5 Athletes Who Struggled as Politicians

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Getty Images

Once athletes are done dominating on the field, they're free to take their millions of dollars and go enjoy lives of golf and celebrity restaurant ownership. Some former sports stars, though, eschew this easy life in favor of entering an even more competitive arena: politics. While some achieve great triumphs in the political world, like basketball star Bill Bradley, NFL quarterbacks Jack Kemp and Heath Shuler, and retired Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, others struggle to find their niche as public servants. Here are a few of our favorite campaigns that didn't pan out:

1. Jerry "The King" Lawler Tries to Become Mayor

It's tough to knock anything about Jerry "The King" Lawler's professional wrestling career. The man boasts over a hundred title reigns across various promotions, has had a successful career as a commentator, and even feuded with comedian Andy Kaufman.  Throughout his career, he maintained strong ties to his hometown of Memphis, and in 1999 Lawler made a bid at becoming the city's next mayor. His platform was largely predicated upon what he called "common sense," and included cutting costs, making streets safer, undertaking beautification projects, and improving schools.
Although Lawler's platform and status as a favorite son may have been appealing to some voters, he wasn't able to deliver one of his trademark piledrivers to incumbent Willie Herenton, who grabbed 45.7 percent of the vote to win a third term. Lawler came in at a distant third with 11.7 percent of the vote. Of course,  he probably didn't help his chances when he attacked a police officer during a dispute on airport parking. He did, however, make some terrific campaign ads:

2. Another "King" Tries to Become Secretary of State

Maybe there's something about having the nickname "The King" that makes retired stars want to run for office, but Lawler's fellow "King," NASCAR legend Richard Petty decided to run for North Carolina Secretary of State in 1996. The state's Republican party thought this idea sounded like a perfect fit for NASCAR-crazed North Carolina, and Petty's signature cowboy hat, shades, and mustache hit the political trail. However, pundits soon learned that an old racer's habits die hard. Petty became embroiled in a scandal when he used his racing knowledge to deal with a slowpoke who wouldn't let him pass on I-85; like any good stock car driver would, Petty allegedly sped up and gave the driver a little bump. Petty paid a measly $65 fine for the incident, but it probably didn't help his campaign. He ended up losing to Democratic candidate Elaine Marshall 53.48-45.17.

3. Lynn Swann Runs a Gubernatorial Route

Likewise, former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann had a football career almost beyond compare. The Hall of Famer boasts four Super Bowl rings, three trips to the Pro Bowl, and a spot on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1970s. He could not, however, catch the political hearts of Pennsylvanians when he ran for governor in 2006.
Swann, a Republican, squared off against incumbent governor Ed Rendell, a popular former mayor of Philadelphia. Swann's hope seemed to be grabbing the conservative middle section of the state and swinging in some Steelers fans from his native Pittsburgh. His platform included changing the property tax structure and "reforming" Harrisburg through "change." Nobody seemed to know what these ridiculously vague notions meant, though, and Swann quickly fell in a large fundraising hole to Rendell. By the time the election rolled around, Rendell handily thumped Swann, who collected just under 40 percent of the vote. Great campaign ads for football fans, though

4. Olympian Tries to Swordfight With FDR

Henry S. Breckenridge may not be the most instantly recognizable name on this list, but he was a world-class athlete in his day. Blessed with a privileged upbringing, Breckenridge graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law and found himself sitting in the position of Assistant Secretary of War under Woodrow Wilson at just 27 years old. He was also a terrific fencer who competed in the 1912 Olympics before captaining the American squad at the 1928 Olympics. Breckenridge, who was a member of the Army Officers' Fencing Club, was tough to beat with a sword, but unfortunately for him, he was a bit less intimidating at the polls. He made an unsuccessful run at a Senate seat from New York as part of the Constitutional Party in 1934; his efforts garnered less than one percent of the vote.
Following this defeat, Breckenridge, who opposed the New Deal, took on an even more Herculean task: he actually ran against Franklin Roosevelt for the Democratic nomination for president in 1936. Roosevelt, who was wildly popular at the time, didn't file for the New Jersey primary. It ended up being the only state in which Breckenridge made a respectable showing. By the time the votes were counted, FDR had racked up close to five million supporters, while Breckenridge only had 136,000, or a margin of victory of roughly 93 percent to three percent.

5. Sports Prodigy Fails to Nab Parliament Seats

C.B. Fry's legend in the U.K. is almost on par with Jim Thorpe's mystique in the United States. At the turn of the 20th century, Fry wasn't just a standout in one sport; it seemed like he was dominating them all. He excelled at cricket in a way that no one had ever really seen before, including a stunning six consecutive first-class centuries in 1901. He was strong enough at soccer to play both professionally and on England's national team. On top of all that, Fry also held the world long-jump record!
All of these facts may it tough luck for Fry that England didn't elect its MPs via decathlon, in which case he would have been a lock. He ran as a reforming Liberal for a seat from Sussex, but fell 5,000 votes short. Undeterred, Fry later unsuccessfully tried to win a set from Banbury and then took another close loss for a seat from Oxford.  After gracefully accepting these three defeats, Fry quit campaigning for Parliament. He did, however, finally get a little bit of political love when he became delegate to the League of Nations for three years during the 1920s. According to rumor, he was even considered as a candidate to be king of Albania during this period.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

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Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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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.