When the Super Bowl kicks off on Sunday night, Ada, OH will be well represented. That's because all the balls for the game come straight from the Wilson plant, as do all the other footballs used for NFL games.
ESPN's Uni Watch extraordinaire Paul Lukas took a trip to Ada to get a close-up view of the process. Here's just a snippet of his report, but make sure to head to the full piece for much more merriment and a video of his experience.
Here's the deal: I'd forgotten that the Super Bowl footballs have the names of the two competing teams stamped into the leather. So Wilson, which manufactures all the NFL footballs — and makes them in America, not in China — can't make the Super Bowl balls until after the two conference championship games.
"Wow," I said to Molly Wallace, the Wilson publicist who was explaining all of this to me, "so I guess your football factory must be hopping on the Monday after those games."
"Oh, they don't wait until Monday," she said. "A work crew shows up at the factory during halftime of the second game on Sunday. They have some pizza and soda on hand and make a little TV party out of it. Then, when that game is over and we know who'll be playing in the Super Bowl, they start making footballs."
"Wait a second," I said, checking the playoff schedule and doing some quick math, "that game won't be finished until about 10 p.m."
"That's right," Wallace said. "They work all night, until five or six in the morning. Then a new crew comes in to take over for them."
That sounded like a hoot. So I packed a bag, told Wallace to order an extra pizza for me and made arrangements to visit tiny Ada, Ohio (population 5,300), where Wilson makes all the footballs for the NFL.