vase into hundreds of fragments – well, they were just born a little too early.
If you had a favorite Nerf toy in your childhood, we’d love to hear your memories in our comments section.