David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Practical Jokes, Practice, Prejudice

Practical Jokes

• Ice skaters Peggy Fleming and Robin Cousins are practical jokers who tried to break up each other while performing together on the ice. For one performance, Ms. Fleming wrote this message on her eyelids for Mr. Cousins to read as they were skating in public together: “BITE ME.” Mr. Cousins quickly got revenge. Ms. Fleming had to make a quick costume change, slipping on a coat then returning immediately to the show and skating. When she did so, she discovered that Mr. Cousins had altered the coat — padding made Ms. Fleming’s breasts appear to be humongous.

• Kelly McCormick won silver and bronze medals in the Olympics in the 1980s as a springboard diver. While training at the Ohio State University, she was coached by Vince Panzanno. As a joke on him, she and the other divers on the team colored their hair bright pink, but the joke fell flat. Later, they discovered why — Mr. Panzanno is colorblind.

Practice

• Jim Thorpe wanted to play football at the Carlisle Indian School, so one day he dressed in a football uniform that was too big for him and begged Coach Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner to give him a chance. Pop Warner finally told him to give the first team some tackling practice. Therefore, Mr. Thorpe was given a football and told to run against the first team so they could tackle him. Mr. Thorpe did run — through the first-team players and into the end zone. Pop Warner said, “You’re supposed to give the first team some tackling practice, not run through them!” Mr. Thorpe replied, “Nobody tackles Jim” — then he ran through the first-team players and into the end zone again. Pop Warner got Mr. Thorpe a uniform that fit, and soon Mr. Thorpe became an All-American football player.

• When United States gymnast Hollie Vise was 12 years old, she told her mother, “When I was young, I always wanted to be in the Olympics.” By the way, Ms. Vise is a serious gymnast. She even has a balance beam (one that is low to the floor) in her parents’ dining room.

• Babe Didrikson won a record 17 golf tournaments in a row. How did she do it? She often hit 1,500 golf balls a day and practiced until her hands were blistered and bleeding.

Prayer

• At the 1996 Olympics Games held in Atlanta, Kerri Strug was the last member of the United States women’s gymnastics team to perform on their final apparatus: the vault. On her first performance, she vaulted badly and injured her ankle, but she summoned her strength and vaulted again. Before the second vault, she said this prayer: “Please, God, help me out here. I’m just asking you once here. I’ve always tried to be a good person. I’ve always tried to do what’s right. Please, just let me do this vault.” Her second vault was good, and the U.S. women won the gold medal in team competition.

• After young professional tennis player Tracy Austin was sidelined with an inflamed sciatica nerve in early 1981, she was forced to rest, although she was very eager to start playing competitively again. Therefore, she used to say this prayer: “God, give me patience — but hurry up!”

Prejudice

• When Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player to compete on a major league team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was often heckled by opposing players. Ben Chapman, the team manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, ordered his players to heckle Mr. Robinson during some games early in the season, so they kept up a relentless torrent of racist abuse directed against him. Although Mr. Robinson was tempted to fight, he knew that a fight would set back integration in the major leagues. For a few games, the other Dodgers stayed silent, but finally Dodger second baseman Eddie Stanky, a Southerner, yelled at the Phillies, “Listen, you yellow-bellied cowards, why don’t you yell at somebody who can answer back?” After that, other Dodgers started defending Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Robinson became accepted as a member of the team.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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