today in sports history

What NFL Team's Name Has A Unique Origin?

The Baltimore Ravens football team! It is the only team in the history of the National Football League to be named after the title of a poem: “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. While Poe was not from Baltimore, he lived there for short periods. And in 1849 he died there while visiting the city. (The last place he was seen alive, a bar, is still open today!)

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August 3rd 1936: Jesse Owens wins 100 metre dash

On this day in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, American athlete Jesse Owens won the 100 metre dash, defeating world record holder Ralph Metcalfe. Owens won four gold medals, in the 100 metres, 200 metres, long jump, and 4x100 metre relay, which made him the most successful athlete in the 1936 Games. Germany’s Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler had intended to use the Games to showcase Aryan supremacy, thus the success of African-American Owens was particularly poignant. His success made him a famous figure, but back home in America segregation was still in place. After a ticker-tape parade for him in New York, he had to ride a separate elevator to reach a reception in his honour. It was often said that Hitler snubbed Owens at the Games, refusing to shake his hand, but whilst the racist Hitler was certainly displeased by Owens’s success, these stories may have been exaggerated. In fact, Owens maintains that it was US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who snubbed him, neglecting to congratulate the athlete for his success. Jesse Owens died in 1980 aged 66.

“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds
- Jesse Owens

Willye White was the first American track and field athlete to compete in five Olympic games, starting as a 16 year old in 1952, where she won a silver medal in the longjump. As a child, White picked cotton to earn money for her family while still competing in sports. She would attend Tennessee State University and win a second silver medal at the 1964 Olympics.

The Falkland Palace “real tennis” court in Scotland, the oldest tennis court in the world. Built for James V of Scotland, it has been used since the 1540s. Real tennis is a predecessor of the modern sport of tennis, but involved banking shots off of walls and other features around the court. There are a few dozen real tennis courts still active today.

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So the day before Christmas Eve i decided to go out and buy an SKS, i looked everywhere but couldn’t find any that were in good shape or any that were decently priced (i cant believe some people have the nerve to sell some of these for upwards of $800). I finally called someone at Eagle Arms that had two that had just arrived, went down and checked them out. They were covered entirely in about 5mm of cosmoline but seemed to be in great shape. He had no clue what they were but told me they were labeled at “Chinese Type 56 SKS”, i figured i’d take the gamble on what the internals looked like and if there was any rust. Finally its entirely cleaned up and in working order and its actually mislabeled. It is labeled as a I.O. Inc. M.56 Chinese. But after further inspection its a 1956 Russian Tula Arsenal Unmarked “Letter Model”! A much more valuable SKS rifle. It was missing the sling and the buttstock cleaning kit, so i ordered these and a 20 pack of stripper clips off Amazon today. 

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January 13th 532: Nika riots begin

On this day in 532 AD one of the deadliest riots in history, the Nika riots, began in Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire). The chaos emerged from long-standing sporting rivalries between opposing chariot racing teams - the Blues and the Greens - each of whom attracted fanatical support that often spilled over into violence. The divisions may have gone further than sport, as it has often been suggested that the Blues and the Greens essentially represented opposing political parties in the Byzantine Empire. The riots occurred during the reign of the unpopular Emperor Justinian, whose military endeavors were having a heavy burden on increasingly disgruntled taxpayers. Justinian’s wife, the Empress Theodora, was a controversial figure because of her humble working class origins and her political influence over her husband. The tensions came to a head when Justinian sent in troops to quell fighting between Greens and Blues, and condemned the ringleaders to death, thus ending his support for the Blues. When both a Green and a Blue escaped their execution, the factions were united in the cause to have the men pardoned. On January 13th, during a race at Constantinople’s Hippodrome stadium, both factions vented their anger at the emperor with chants of “Nika!” (‘Conquer/Win’). Five days of rioting ensued, which saw the mob burn down large portions of the imperial capital and call for the emperor to be deposed. Justinian wanted to flee the city, but Theodora rebuked him for his cowardice, and he therefore stayed and approved a plan to isolate the rioting factions in the Hippodrome. The imperial forces descended on the stadium, killing 30,000 of the rioters, which was around 10% of the city’s population at the time. With the violence of the Nika riots in the past, change came to Byzantium in the form of a decline in both the power of the factions and the prominence of chariot-racing.

“Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress”
- Theodora dissuading Justinian from fleeing the city

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June 2nd 1941: Lou Gehrig dies

On this day in 1941, the famous New York Yankees baseball player Lou Gehrig died aged 37. Nicknamed ‘The Iron Horse’, Gehrig’s 23 Grand Slams remained the most on record until it was broken by fellow Yankees player Alex Rodriguez in 2013. The remarkable career of this exceptionally talented baseball player ended in 1939 when, after his performance had been deteriorating, Gehrig was diagnosed with a terminal neurodegenerative disease which severely limits physical mobility (often to the point of paralysis) while not affecting the brain. The disease is known by different names; in the UK it is called motor neurone disease (MND), and in the US it is  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The diagnosis led Gehrig to retire aged 36, and on a July 4th 1939 ‘Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day’ at Yankee Stadium, he gave an emotional farewell speech that has become known as ‘baseball’s Gettysburg Address’. Lou Gehrig died two years later, just before his 38th birthday. His legacy continues as one of the greatest players of all time, and in the fact that many Americans now refer to ALS/MND as 'Lou Gehrig’s Disease’. Other notable people to have this disease include Stephen Hawking, whose is an unusual case as he has lived with it for over 50 years.

“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for”
- Lou Gehrig in his 1939 farewell speech