David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Competitiveness, Conversation, Dedication

Competitiveness

• Dominique Dawes, a gold medalist as an American team member in the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta, competed in her first gymnastics meet at age 10 and won every event! Actually, that’s not as impressive as it seems, since only one other person — her best friend — was competing against her. Ms. Dawes remembers the competition well: “It was really funny. We were falling all over the place.”

• Joe Venuti played jazz violin much better than he played golf. After hitting the ball into the lake at the Lakeside Golf Club in Hollywood, Mr. Venuti became so frustrated that he threw his club into the water, then he threw his other clubs and golf bag into the water, then he picked up his caddy and threw him into the water, and finally he threw himself into the water.

• Competitive figure skaters must be dedicated — and so must the professional photographers who cover them. At the 1995 World Championships, photographer Gérard Châtaigneau went to the ice dance practice at 5 a.m. All the ice dancers were in costume and all the women ice dancers were already perfectly made up.

• The football players who made up Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen contributed greatly to the team’s success, but so did the seven players who made up the team’s Seven Mules. To decide who contributed more to the team’s success, the starting team held a vote. The Seven Mules beat the Four Horsemen — seven votes to four.

• In the late 1920s, the Harlem Globetrotters played a local team that hadn’t lost in three years. Before the game, three men with guns told the Globetrotters that the local team had better not lose this game, either. As usual, the Globetrotters won easily — but they made sure after the game to get out of town quickly.

• Athlete Babe Didrikson was definitely cocky. Often, she would show up at a golf tournament and say, “OK, Babe’s here! Now who’s gonna finish second?” She was able to back up her cockiness. Once, she won a record 17 golf tournaments in a row.

Conversation

• Yogi Berra talked almost constantly when he played catcher for the New York Yankees. In a game against the Boston Red Sox, Yogi kept on talking as Sam Mele was up to bat. Mr. Mele finally turned to umpire Bill Kinnamon and asked, “Bill, can’t you get this son of a bitch to shut up?” Mr. Kinnamon replied, “Well, Sam, if he’s talking to you, he’s not talking to me.”

• New York Yankee Yogi Berra was a talker. When he came up to bat, he would frequently ask major league umpire Tom Gorman how his family was, but occasionally Mr. Gorman didn’t feel like talking. One game, Mr. Berra asked how his family was, and Mr. Gorman replied, “They died last night. Get in there and hit.”

Dedication

• When NBA star Charles Barkley was 15 years old, the coach of his high school basketball team told him that he couldn’t jump high enough to play because he was too short and too fat. Young Charles wanted to play basketball, so he decided to teach himself how to jump. In the hot summer sun of Alabama, he ran at a 4-foot-high fence and attempted to jump over it. Sometimes he succeeded, but sometimes he failed, bruising his elbows and knees. His mother even said that her son looked that summer as if he had survived a car accident. Eventually, Charles could stand by the fence and jump it without first getting a running start. His jumping ability came in handy when he played basketball for Leeds High School, Auburn University, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Houston Rockets.

• Despite being born with only one arm, gymnast Carol Johnston competed for Cal State — Fullerton in Fullerton, California, in the late 1970s. Shortly after learning how to do a double backflip, she injured her wrist and was forced to rest it and not practice gymnastics for two weeks. However, during that time, she mentally visualized herself doing the double backflip and her other gymnastics skills. On her first day of practice after the injury, people expected her to practice only her easier skills, but she did the double backflip twice — perfectly. She said, “I think it shows the power of the mind.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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