Why can't you keep the football?

Why do they take the football back after it does into the stands? In baseball, snagging a foul ball or a homer is one of the joys of going to the game, but during most (I’m sure there are exceptions) football games, they hoist a net behind the goal posts or insist that the fan throw the football back.

Is it simply the price of a football? I’m sure they’re a lot more expensive than a baseball, but still, that seems chintzy, especially for a pro team. Wouldn’t it just make good sense from a marketing perspective, if nothing else, to let a few happy fans go home with a football?

You used to be able to keep them. I know at old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland one ot the goals was very close to the bleachers and extra points at that end invariably went into the stands and many balls were kept including one by yours truly, though my uncle was the one who caught it.

At some point serious fights developed over getting these balls. I seem to recall there was even a knifing involved – not necessarily at Cleveland, I just seem to recall it. The NFL made the return of the footballs mandatory to eliminate the fighting.

I don’t know if there is a definitive answer, but I think you will find that baseball is the exception, rather than the rule. The fans aren’t allowed (AFAIK) to keep the ball in basketball, soccer, volleyball or any other “ball” game that I’m aware of.

In these games, the ball is generally intended to be kept within the field of play, or within the defined “out of bounds” areas on the field. In baseball, however, it is expected that a ball will occasionally be hit into the stands during the normal course of play. Baseball managers decided long ago to allow the fans to keep the balls that they caught, but the other sports have not seen the need for this policy.

Minor hijack:

If the puck at a MLH game goes into the stands, can the finder keep it? (I’ve only been to minorLH games, and there you can keep the puck)

Reuben’s rule permits baseball fans to keep foul balls:


Other sports do not seem to have adopted a similar rule.

Er. Some other sports:


You can keep the puck at hockey games. Well I guess technically that’s not a ball. You can also keep a bat in a baseball game if it goes into the stands. Often though, the batter will make a swap to keep a favorite bat offering a different bat in exchange.

I was at one AHL hockey game in New Haven many years ago when the opposing goalie gave up a big lead in a playoff game (three goals I’m thinking), and he threw his goalie stick into the crowd. Now this was a horrible thing to do as it could have injured someone, and it’s not at all like a puck going in during the course of play. They tried to get it back, but we the crowd put up such a a protest that they didn’t persist. In any case the goalie got a game misconduct so he didn’t need it the rest of that night.



In cricket, where it is reasonably common for the ball to be hit outside the field of play (and the batter scores 6 runs for this), the ball gets returned to the field. Part of the reason would be that the amount of wear on the ball affects how the ball plays, and if the ball were lost or went out of play, it would need to be replaced with a similarly worn ball.

Is it true that if a player sends a ball into the stands, say after scoring a touchdown, that player is monetarily responsible for the cost of the ball, but the receiving fan can keep it?

That’s what I came to ask. Not that I think that the player has to pay for the ball, but in the instance where it’s not a free for all ball grab and the “gift” so to speak is handed/directly tossed to a fan can they keep it then?

Best I can do on player ball giveaways:


I am searching for a cite but IFAIK that is the case. A player is monetarily responsible for the cost of the ball (not a big deal to an NFL player) but the fan can keep it if it is tossed into the stands as a gift.

With those salaries? They can afford to give a couple souvenier balls.

One thing that’s been overlooked - a baseball is very much a “consumable” item. In use, it gets torn up pretty quickly and they expect to go through 60-70 per game. If a few get knocked into the stands, that just relieves them from having to dispose of the things. :smiley:

The $89.99 price is retail for a Wilson “collector’s edition” ball:


What they bill as merely an “official game ball” sells for $69.99:


I would guess there is substantial retail markup at work here, and that the NFL teams get balls at a steeply discounted price. Even at $90 a pop, I don’t really think price is the issue - given the budget for an NFL game, a few thousand bucks worth of souvenir footballs would hardly be noticeable. They probably just don’t want to have to change the rules to require teams to provide more balls to account for the ones lost into the stands.

Heh. It helps if I read the entire page that I cite:

*Id. *

Lost some words there…

Meant to continue on saying that footballs don’t get torn up nearly as quickly as baseballs. I couldn’t readily find specs on how many footballs are used in a game, but I can’t imagine it being more than 6-10, unless players stomp on them with their cleats.

Those poor baseballs, OTOH, get thrown at up to 90 MPH, hit the bat, get squished to about half their normal size and bounce back at about 110 MPH, all in about a millisecond. Small wonder they only last for about six pitches on average.

The provided link says:

If each field goal attempt ended in a ball going home with a fan, as well as through the end zone kickoffs and punts bouncing into the stands, how many balls could they lose? I based my “few thousand dollars” above on 30 balls, which would actually be hard to imagine.

A few years ago I, while visiting a friend in Atlanta, I came up with what I still consider a winning marketing scheme: Drop the Nets Day.

It was a Sunday, so I suggested to my friend we see the Falcons play. (Seeing a pro football game in person is a real rarity for us NYCers since all the tickets have been locked up since LaGuardia was mayor.) The birds were in the toilet at the time, so we had no trouble just walking up to the box office and getting tickets for that day’s game.

The game was not well attended, and the section behind the goal posts – the worst and cheapest seats, and where we were seated – was a ghost town. That’s when I got to experience first-hand the bitter frustration of those football-blocking end-zone nets. It occurred to me that there’s an opportunity being missed here. Lose those nets, and promote Drop the Nets Day like crazy, I thought! For the price of a handful of used balls, the teams could fill those empty seats, pronto. Plus they’d build up a ton of good will with the ailing fans. Hell, for a team with really, really bad attendance, they could just drop the nets altogether, all season long.

But as was discussed, the fights that would break out would make this a “drop your health insurance day” real fast.