Back in 1991 at U.C. Santa Barbara, students could easily get free tickets to the Gaucho basketball games. It was pretty fun, and I've been a basketball fan ever since.
One night while watching the opponents shoot free throws, I thought up the "hypnodisk". I figured it would be fun to build this large spiral-pattern wheel for use behind the basket while the visiting team was shooting.
My friend Bob Burnell Jr. and I bought some heavy yellow paperboard and painstakingly drew an elegant spiral with the use of a pottery wheel. Next we colored in the dark blue. Then we punched a hole through the center and epoxied some steel washers there for reinforcement.
By holding a pen or a nail through the center, we could spin the school colors and mesmerize the other team!
I remember being a little sheepish about actually trying this tactic, but Bob and I both brought hypnodisks to games, spun them during free-throws, and tried to distract the opposing shooter any possible way.
Statistically, the hypnodisks didn't help at all, but they were really fun to wield. After about 15 games, mini-hypnodisks began showing up in other college basketball stadiums, notably New Mexico State University.
Soon after that, The Gaucho team, which was led by guard Carrick DeHart and forward Eric McArthur, beat UNLV, the last time UNLV lost that year before winning the NCAA title. Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a commentator for EPSN at that game, and he made at least one on-air comment about the "spinners". We walked home from the game with the wild, enthusiastic crowd.
Bob and I tried to bring them to a few away games, and we were mostly successful. At Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse we were not allowed to bring them inside. Security told us that "signs were not allowed in the arena", but what they meant was that "visiting signs are not allowed in the arena".
Pepperdine star Doug Christie was spared the wraith of the hypnodisk that night, and his team was able to beat UCSB.
After I graduated, I tucked my hypnodisk away, but occasionally saw imitations on television. The NBA finally banned them during the '93-'94 playoffs.
It wasn't until many years later that I found this photo deep inside my copy of Late Night with David Letterman The Book (circa 1985). It was in the "Laundry Etiquette" section and features Larry "Bud" Melman staring into a hypnodisk- equipped clothes dryer.
I had subconsciously stolen the hypnodisk idea from the Late Night book! Even the name was the same!
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June 2, 2003