Other memorable ball droppings, not necessarily New-Year-related

With the hullabaloo safely a few days behind us, it is convenient now to wonder how watching balls drop became an annual American tradition. How, in other words, a technology originated at England’s Royal Observatory in the 19th century for use by sea-faring timekeepers evolved into what New York City’s Times Square Alliance describes as “a universal symbol of celebration and renewal.” Oh sure, such grandiose phrasemaking may seem a little pat, like some throwaway, list-intensive seasonal newspaper article. But, as the randomly assembled catalog below attests, the dropping of balls long has been replete with cultural significance. Recall these varied examples:

1. The 1986 World Series, which Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner pretty much handed right over to the Mets

2. That episode of The Brady Bunch in which puberty befell young Peter at a hilariously awkward moment

3. The whole FEMA situation during Hurricane Katrina

4. The opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark

5. That “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune

6. The joke about Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy that you were expecting here

7. The prologue of Don DeLillo’s novel Underworld, in which fictional white businessman Bill Waterson couldn’t hold onto the Bobby Thompson home-run ball that won the 1951 pennant for the Giants against the Dodgers, and unintentionally surrendered it to Cotter Martin, a black kid from Harlem whom he’d just befriended

8. Numerous episodes of The Flintstones, in which Fred’s heavy stone bowling ball landed hilariously on his foot, usually after falling out of a closet

9. The later scene in Underworld, in which Manx Martin, Cotter’s father, stole the ball from his son

10. “Drop the Ball,” by Anthrax