David Bruce: Sports Anecdotes

• Bill Nack was first sports editor and then editor of The Daily Illini. He loved horses and while he was sports editor and Roger Ebert was editor, he ran stories on all of the major horse races. Mr. Ebert remembers, “We had only one photo of a horse. We used it for every winner. If it was a filly, we flipped it. Of this as his editor I approved.” Mr. Nack served in Vietnam and then started writing for Newsday. At a Newsdayholiday party, he stood on a desk and recited from memory the winners of the Kentucky Derby — every winner, complete with names and dates. Dave Laventhiol, Newsdayeditor, asked him why he knew that information. Mr. Nack replied, “It’s the Damon Runyan in me.” Mr. Laventhiol then offered Mr. Nack his dream job: “Would you like to cover the races for Newsday?” In five minutes, he had the job, but he did have to write a note asking for the job so that Mr. Laventhiol could post it on the bulletin board for the curious who would wonder why Mr. Nack was making a radical change in what he wrote about for Newsday. In the note, Mr. Nack wrote, “After covering politicians for four years, I would like the chance to cover the whole horse.”

• Actor and musician Tim Robbins, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2003 for Mystic River, is a sports fan. On his 11stbirthday, he and his grandmother sat in the last row of Shea Stadium as the New York Mets won the World Series. The fans went onto the field and grabbed handfuls of grass as souvenirs. Tim remembers, “I really wanted to join this madness on the subway, but I could see the terror in my grandmother’s eyes. On the way home a guy gave me some of his big wad of grass. I kept it for years.” He also plays hockey, and he says, “Ice hockey is a really cerebral game. It can be a beautiful ballet. But I have to keep my head up when I am playing as there’s always that *ssh*le who recognizes you and wants to tell their friends how they laid Tim Robbins out on the ice.”

• Tom Danehy, columnist for Tucson Weeklyin Tucson, Arizona, is also a coach in many sports. For example, he coaches middle school six-man flag football during the late summer and early fall. In 2011, his star player was Hope, a left-handed Asian girl. About Hope, Mr. Danehy says, “In probably half the games this season, she was clearly the best athlete on the field for either team.” Having a girl on the team doesn’t bother the other players, but some adults are puzzled and one asked Mr. Danehy, “So, what are you trying to prove? Is this some kind of social experiment?” He replied, “Dude, your kid’s team just got whupped, and that ‘social experiment’ accounted for four touchdowns.” (Hope returned an interception for a touchdown, passed for a touchdown, and ran for two touchdowns.)

• In October 2009, the primary sponsor of U.S. Speedskating — the Dutch bank DSB — went bankrupt. The 2010 Winter Games were coming up, and the company could not donate the $300,000 it had pledged. Luckily on 2 November 2009, comedian Stephen Colbert announced that his show was becoming the team’s primary sponsor. He asked viewers to make small donations, and the U.S. Speedskating team received over $300,000 donated by approximately 9,000 people. It was a good investment — the team won 10 medals at the Olympic Games. Why did Mr. Colbert do this good deed? He explained, “Believe me, I spent 20 years racking up huge debts pursuing comedy.”

• Bill Cosby was an athlete before he became a stand-up comedian and movie and TV star. He once became the high jump champion of the Middle Atlantic Conference by psyching out his opponents. He had not been jumping well, managing to clear only about six feet. However, at the meet a bump was on the approach to the high jump, and a few athletes had complained about it. Soon, Bill’s voice was heard coming loudly from a tent: “There’s really a terrible bump out there. There’s no way anybody is going to jump over five-ten today.” Mr. Cosby won the championship with a jump of only six feet, which was actually a short height in that event.

• Babe Zaharias was a female professional athlete when few female professional athletes existed. She won Olympic gold medals in track and field and helped start the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), but she played (and often excelled in) many other sports. A reporter once asked her if there was anything she did not play. She replied, “Yeah. Dolls.” Lots of people thought that playing sports was a masculine trait, and a woman once asked her, “Where are your whiskers?” Babe replied, “I’m sitting on them, sister, just like you.”

• The soccer team of Magdeburg, Germany, had failed to score a single goal in five matches, so in March 2012 their fans decided to help. Figuring that perhaps the team players did not know where their goal was located, the fans held up arrows pointing to the goal during a match against a Berlin team. That way, their players would know where to kick the soccer ball. Other fans held up a banner that read, “We’ll show you where the goal is!” Magdeburg did score a goal, but lost the match, 2-1.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Burdens of success

Don’t encumber me so far

Doesn’t bother me


NOTE: Doesn’t bother me

 — much.



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So much good music

— Not a bad problem to have —

Cannot hear it all


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