David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Fans, Fathers

Fans

• At the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, Janet Lynn fell on her flying sit-spin — a spin she had practiced and performed thousands of times without mishap. But she got up smiling and won both the bronze medal and the hearts of thousands of Japanese fans watching her. After the Olympics, Janet received many letters written in Japanese, which a Japanese friend translated for her.

• At the 1978 World Championships, gymnast Kurt Thomas won a gold medal in floor exercise — thus winning the United States its first gold medal ever at this level and becoming an instant celebrity. Immediately, he began receiving lots of fan letters from 12- and 13-year-old girls who had developed crushes on him. Each of these letters was answered — by Kurt’s wife, Beth.

• After a baseball game at which he had officiated, minor league umpire Harry “Steamboat” Johnson was accosted by a woman who hit him several times with her umbrella. He warded off the blows as best he could, then told the woman, “Lady, I don’t know who you are, but if you can get someone to introduce us, you can go on hitting me.” She laughed and quit hitting him.

• For many years, Soviet athlete Albert Azaryan was the Lord of the Rings in men’s gymnastics. At a national championship tournament, a woman arrived late at the gym and asked, “When is Azaryan performing on the rings?” When she learned that he had already performed his routine, she started crying and explained, “But I only came here because of him.”

• Gymnast Vera Cáslavská of Czechoslovakia won seven gold medals at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics Games. During an interview, a reporter asked her about her hobbies. She said that she collected postcards, and within three days after the interview appeared, fans had sent her 3,500 more postcards to add to her collection.

• After winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, women’s gymnastics teammate Amy Chow became a major celebrity. While attending her first year at Stanford University, she was forced to take her name down from her room in the dormitory because so many students were stopping by to congratulate her on her gold medal.

• At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut won several medals and became beloved by the world. As an instant celebrity, she found it difficult to shop for souvenirs for her family in Munich stores. Once, she even tried shopping in a wig and a borrowed maxi dress — but she was still recognized.

• Tallulah Bankhead was born in Alabama. A baseball fan as well as an actress, she worked frequently on Broadway and supported the New York Giants, once telling New York Yankee Lou Gehrig, “I wish I could be a fan of your side. But I just couldn’t root for a team named Yankees.”

• Charles W. Eliot of Harvard was on his way to attend the Yale-Harvard football game in the company of Edward Everett Hale, when an acquaintance asked where he was going. Dr. Eliot replied, “To yell with Hale.”

Fathers

• Lisa Fernandez won an Olympic gold medal as a softball player. Her father supported her from the very beginning, although in Hispanic culture, women’s and girls’ sports are not emphasized. He took a lot of kidding from his friends because of his athletic daughter, but when her first poster and her first signed Louisville Slugger bat came on the market, he showed them to his friends and said, “This is what my daughter does!” And when she won her Olympic gold medal, he wore it around his neck for several days just so other people would know what his daughter had accomplished.

• Sonja Henie dominated early women’s figure skating, winning 10 consecutive world championships and three Olympic gold medals. Her father was a big supporter — he once grabbed a broom and chased an unappreciative skating judge down a street.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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