If the Super Bowl comes down to a key catch by Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, say, or Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, they'll have more than merely their hands to thank.
Those two players, like plenty of NFL tight ends and wide receivers, wear "sticky" gloves made with a rubbery material on the palms to help hold onto a football. Consider these mitts the 2000's' answer to the 1970's' Stickum, the gooey substance famously used by Oakland Raiders defensive back Lester Hayes and receiver Fred Biletnikoff, among others, before it was banned three decades ago.
"I wear gloves — rain, sleet, hail, snow, outdoor, indoors. I got to have some gloves," Cruz said. "I feel naked without gloves."
"You grip the ball better, no question," Cruz's teammate Hakeem Nicks said. "You don't even (need to) think about catching it."
Take a close look during the NFL championship game in Indianapolis next Sunday; most of the players who'll be on the field will have their hands enhanced. What the league refers to as "gloves with tactified surfaces" — with a synthetic material in the palm instead of old-school leather — entered the football world more than 15 years ago. But equipment makers have developed increasingly helpful models over time, and the popularity has increased.
"I definitely think it's a huge advantage for receivers," said Kurt Warner, a quarterback in three Super Bowls who now appears on the NFL Network. "You see all these one-handed catches, and guys snagging balls, and you say, 'Whoa, that's almost impossible.' It slows the spin on the ball."
And it's not just the guys paid to catch passes; defensive backs, linebackers, linemen use them, too — even Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko, who wears a glove on his right hand when he's holding for extra points or field-goal attempts by kicker Stephen Gostkowski.