today in sports history

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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

Today in Gendered Marathon History…

The Boston Marathon gender barrier fell 50 years ago, on April 19, 1966. That’s when Roberta Gibb, 23, crossed the finish line in 3 hours 21 minutes 40 seconds — in front of more than two-thirds of the male runners that day and wearing Bermuda shorts and a bathing suit. (Running attire hadn’t caught up to her aspirations yet.)

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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

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY:

June 16, 1998 — Former defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov is surrounded by his Detroit Red Wings teammates after their 4-1 Stanley Cup victory over the Washington Capitals at MCI Center in Washington. Konstantinov was badly injured in a car crash June 13, 1997. (Susan A. Walsh/AP)

Sports History June: bit.ly/1RlG0BO

Late Friday night, the world was hit with the news that Muhammad Ali had passed away at age 74. “The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” family spokesperson Bob Gunnell said in a statement. Ali will be remembered as the greatest boxer who ever lived, as well as one of the most captivating and outspoken superstars in sports history. Today, tributes to The Greatest flooded the Internet from around the world.

See more.

Dusty Rhodes passed away today at the age of 69

WWE is deeply saddened that Virgil Runnels, aka “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes — WWE Hall of Famer, three-time NWA Champion and one of the most captivating and charismatic figures in sports entertainment history — passed away today at the age of 69.

Runnels became a hero to fans around the world thanks to his work ethic, his impassioned interviews and his indomitable spirit. Moreover, Runnels was a dedicated father to WWE Superstars Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and Stardust (Cody Runnels), a caring husband and a creative visionary who helped shape the landscape of WWE long after his in-ring career had ended.

WWE extends its sincerest condolences to Runnels’ family, friends and colleagues.