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Category: Sports Legends Revealed

Did allergies lead Dennis Rodman to the Detroit Pistons?

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BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Allergies allowed the Detroit Pistons to, in effect, steal Dennis Rodman in the 1986 NBA Draft.

During season 8 of the NBC TV series "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2009, Dennis Rodman missed one of the weekly competitions on the program. When later asked why he was not able to do the task, Rodman explained that he had severe allergies that knocked him out for the count. His fellow contestants doubted his story, claiming instead that Rodman had been partying and that he was hungover not suffering from allergies. I certainly cannot tell you whether Rodman was telling the truth on the show, but I can say that Rodman does, indeed, suffer from severe allergies. Rodman also has asthma, and his allergies can cause a terrible reaction with his asthma. While Rodman managed to control his allergies and his asthma long enough to have a Hall of Fame career in the National Basketball Association (NBA), it was due to his allergies that Rodman became one of the biggest steals in NBA Draft history.

Read on to see what happened!

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Did the New York Giants buy a whole team just to get their quarterback?

FabforumFOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The owner of the New York Giants once purchased an entire franchise just to get their star quarterback.

This past Sunday, Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP after leading the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory in four years. While the Giants are surely pleased with their star quarterback, he cost the Giants plenty to acquire. Manning was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the #1 overall pick in the 2004 National Football League (NFL) Draft. After informing the Chargers that he would refuse to play in San Diego (a tactic that John Elway famously used in the 1983 NFL Draft to get the Baltimore Colts to trade his rights to the Denver Broncos), the Chargers agreed to trade him to the Giants for quite a haul - the Giants 2004 first round pick (#4 overall), the Giants' 2004 third round pick, the Giants' 2005 first round pick and the Giants' 2005 fifth round pick. San Diego used the picks respectively on Phillip Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Shawne Merriman (all three would go on to make the Pro-Bowl) and in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Roman Oben. That is a lot to give up for one player.

However, amazingly enough, the Giants once spent a whole lot more to acquire a star quarterback. In fact, they once purchased an entire franchise just to get a quarterback!

Read on to learn more about possibly the most expensive quarterback purchase of all-time.

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Did the Florida Gator originate at the University of Virginia?

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The nickname and the logo of the Florida Gators football team was created and developed at the University of Virginia. When it comes to the origination of college football team's nicknames and mascots, they typically come from one of two sources. One would be a school newspaper (sometimes even newspapers outside the school), like the Stanford Cardinal (who got their name from the coverage of the first "Big Game" against Cal, where the headlines read "Cardinal Triumphs O'er Blue and Gold") and the other would be the student populace itself (like the Yale students who decided to name their football team the Bulldogs after their self-adopted mascot "Handsome Dan"). In the case of the University of Florida and the Gators, however, not only did their name and mascot not come from a newspaper or a Florida student, it may not even have originated in Florida!

Read on to discover how the famed Florida Gators of the University of Florida may have been born in Charlottesville, Virginia at the University of Virginia.

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Did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lose millions on special hotels for tall people?

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BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lost millions of dollars building specialized hotels for tall people.

In 2003, the rock band Pearl Jam released Lost Dogs, a compilation album consisting of notable B-Sides, unreleased songs and other rare material from the band over their then decade-plus career. One of the highlights of the album was the extensive liner notes where the band went into detail on each song on the album. Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament explained the history behind the unreleased song, "Sweet Lew," one of the few Pearl Jam songs where Ament sang lead. As Ament explains it, he met Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1994 at a charity basketball game (Ament was on Abdul-Jabbar's team) and while Ament was looking forward to meeting his boyhood idol, he was disappointed when he felt that Abdul-Jabbar essentially ignored him. So Ament wrote "Sweet Lew" (referring to Abdul-Jabber's name when he first joined the NBA, Lew Alcindor) including pointed references to the rumor that Abdul-Jabbar had lost millions building hotels for tall people:

build him high, build him tall

and later...

tear 'em down, one and all 7'2" is a long way to fall sweet lew, how's the view? sweet lew, how could you?

Is there any truth to this rumor? Read on to find out...

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Was one of Georgetown's canine mascots a war hero?

FabforumFOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: One of Georgetown's canine mascots was a war hero.

The first live animal mascot in college football was "Handsome Dan," a bulldog who was purchased by Yale student Andrew Graves in 1889. The bulldog became quite popular with other Yale students and eventually became the official mascot of Yale's football team, who were dubbed the "Bulldogs." Yale is currently on its seventeenth Handsome Dan. While Handsome Dan is one of the most famous mascots of all-time, not even he could rival the achievements of the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas from 1921-23, Sergeant Stubby, a true war hero!

Read on to learn about Stubby's exploits...

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Did umpires develop hand signals because of deaf player Dummy Hoy?

FabforumBASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Notable deaf ballplayer William "Dummy" Hoy led to the creation of hand signals by umpires.

As loud as baseball fans can be at times, it comes as no surprise to see that there exists an elaborate system of silent signals between the various participants of any given baseball game. Whether it be a third base coach signaling a bunt to the batter, a coach signaling the infield to play in on the corners to guard against the bunt or a catcher signaling a high strike to the pitcher to make the batter's bunt attempt more difficult, the so-called "hidden language" of baseball is in full effect each and every game. One of the most notable examples of this "language" is the hand signals used by baseball umpires. There are few sights more dramatic in baseball than an umpire spreading his arms out wide to signal a player is safe on a close play at the plate. Similarly, many umpires have taken to turning their strike three hand signal into practically a piece of performance theater. Today we examine the history of umpire hand signals and try to determine whether a great deaf player from the early days of professional baseball, William "Dummy" Hoy, was responsible for their creation.

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Was the Rose Bowl the first postseason bowl game?

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FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The original Rose Bowl was the first postseason "bowl game."

As we reach the end of the year, we enter into the holiday season. We also enter into the season of College Football Bowl Games, over two dozen of them every year. The Rose Bowl is nicknamed "The Granddaddy of Them All," because it is the oldest of all the current bowls, taking place every year since 1916 and originating in the 1902 "Tournament East-West" football game in Pasadena, California as part of the Tournament of Roses (which also included the Rose Parade). When the stadium known as the Rose Bowl was introduced in 1923, the name of the game changed from "Tournament East-West" to "The Rose Bowl Game." The Rose Bowl became so famous that all other bowls take their names from it, even if they do not actually take place in bowl stadiums such as the Rose Bowl. So the Rose Bowl well deserves it reputation as the "Granddaddy of Them All," as it is clear that all other current bowls were based on the success of the Rose Bowl. However, was the 1902 "Tournament East-West" game actually the first postseason "bowl game,” as is often claimed?

Read on to find out!

 

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Did a prisoner once sign a contract to play pro baseball?

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BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A convict signed a contract to play professional baseball...while still in prison!

For at least a century (and very possibly longer than that), a very popular sport within prisons in the United States has been organized baseball. One of the biggest problems within prisons is finding things for the prisoners to do, and organized sports do a very good job at filling in those open hours in the lives of the inmates. In San Quentin State Prison in California, one of the largest prisons in the United States, they have been playing organized baseball since 1920 and are one of the few prisons that actually allow its prison baseball team to travel outside of the jail to play away games. As successful as having a baseball program is with most prisons, it was especially successful for one prisoner at Oregon State Penitentiary who actually signed a deal to be a professional baseball player while still a convict at Oregon State Penitentiary in 1942. Read on to learn Keith Crosswhite's tale.

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Were the Cleveland Browns named after boxer Joe Louis?

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FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The Cleveland Browns were named after boxer Joe "The Brown Bomber" Louis.

The Cleveland Browns opened shop in 1946 as one of the inaugural teams in a new professional football league designed to compete with the National Football League (NFL), the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). They were led by coach (and part-owner) Paul Brown, who was one of the most famous sporting figures in the state of Ohio at the time, having coached Ohio State to a shared national championship earlier in the decade (following years of dominance in Ohio High School football). So it would seem logical that the team was named after Coach Brown, right?

Well, from a 1995 Washington Post article when the announcement was made that Browns owner Art Modell was moving the team to Baltimore (where they became the Baltimore Ravens):

Contrary to popular belief, the Browns were not named for their famous coach Paul Brown. Rather, they were called the Brown Bombers, after the nickname of the revered boxer of that era, Joe Louis. The name later was shortened to the Browns.

So, is the popular belief true or not? Read on to find out!

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Did Sarah Palin mistakenly attribute a quote to John Wooden?

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BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said a notable impassioned quote about the importance of land to Americans.

Besides being a legendary basketball coach, the late, great John Wooden was also an inspirational writer and speaker. He wrote (or co-wrote) over half a dozen books and was an in-demand motivational speaker until his death in 2010. He was a proponent of what he called the Pyramid of Success, which consisted of philosophical building blocks for winning at basketball and at life. Some of the famous maxims that Wooden coined over the years include, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail" and "Flexibility is the key to stability."

In her 2009 memoir, Going Rogue, former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke about a time that Coach Wooden's words helped her through a disappointing moment in her life. Palin, who was a basketball player during high school (leading her team to an Alaskan state championship in 1982), has been a sports fan her whole life and even once dreamed of being a sportscaster for ESPN (which is at least partially the reason her daughter's name is Bristol) so it comes as no surprise that she would find comfort in the words of Coach Wooden. In 2002, after his election a Governor of Alaksa, Alaskan Senator Frank Murkowski had to choose his successor in the United States Senate. He put together a list of candidates, including Palin. He interviewed her, but after the interview was over she had the impression that he was not going to be appointing her. On the drive home, she discussed her disappointment with her husband, Todd.

We were disappointed...for about seven seconds. We talked about the way the "ball bounces." We reminded each other how UCLA Coach John Wooden had captured our thoughts in a book we'd read about him. I told Todd, "Coach Wooden said, 'Things work out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.'" We said in unison, "Or something like that!"

Later on in the book, Palin continued to show her appreciation for Wooden's words by making a Wooden quote the epigram for the chapter about her decision to run for Governor of Alaska against Murkowski. The quote reads:

Our land is everything...I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember that our grandfathers paid for it - with their lives.

It's a powerful quote. But did Wooden actually say it?

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Did Magic Johnson play high school ball with WWE's The Undertaker?

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BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Magic Johnson played high school basketball with WWE's The Undertaker.

A popular game to play with celebrities is to look at them "Before They Were Famous," particularly when they were younger (heck, MTV recently had a show whose entire purpose was simply to see what celebrities were like "When They Were 17"). It is especially fascinating when you discover that two different celebrities crossed paths when they were younger, like learning that Jon Hamm taught The Office's Ellie Kemper acting in high school or that NFL superstar Randy Moss was high school football teammates with veteran NBA point guard Jason Williams. In fact, in this very column, I discussed the very popular urban legend that Don Drysdale and Robert Redford were high school baseball teammates (click here to see if they actually did play together). Thus, it comes as no surprise to find out that people were quite fascinated with a piece of trivia that has been making the rounds on the internet for the last few years (to the point where a number of readers have suggested it to me to use in this column) that Earvin "Magic" Johnson, legendary star of the Los Angeles Lakers played high school basketball with Mark "The Undertaker" Calaway, famed wrestling star of WWE.

Is is true?

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