By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Joel, whose ball lagged behind Milton's by more than 1,000 pounds, burned for revenge. He was determined to double the new record. In March 2007, physical therapy specialist Stretchwell Inc. agreed to send him more than 5,000 pounds of industrial-size elastic loops. They arrived by semi truck, and Joel soon began adding up to 400 pounds a day, often toiling at night so as not to attract his neighbors' attention.
Even when his ball surpassed Milton's, Joel kept working. At 5,000 pounds, it outgrew his back yard, so he smashed it through a fence and rolled it into the driveway. He decided Nugget was too "soft" a name and redubbed it Megaton. Joel and Toby, the ball's unofficial marketer, had it transported by crane and truck to a car show in Orlando, where they sold silicone wrist bands that read, "Rubba Ban Man."
In October 2007, he turned down an offer from Ripley's to buy the ball. He wanted to continue growing it. Recalls his mother, Maureen: "I would say, 'OK, it's taking up almost two car spaces. Don't you think it's big enough now?' After a while, I figured, 'He'll know when it's big enough for him.'"
In August 2008, Guinness officials descended. They lifted Megaton onto a truck scale and determined it weighed 8,200 pounds, earning Joel entry into the hallowed book. Since then, he has added 1,200 pounds for good measure. "Nobody's going to touch that for a while," he declares.
His old foe, Steve Milton, hasn't surrendered. "I'm glad he finally got there," he says of Joel's record. "On the other hand, I saw my ball as an art project as well, and I don't think his really looked that great."
This summer, Joel accepted Ripley's offer to buy Megaton. It joins a collection that already includes the world's largest balls of string and barbed wire. Though its permanent home is still undecided, Joel says he's been told it might end up in a new Ripley's museum in South Korea or Mexico.
Neither Ripley's nor Joel will disclose the sale price, but it's ample enough to fund Joel's next dream. He plans to attend the International Stunt School in Seattle, a three-week program where students are set on fire upon graduation. He hopes to set the record for longest time spent as a human fireball, which currently stands at 2 minutes 38 seconds.
He's already begun practicing. His girlfriend, 21-year-old Widelyne Bourjolly — whom he wooed using his fame as the world's premier rubber band ball guy — does not approve. "He keeps burning himself," she says. "I think that's weird."