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The NBA's got balls but what they really need is moisturizer

Every now and then a major piece of news trivia slips through our posts and we feel shameful, remiss, careless, negligent, embarrassed. Such is the case today, as I confess before each and every one of you loyal readers, that, indeed, we are late "“ very late "“ in delivering the following interesting bit of sports trivia.

After 35+ years, the NBA has gone and introduced a new Official Game Ball for play this season, only the second change to the basketball in 60 seasons.

The last time the ball changed was in 1970, when the standard four-panel design was replaced by an eight-panel ball. This year's new ball has interlocking, cross-shaped panels that Spalding, who has always produced the "official NBA ball," calls Cross Traxxionâ„¢.

According to the NBA's website:

The [new] material is a microfiber composite with moisture management that provides superior grip and feel throughout the course of a game. Additionally, the new composite material eliminates the need for a break-in period, which is necessary for the current leather ball, and achieves consistency from ball to ball.

But according to the players, the new ball delivers zero net gain. (Sorry folks, couldn't help myself there.) They don't like how it grips, they don't like how it bounces, and, most importantly: apparently it's bad for the skin.

"I have to constantly put lotion all over my hands because my fingers are cracking and it's causing splits on my finger tips," Seattle SuperSonics guard Ray Allen said in this AP article. "(The ball) is drying up all the moisture in my hands"¦"

According to the New York Times, last week, David Stern, the NBA commissioner, "acknowledged the validity of the players' complaints and admitted regret over not consulting them beforehand." Stern also added, "We're close to inking a deal with Jergens to supply all the locker rooms around the country with as many bottles of moisturizer as they need." (Actually, I made that last part up. But the rest of the quote is real.)
So don't be surprised if you hear that the new ball has been replaced by the old ball in the coming weeks. And I promise we won't be months late on that news. Seriously. No, seriously.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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