8 Underappreciated Undefeated Seasons

Elsa, Getty Images
Elsa, Getty Images

By now, you're probably aware that the New England Patriots are one win away from knocking the 1972 Miami Dolphins from their perch as the only NFL team to finish a season undefeated. If it happens, Tom Brady and Co. will also join this abbreviated list of sports history's other notable (and not-as notable) undefeated teams:

1. 1948 Cleveland Browns

Coached by their namesake, Paul Brown, the Cleveland Browns were the model franchise of the All-American Football Conference. The Browns compiled a 52-4-3 and won all four titles during the league's existence, including a perfect season in 1948 that was capped by a 49-7 win over Buffalo. (Apparently the Bills' inability to win the big game wasn't just an early 90s fad.) The Browns' dominance actually helped contribute to the downfall of the AAFC, as the team was so good that Cleveland fans stopped coming to games. It's a wonder that Patriots games sold out this season.

An afterthought because: The NFL doesn't recognize the Browns' perfect season, or any other AAFC records.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Fittingly, Cleveland's first AAFC game was against the franchise from the city associated with pro football perfection since 1973. The Browns stomped the Miami Seahawks, 44-0.

2. 2007 Bronx Gridlock

The Queens of Pain rolled into the City College gym seeking a third-straight Gotham Girls Roller Derby championship, but members of the Bronx Gridlock weren't about to let a royal pain get in the way of their quest for perfection. According to this incredibly detailed account of the game, the Gridlock held off a fierce rally, as the Queens of Pain made up 31 points in four jams. Ultimately, the loss of Greta Turbo, who fractured her tibia and fibula in practice, was too much for the Queens of Pain to overcome, and Beatrix Slaughter's 32 points carried the Bronx to victory. [Photo courtesy of Derby News Network.]

An afterthought because: For most people, jam is something you put on toast or do with a guitar.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: How physically brutal is roller derby? The Bronx Gridlock's perfect season consisted of exactly three bouts.

3. 1986 Texas Women's Basketball

Jody Conradt's Texas Longhorns completed the first perfect season in women's college basketball history with a 97-81 win over Cheryl Miller and Southern California in the championship game. The Longhorns also defeated Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Western Kentucky en route to the title in the 40-team tournament. Texas freshman Clarissa Davis was named the "Most Outstanding Player" after registering 56 points and 32 rebounds in two Final Four games.

An afterthought because: In addition to the fact that women's basketball had even fewer casual fans at the time, Geno Auriemma's UConn Huskies have attained perfection two times within the last 13 years.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Clarissa Davis, who later became Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, was ejected from the inaugural American Basketball League all-star game in 1996 for punching Cindy Brown.

4. 1939 LIU Brooklyn Men's Basketball

Legendary head coach Clair Bee led the Long Island University Blackbirds "“ or Busy Bees, as they were more often called "“ to a 31-0 record in 1939. LIU capped its perfect season with a win over Loyola of Chicago in the championship game of the NIT, which was then the premier college basketball postseason tournament. After LIU cruised to yet another win at Madison Square Garden midway through the season, Arthur J. Daley wrote in The New York Times, "The last lingering doubts about the sheer class of the Long Island University basketball team fled like chaff before the wind on Wednesday when Coach Clair Bee's Busy Bees turned back Marquette in a game of such superlative mechanical excellence that court fans are still talking about it."

An afterthought because: It's hard to shake the stigma that the NIT has developed since 1939.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Bee led LIU to a 43-game winning streak from 1935-1936 (the 1936 team is pictured above). The streak was snapped at Madison Square Garden, as Stanford's Hank Luisetti introduced a "strange new maneuver" to the sport of basketball "“ the jump shot.

5. 1992-2003 De La Salle Football

 The Concord, Calif., high school won an absurd 151 straight games and was named national champion by USA Today five times from 1992-2003 before losing to Bellevue (Wash.) 39-20. The Spartans' undoing in defeat? They couldn't stop the run, as Bellevue rushed 54 times for 463 yards. Afterward, De La Salle head coach Bob Ladouceur told reporters it was time for his team to lose: "I'm all for there being a lot of king of the hills, not just one." Can you imagine Bill Belichick uttering those words?

An afterthought because: It's high school football.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: De La Salle graduates in this year's Super Bowl include New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer and New England Patriots backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez, who is pictured above.

6. 1951 University of San Francisco Football

 After punctuating their perfect regular season with a 20-2 win over Loyola of Los Angeles, the 9-0 Dons waited anxiously for a bowl invite that never came. While some bowl officials claimed they passed over the team because the Dons weren't well enough known to draw fans to their games, San Francisco sportscaster Ira Blue reported that Gator Bowl President Sam Wolfson said his bowl, and at least two others, wanted to avoid teams with "Negro" players. USF boasted two African-Americans, Ollie Matson and Burl Toler, and the Dons refused to accept invites that came with the stipulation that Matson and Toler had to stay home.

An afterthought because: Without the money that a trip to a bowl game would've brought in, USF dropped football after the 1951 season.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Nine players from the 1951 USF team went on to play in the NFL, including future Hall of Fame inductees Gino Marchetti, Bob St. Clair, and Matson. Toler suffered a career ending injury in 1952, but later became the first African-American official in the NFL.

7. 1993 Buffalo Bandits

 One year after winning a championship in their inaugural season, the Buffalo Bandits defeated Philadelphia 13-12 in the championship game of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League to cap its 10-0 season. Buffalo remains the only team to finish a season undefeated in the history of the league, which later became the National Lacrosse League. The general manager of that team, Johnny Mouradian, will be elected into the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame later this month.

An afterthought because: You probably can't name another team in the National Lacrosse League.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Darris Kilgour, Buffalo's first ever draft pick in 1992, now coaches the Bandits.

8. 1998 Raleigh Wings

 Women's national soccer team captain Carla Overbeck and fellow UNC graduate Robin Confer helped lead Raleigh of the W-League to a 17-0 record in 1998. Confer had two goals in the tournament and garnered MVP honors for Raleigh, which defeated the Boston Renegades in the championship game.

An afterthought because: The franchise is now defunct, among other reasons.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Overbeck would go on to play every minute of every game for the U.S. National team in the 1999 World Cup. She scored the first goal of the penalty kick shootout that ended with teammate Brandi Chastain's memorable game-winner in the final against China.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.