7 Silly Civic Wagers on Sports

Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Does ketchup go well with octopus? Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is about to find out. Kilpatrick is expected to receive a shipment of Pittsburgh goodies, including Heinz ketchup, Primanti Brothers sandwiches and an octopus from Wholey's Fish Market after winning a bet with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on the outcome of the Stanley Cup finals.

No such wager on the NBA Finals was widely reported in the days leading up to Game 1 between the Celtics and Lakers, but there's still time for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to announce a bet. Count legendary sportswriter Frank Deford among those who hope they don't. "It's like teams pouring the Gatorade on the coach," Deford told the Boston Globe before February's Super Bowl. "The first time it was funny, the second time, OK. And then it never ends. It's really time to end this."

Is it time for civic bets to be retired? Take a look back at some of the more absurd wagers from the past 25 years and decide for yourself. Future public officials, take note.

1. SUPER BOWL XVII: WASHINGTON REDSKINS VS. MIAMI DOLPHINS

If Virginia Gov. Charles Robb and Florida Gov. Bob Graham wanted to be lame, they might have wagered crates of apples and oranges, respectively, on the 1983 showdown between the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. Instead, they got creative. Robb put a Virginia pig named Josephine on the line, an ode to the Redskins' short and big-bellied offensive linemen, who were collectively referred to as the Hogs. Graham countered with 3,000 live Florida honeybees, a nod to the Dolphins' Killer B's defensive unit led by the likes of Bill Barnett, Bob Baumhower and Doug Betters.

Clearing space for running back John Riggins, the Hogs got the better of the B's in the game and the Redskins won 27-17. The delivery of the bees—Graham tripled his original offering and sent 9,000 total—was delayed until April by cold weather. In the meantime, Washington Post columnist Jack Eisen put in writing what many locals were probably wondering: "What f'hevvin's sake does Robb plan to do with a hive of bees, unless they're trained to sting only Republicans?" In fact, Roanoke, Va., city treasurer and beekeeper Gordon Peters housed the bees in a Super Bowl hive display in his "Honey-N-Hive Supply" store. Naturally, Virginia State Sen. Dudley "Buzz" Emick—his nickname predated the wager, believe it or not "“ aided in the delivery.

2. 1986 WORLD SERIES: BOSTON RED SOX VS. NEW YORK METS
If only Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn had the foresight to wager the rights to Bill Buckner in his bet with New York City Mayor Edward Koch. After the Mets capitalized on Buckner's infamous error to come back and win Game 6 and then went on to win Game 7, Flynn sent Koch victory crocks of Boston baked beans and New England clam chowder. Flynn also agreed to fly a New York flag above Boston City Hall for a week, though he refused to unfurl the "I Love the New York Mets: Don't Tread on Me" variety that Koch sent him. That's when this otherwise traditional bet got interesting.

Three days after it was raised, a group that called itself the Red Sox Revenge Squad stole the flag. The group told a Boston newspaper that it would hold the banner hostage until the Mets issued a formal apology "for the behavior of their security force and fans" after Red Sox secretary Jack Rogers was hit by a bottle following Game 7. It also demanded that Koch "dress up in a bunny outfit and scream to the people of New York, "˜Ray Knight (the Mets' third baseman and Series MVP) is my Cabbage Patch twin.'" A cheap imitation flag was raised following the theft and Koch refused to give in to the demands. He issued a warning to the thieves, saying he "salted" the flag with a mysterious substance that causes it and anyone holding it to dissolve in three weeks, "just like the tapes in Mission: Impossible." Koch also suggested that, if caught, the culprits should be placed in the Boston Common stocks. Flynn fired back through a spokesman: "I think New York City should be aware that the punitive treatment applied during the Pilgrim era has gone the way of Cotton Mather." Zing.

3. 1988 NBA FINALS: DETROIT PISTONS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

When Walter Moore learned that Inglewood, Calif., Mayor Ed Vincent was offering up a copy of the Los Angeles Lakers' drug awareness video "˜Just Say No' as his half of their friendly wager, the Pontiac, Michigan mayor's blue-collar influence shined through. "At least he isn't offering sushi," said Moore, who offered two weeks' use of a sparkling new Pontiac Grand Prix and some Everlite bulbs (another Pontiac product) in exchange for the privilege to play the video "for the entire Pontiac City Council." Just say yes to watching the video, which features classic verses like this one:

I'm Kareem, the captain of the team,
I don't need drugs, I've got a higher thing,
My sky hook makes the team look good,
But there's a hook we gotta shake from the neighborhood.

Alas, Moore and the city of Pontiac missed out on Kurt Rambis' short-shorts, A.C. Green's killer shades, and James Worthy's amazing solo, as the Lakers prevailed in seven games. Vincent enjoyed his car, which he presumably drove to all of the local sushi bars while continuing to fight the war on drugs. "It's kinda nice," Vincent said. "Has some nice pistons."

4. 1993 WORLD SERIES: TORONTO BLUE JAYS VS. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
A mayor has yet to wager his first born child on the outcome of a sporting event, but the Philadelphia Zoo did put up some of its extremely rare, yet-to-be-born white lion cubs against a pair of Tasmanian devils in a bet with the Toronto Metro Zoo. Alan Tonks, a Toronto zoo representative, said the animals involved in the bet characterized each city's respective team. What better way to represent Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and the rest of the Phillies than with an animal that treats its prey viciously and emits a foul odor when stressed, right? Toronto's zoo won the bet after the Blue Jays won the series in six games and the first white lion born in America was born in Philadelphia the following March. Tandi—the Zulu word for Joe Carter or Love, depending on who you ask—weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces and became only the 15th white lion known in existence. Philadelphia made good on the bet by lending Tandi and her two sisters to the Toronto zoo the following summer.

As for the Tasmanian devils, they were to be a gift to Toronto from the Tasmanian government. But when the Australian Wildlife Protection Authority learned that the devils were part of a sports bet, they promptly canceled the shipment. "We don't export animals to be part of bets or publicity stunts," AWPA Director Paul Jewell said.

5. SUPER BOWN XXXIII: ATLANTA FALCONS VS. DENVER BRONCOS
John Elway's second Super Bowl win and final career game in 1999 was preceded by several civic bets between officials in Atlanta and Denver. Peanuts, buffalo steaks, Coca-Cola, an autographed football, Rocky Mountain oysters, custom-made golf balls, pecans and disposable cameras were all wagered, but they all paled in comparison to the bet between Denver Palm restaurant manager Scott Fickling and Atlanta Palm restaurant manager Willy Cellucci.

Cellucci (pictured) paid off the bet by dressing up in a Broncos cheerleader outfit and working as the maitre d' at Fickling's restaurant in Denver for three hours. Thankfully there's no visual evidence, but Fickling, who would've done the same thing at Cellucci's restaurant in Atlanta had the Falcons won, said the results weren't pretty. "Let's just say that Willy has a midriff issue," Fickling told the Denver Post. "We had the cheerleader outfit custom made—by Denver Tent and Awning Company."

6. 2002 STANLEY CUP FINALS: CAROLINA HURRICANES VS. DETROIT RED WINGS
Perhaps Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was too busy texting his ex-top aide to take the time to figure out that the Carolina Hurricanes play in Raleigh. Kilpatrick reportedly phoned the mayor in Charlotte—a three-hour drive from Raleigh—to work out a wager before he realized his mistake. "Perhaps by the time the series is over, the Mayor of Detroit will know where the Hurricanes are based," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker told the press. When the two mayors finally connected, Kilpatrick (pictured) wagered a Michigan cherry tree and a 20-pound octopus, while Meeker put up a North Carolina oak tree.

The Red Wings won the series and Kilpatrick won his tree, but he likely earned little respect from the people of Raleigh. The eco-friendly bet, though, paved the way for future "green wagers." St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman will plant a tree in front of the Xcel Energy Center wearing a Colorado Avalanche jersey before the Republican National Convention in August, the payoff for losing a bet on a first-round NHL playoff series to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

7. 2007 Grey Cup: Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Any bet that involves the loser and winner doing anything outside in Saskatchewan in February is worthy of making this list. In case you've been living under a rock, the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in last year's Grey Cup to win the CFL championship. As a result, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz had to stand on a street corner in downtown Regina, Saskatchewan, wearing a Saskatchewan jersey and holding a sign that proclaimed the Roughriders as the greatest team in Canada. Katz had previously worn the jersey to a council meeting and donated four sets of Roughriders season tickets to charity as part of the bet. Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco braved the cold and stood next to Katz for at least part of the frigid ordeal, answering questions about who is the better mayor and muttering something about taxes. Only in Canada.

Remembering Tom Dempsey, the Toeless NFL Kicker Who Set a 43-Year Field Goal Record

Kicker Tom Dempsey #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks off against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game at Veterans Stadium November 10, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kicker Tom Dempsey #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks off against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game at Veterans Stadium November 10, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

On April 4, 2020 former NFL legend Tom Dempsey—who set a field goal record with the New Orleans Saints nearly 50 years ago—passed away in New Orleans at the age of 73. It has been reported that Dempsey, who has been battling Alzheimer's disease and dementia since 2012, contracted coronavirus in March and his death was the result of complications from COVID-19. Read on to learn more about Dempsey's remarkable life.

 
 

Things weren't looking good for the New Orleans Saints on the evening of November 8, 1970, during a televised game against the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium. Though Saints quarterback Billy Kilmer had managed to connect with receiver Al Dodd on a 17-yard pass that stopped the clock, New Orleans was still down 17-16 with just two seconds left in the game. Worse yet, they were on their own 37-yard line—leaving 63 yards between them and the end zone.

Saints head coach J.D. Roberts, who had only been hired the week before, huddled with offensive coordinator Don Heinrich to quickly consider their options. There weren’t any. Suddenly, kicker Tom Dempsey, who had joined the team the year before, materialized. “I can kick it,” Dempsey told Roberts.

Dempsey would later recall that he didn’t know exactly how far the ball had to travel or that it would be an NFL record if he nailed it. If he had, he said, maybe he would’ve gotten too nervous and shanked it. But kicking the ball was what Dempsey did, even though he was born with only half of a right foot.

Heinrich sighed. There was no other choice. “Tell Stumpy to get ready,” he said.

 

Dempsey was born on January 12, 1947, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and later moved with his family to California. As a student at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, California, Dempsey appeared unbothered by the congenital defect that resulted in a partial right foot and four missing fingers on his right hand. Dempsey wrestled and ran track. In football, he used his burly frame—he would eventually be 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weigh 255 pounds—to clobber opposing players as an offensive lineman. When coaches wanted to send opponents flying, they called in Dempsey.

After high school, Dempsey went on to attend Palomar Junior College in San Marcos, California, where he played football as a defensive end. At one point, when the team was in need of a kicker, the coach asked his players to line up and do their best to send the ball in the air. None kicked harder or farther than Dempsey, who became the kicker for the team and performed while barefoot, wrapping the end of his foot in athletic tape.

Tom Dempsey's modified football shoe is pictured
Tom Dempsey's modified football shoe.
Bullock Texas State History Museum

Playing at Palomar prepared Dempsey for a dual role as both lineman and kicker. But his strength, which made him so formidable on the field, occasionally got him into trouble on the sidelines, and he would eventually be kicked off the Palomar team for punching one of his coaches. After the incident, Dempsey tried out for the Green Bay Packers but found the physicality of professional players a little too much for him to handle. Rather than get into on-field collisions as an offensive lineman, he decided to focus solely on the aptitude he seemed to have for kicking. He eventually earned a spot on the San Diego Chargers practice squad in 1968. There, head coach Sid Gillman decided to encourage his choice of position—with some modifications.

Gillman enlisted an orthopedist to help develop a special leather shoe for Dempsey to wear. The boot had a block of leather 1.75 inches thick at one end and was mostly flat. Instead of kicking it soccer-style, as most players do today, Dempsey was able to use his leg like a mallet and hammer the ball with a flat, blunt surface.

The shoe, which cost $200 to fabricate, came in handy when Dempsey joined the Saints in 1969. He made 22 out of 41 field goals his rookie year and found himself in the Pro Bowl. But the 1970 season was comparatively dismal, and the Saints were holding a 1-5-1 record when they met the Detroit Lions on that night in November.

With two seconds left, “Stumpy” (Dempsey found the nickname affectionate rather than offensive) trotted onto the field. At 63 yards, he would have to best the then-record set by Baltimore Colts kicker Bert Rechichar in 1953 by seven yards.

No one appeared to think this was within the realm of possibility—you could almost hear a chuckle in CBS commentator Don Criqui's voice when he announced that Dempsey would be attempting the feat. Even the Lions seemed apathetic, not overly concerned with attempting to smother the play.

The ball was snapped by Jackie Burkett and received by Joe Scarpati, who gave it a quarter-turn. Dempsey remembered advice once given to him by kicking legend Lou “The Toe” Groza: Keep your head down and follow through. He took a step toward the ball and swung his leg like a croquet mallet, smashing into the football with a force that those on or near the field compared to a loud bang or a cannon. It sailed 63 yards to the goal post, which at the time was positioned directly on the goal line, and just made it over the crossbar.

Below, the referee threw his hands in the air to indicate the kick was good, punctuating it with a little hop of excitement. Dempsey was swarmed by his teammates and coaches. Don Criqui’s attitude in the booth quickly switched from amusement to incredulity. The Saints had won, 19-17.

“I don’t believe this,” Criqui exclaimed.

Neither could fans. In an era before instant replay, ESPN, or YouTube, you either caught Dempsey’s game-winning play or you heard about it at work or school the next week. Owing to its fleeting existence in the moment, schoolyards and offices filled with stories about how Dempsey’s boot may have somehow been augmented with a steel plate or other modification to boost his kicking prowess.

No such thing occurred, though that didn’t stop criticism. Tex Schramm, an executive with the Dallas Cowboys and chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, thought the shoe was an unfair advantage that allowed Dempsey to smash the ball like a golf club hitting a dimpled target. In 1977, the NFL instituted the “Tom Dempsey Rule,” which mandates that anyone and everyone has to wear a shoe shaped like a full foot. There would be no more allowances for special orthopedic shapes.

Dempsey appeared to take it all in stride. Shortly after his victorious kick, he received a letter from President Richard Nixon congratulating him on his inspirational demonstration. Immediately after the game, police officers went in to congratulate him by handing him cases of Dixie beer. Dempsey's girlfriend (and future wife) Carlene recalled that he didn’t come home for days due to rampant partying. When he finally settled down, they got married.

 

Dempsey spent a total of 11 years in the NFL, playing for the Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams, the Houston Oilers, and finally the Buffalo Bills. In total, he made 159 field goals out of 258 attempts. For the next several decades, he would work as a salesman in the oil industry and manage a car lot before retiring in 2008 and settling down back near New Orleans. Over the years, Dempsey made several appearances at autograph shows, where he was regularly peppered with questions about the one kick that defined his career.

Almost as amazing as the kick was its attrition in the record books. While several other men managed to tie Dempsey’s record, it wasn’t until Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicked a 64-yard field goal on December 8, 2013, that it was finally broken—almost 43 years to the day. Some observers note that most of these notable field goals took place in Denver, where the air is thin and presumably more hospitable to kicking for distance. Dempsey managed it in New Orleans—and without toes.

Curiously, Dempsey’s legendary play was actually foreshadowed one year earlier. On October 5, 1969, he kicked a 55-yard field goal in Los Angeles. That was just one yard shy of the record he would obliterate the following year.

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

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