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


• Murriel Page, a 6-foot-2 forward for the Washington Mystics, a women’s professional basketball team, is known for her physical style of play. She acquired it by playing against male cousins and uncles who didn’t give her a break because of her gender. They declined to let her shoot baskets over them; instead, they knocked her down.

• Gymnasts frequently show enormous dedication to their sport. In 1994, an earthquake shook California, but elite gymnast Vanessa Atler continued to practice even though her family was forced for a while to sleep in a tent in their backyard. According to Ms. Atler, “Rain or earthquakes, we still have practice.”

• As a young boxer, Cassius Clay (who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali) trained intensely. He used to get up at 4 a.m., run, go back to bed, then wake up and go to school. Sometimes, he wouldn’t take the school bus, but instead raced it for the 20 blocks to school.


• While practicing the martial art wing-chun, Joe Hyams was accidentally hit by a workout partner. This made him angry. His teacher, Jim Lau, noticed and spoke to him about his anger, saying that unleashing anger against another person inspires anger in return from the other person. The following weekend, Mr. Hyams went to New York, arriving early in the morning and hoping to get some rest before a business meeting. Unfortunately, his hotel room was not ready and would not be ready for another four hours, so he demanded to see the manager, then angrily confronted her. Later, after having calmed down, he apologized, and the manager said, “You really took me by surprise. I intended to do what I could for you, but when you came on so strong I forgot my good intentions and decided not to go out of my way to help you.”

• While attending Stanford University, Debi Thomas wasn’t sure whether she wanted to enter the 1986 United States National Ice Skating Championships because she had so much schoolwork to do. In fact, when she received the entry form, she tore it up, but then she decided to keep the pieces. Later, she taped the pieces together, filled the form out, then sent it in. It’s a good thing she did. She won the gold medal at the Nationals, then she added another gold medal at the World Championships. In 1988, as the first African American on a United States Olympics ice skating team, she earned a bronze medal in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

• The father of Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Shannon Miller is a university physics professor. As such, he knows to take a look at the big picture. Whenever Shannon was upset because she didn’t get a high enough score on a chemistry test, he would ask her a few questions to test her knowledge. If she knew the answers — she usually did — he would tell her, “So you forgot a few things for one hour, but you told me everything you were supposed to know. What’s important is that you learned the material.”

• WNBA star Lisa Leslie also excelled at track in high school, although she took a roundabout way of getting on the track team. At Morningside High School in Inglewood, California, she performed the part of track star Wilma Rudolph in a school play. During her performance, she had to run around the auditorium, and she ran so quickly that the track coach invited her to run for the team.

• When Paul Brown, coach of the Cleveland Browns, spoke about the team’s philosophy, he expected the players to take notes. Once a player kept talking while Mr. Brown told the players how he expected them to act — that player was traded.

• Many colleges recruited Wilt Chamberlain to play basketball for them, including some schools that asked if he wished to be the first African-American player on their team. Mr. Chamberlain always responded, “I’d rather be the second.”

• A football player at Penn State was drafted by the NFL. He asked coach Joe Paterno whether he should play pro football or go to medical school. “Are you nuts?” Mr. Paterno said. “It’s only football. Go to medical school, you jerk.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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