20 Mind-Bending Sports Facts
Facts can be your best friend or your greatest enemy—it all depends on the situation. Of course, sometimes "the facts" aren’t really the facts, which makes knowing how to separate the good from the bad as important as knowing when to use them. This obviously applies to almost any part of life, but it is essential to holding your own when talking about sports or staying afloat in a high-stakes game of sports trivia.
If nothing else, learning more about the most compelling events and people in sports—the strange curiosities of history and statistics—means you’re guaranteed to have something to talk about when the conversation loses its momentum or turns to the subject you’ve been preparing for: sports.
Maybe this collection of sports facts will teach something you didn’t know, correct something you thought you knew or just refresh your memory. Either way, you’ll be that much more prepared when the situation calls for it.
Here are 20 mind-bending sports facts—a little trivia to impress the people around you.
For more than a decade prior, various teams experimented with numbers on sleeves or hats as a way to help fans identify players. In 1929, it was the Yankees who became “the first team to make numbers a permanent part of the uniform.” Within three years, jersey numbers were standard on all uniforms.
New Orleans is definitely an outside-the-box type of city—it’s why the Saints can get away with employing a Voodoo priestess to remove a curse from the Superdome and the Browns just keep crossing their fingers. That’s exactly what the team did in 2000, after failing to win a single playoff game in 33 years. Considering the stadium was built on top of the Girod Street Cemetery, the Saints had the priestess return again in 2001—just in case.
Although Franklin D. Roosevelt set the record by throwing out nine ceremonial first pitches during his administration, it was Missouri’s own Harry S. Truman, who threw out seven first pitches as president, who set the record for games attended while in office—Richard Nixon (11) and George W. Bush (10) came closest.
Balls Used During Wimbledon
Nachos Go National
According to a 2013 article in Smithsonian Magazine, by 1978 nachos were catching on in popularity in Texas, but they hadn’t made it far beyond the Lone Star State. While trying to fill time during a Cowboys game, Howard Cosell talked up the “new snack” brought to the broadcasting booth.
A Baseball's Brief Lifespan
Metrodome Makes History
Just a decade after opening in April 1982, the Minneapolis Metrodome had already become the first stadium to host the Super Bowl (1992), the World Series (1987, 1991) and the NCAA Final Four (1992, 2001), and it remains so to this day. It also hosted the MLB All-Star Game (1995).
San Francisco Giants manager Roger Craig “once cut his hand on a bra strap. Men find that admirable … as long as it wasn’t his bra strap,” that according to the Los Angeles Times.
A Very Influential Chicken
Mascots rarely make lists of anything, aside from "stupid mascot" lists. The San Diego Chicken (aka The Famous Chicken or the KGB Chicken) is a rare exception, having inexplicably been named one of the 20th Century’s 100 Most Powerful People in Sports by The Sporting News.
Moses Malone's First
A standout superstar at his Virginia high school, Moses Malone first committed to the University of Maryland before backing out to go pro. He began his Hall of Fame career in the ABA with the Utah Stars in 1974.
Penalty Flag Filler
Though it seems like the NFL would have a more sophisticated mechanism in place, at this point the penalty flags carried by officials are weighted down by something as unsophisticated as unpopped popcorn seeds.
Unorthodox Trade Terms
Super Bowl Halftime Show's Strange Start
Prior to Carol Channing in 1970, the marching bands of Florida A&M, Grambling, Michigan and the University of Arizona were the only performers at the NFL halftime show. Channing joined Ella Fitzgerald and the Marine Corps Drill Team again in 1972 at Super Bowl VI.
Michael Phelps' Unflattering Nickname
With 22 Olympic medals to his name, 18 of which are gold, early on, American swimming legend Michael Phelps was subjected to relatively unflattering comparisons to Gomer Pyle, a fictional military doofus from a 1960s sitcom. It was due to “his aw-shucks naïveté,” according to a profile in GQ.
Jim Brown's Other Hall of Fame Career
Legendary Browns running back Jim Brown is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. A Hall of Fame football career is impressive enough on its own, but consider that Brown is also “considered by many to be the greatest to ever play the game of lacrosse” too. He played collegiate football and lacrosse at Syracuse.
Sports in China Are Losing Their Edge
Though it’s hard to find official statistics on grenade throwing as an official sport in China, there’s no question it was once a relatively common competition, particularly during the reign of Mao Tse Tung. It wasn’t just for men either—in 1958, a female student at the Beijing Institute of Iron and Steel broke the national record for hand grenade throwing.
Babe Ruth Makes All-Star History
Fan Buys Funky Memorabilia
Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan has one ickily dedicated fan out there. According to ESPN, at one point, a jockstrap he wore while pitching his seventh no-hitter sold for an unconscionable $25,000.
Stanford Implements Their Own Mercy Rule
Stanford and Michigan faced off in the first Rose Bowl, which was played in 1902. The Wolverines led 17-0 at the half and 49-0 early in the fourth quarter—a drubbing so futile that the Cardinal coaches decided to forfeit the game with eight minutes remaining.