Tom Molineaux: The Ex-Slave Who Became America’s First International Boxing Superstar

George Cruickshank (NYPL), via Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
George Cruickshank (NYPL), via Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Tom Molineaux found freedom with his fists.

Regarded as America's first great prizefighter, very little is known about Molineaux’s early life. The most common account, however, says that he was born a slave in Virginia sometime around 1784. The local plantation owners took amusement in pitting their enslaved people against each other in bare-knuckle boxing matches, and Molineaux showed a knack for the sport. One day, he won a match that earned his master a huge sum in bets, and was consequently granted his freedom.

(There’s an unsubstantiated rumor that George Washington, a neighboring plantation owner, might have given Molineaux a few pointers in the ring. While that is almost certainly a fabrication, Washington did in fact know a great deal about combat sports such as wrestling; Sports Illustrated called him “a master of the British style known as collar and elbow.”)

After gaining his freedom, Molineaux moved north to New York City around 1804 and began honing his bare-knuckle boxing skills. Details are scarce, but it’s obvious that the young pugilist carved out a name for himself, as he soon earned the title of “Champion of America.”

After five years, Molineaux decided to take his talents across the pond to England. “He was the first American to rise to the eminence of an international challenger,” journalist Paul Magriel wrote in a 1951 edition of the journal Phylon [PDF].

But Molineaux wasn't just hungry for new competition. In Britain, there was big money in boxing. Though the sport was technically illegal, it was well-respected and well-attended. It also had a set of well-defined rules, which Brian Phillips wrote about in a fantastic piece for Grantland:

"Bouts were held outdoors, on bare ground, in rings marked off from fields. The fighters wore no gloves, which probably made them safer. (Gloves were introduced to protect the hands, not the head, and allowed fighters to punch harder.) But rounds didn’t end until one man or the other went down. And there was no limit to the number of rounds that could be fought. After a fall, fighters had 30 seconds to return to the scratch, a mark in the middle of the ring."

Arriving in England, Molineaux had one goal: To fight Tom Cribb. Cribb, who was born near Bristol, England, was considered Europe’s best boxer and routinely drew tens of thousands of spectators to his matches. He was also incredibly tough. According to Phillips, “he reportedly trained by punching the bark off trees.”

In London, Molineaux met a fellow American boxing aficionado—and ex-slave—named Bill Richmond. Richmond, who was considered one of the world’s first black sporting celebrities, was also a highly in-demand trainer. And he agreed to take Molineaux under his wing.

The duo was a perfect fit. With Richmond’s help, Molineaux began to vanquish his opponents fight after fight after fight. In one match, he beat a man so badly that it was impossible to discern his facial features. “The amateurs were completely astonished at the improvement exhibited by Molineaux, and the punishment he dealt out was so truly tremendous, and his strength and bottom so superior, that he was deemed a proper match for the champion, Tom Cribb,” wrote Pierce Egan, a celebrated journalist of the time, in his book Boxiana.

The momentous match was arranged for December 18, 1810. Immediately, the bout's implications were freighted by racism and nationalism. “Some persons feel alarmed at the bare idea that a black man and a foreigner should seize the championship of England, and decorate his sable brow with the hard earned laurels of Cribb,” one media outlet claimed, according to the book Pugilistica.

On the day of the fight, rain poured down. More than 5000 people attended anyway, including a gaggle of the first professional sportswriters. Long before the first punch was thrown, the pro-Cribb crowd began hurling racist invectives at the black American fighter.

Molineaux seemed undeterred. Round after round, he knocked the English champion down. At one point, Molineaux held Cribb in a legal headlock, and the fight's action stalled. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of impatient fans stormed the ring. The scrum injured—and possibly broke—a few of Molineaux’s fingers.

The American continued to dominate anyway.

By the 28th round, the afternoon’s wagers—which had started at 4 to 1 in Cribb’s favor—were now even. According to Egan, “In the 28th round, after the men were carried to their corners, Cribb was so much exhausted that he could hardly rise from his second's knee at the call of 'Time.'" It was clear that Molineaux was on pace to win.

In fact, many people believe he should have already been declared the victor. In the 27th round, Cribb fell and failed to get back up after the required 30 seconds. By all means, Molineaux should have been celebrating. But Cribb’s minders distracted the refs and managed to buy enough time for Cribb to regain both his consciousness and his composure. Whether they were complicit or just clueless, the refs let the time violation slide and the fight continued [PDF].

Shortly after, the momentum shifted.

Cribb landed a few lucky punches. Molineaux, whose eyes had swollen over, began to stagger. After 44 rounds, the American quit and Cribb was declared the winner. The crowd went nuts, leading Pierce Egan to call the whole event, "[T]he most dreadful affront to British sportsmanship ever witnessed."

A few days later, Molineaux sent Cribb a letter blaming the loss on the weather and asking for a rematch. A second fight, which occurred approximately nine months later on September 18, 1811, was attended by more than 15,000 people. This time, Cribb out-trained the American and defeated Molineaux in 11 rounds.

But history had already been made. The first match had secured Molineaux a hallowed place as one of the sport’s top athletes, and in 1997, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The Full Names of 37 One-Name Celebrities

Rihanna and Madonna attend the Tidal launch event in New York City.
Rihanna and Madonna attend the Tidal launch event in New York City.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Roc Nation

A rose by any other name probably wouldn't smell as sweet, at least not in the cases of some of these one-named celebrities. From A-Z, here are the full names of some of your favorite mononymous stars, and the reasons they dropped the rest of their names.

1. Adele

Singer Adele performs
Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images

Real Name: Adele Laurie Blue Adkins

As far as we can tell, Adele’s first name is simply distinctive enough to stand on its own. Plus, “Adele Adkins” sounds a bit like she should be playing at the Grand Ole Opry (which would be lovely, but not quite the sound she’s going for).

2. Awkwafina

Awkwafina attends the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
Awkwafina attends the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES FOR CRITICS CHOICE ASSOCIATION

Real Name: Nora Lum

“There’s really no great, symbolic story,” Awkwafina told Cosmopolitan of her chosen moniker. "I just really thought it was funny when people try to subtilize products like Neutrogena," she said. "Because I just imagine someone sitting there thinking about all these weird names, especially the water names. But anyway, I just came up with it when I was 16 and thought it was really funny. And then I eventually adopted it."

3. Beck

Musician Beck attends the KROQ Absolut Almost Acoustic Christmas 2019 at Honda Center on December 07, 2019 in Anaheim, California
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Real Name: Bek David Campbell

He added the “c” to his real name, hoping that it would prevent people from pronouncing his name as Brock, Breck, Beak, or Bic. Fun Fact: Beck's mother is Bibbe Hansen, an original Warhol superstar.

4. Bono

Bono of music group U2 performs onstage at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Real Name: Paul David Hewson

Without a doubt, Bono is the only rock star in the world named after a hearing aid. His school friends in Dublin all gave each other nicknames, and his was "Bono Vox," Latin for "good voice," based on the Bonavox hearing aid store. Eventually he dropped the "Vox" and became the Bono we all know today.

5. Charo

Pop music icon Charo attends "Dancing with the Stars" Season 24 at CBS Televison City on March 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
David Livingston/Getty Images

Real Name: Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza

I mean, Charo is 31 characters (not including spaces) shorter than her real name, so you can see why she decided to shorten things up. But why “Charo” instead of “Maria” or even something more distinctive like “Rosario”? As it turns out, “Charo” is actually not an uncommon nickname for “Rosario.”

6. Common

Rapper Common performs on stage at The Moore Theatre on July 14, 2019 in Seattle, Washington
Mat Hayward/Getty Images

Real Name: Lonnie Corant Jaman Shuka Rashid Lynn

Lynn adopted the stage name "Common Sense" at a young age, then shortened it to Common after he was sued by a band using the name handle.

7. Drake

Drake accepts the Top Billboard 200 Album award for "Views" during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Real Name: Aubrey Drake Graham

Drake is a better rapper name than Aubrey. Back when he was an actor on Degrassi, though, Aubrey served him well.

8. Eminem

Eminem
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV

Real Name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III

The rapper’s stage name was originally M&M, a reference to his initials. He eventually began spelling it phonetically instead.

9. Enya

Singer Enya attends the Clive Davis annual Pre-Grammy Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Real Name: Eithne Ní Bhraonáin

Because she knew that most of the world would scratch their heads when presented with the Irish “Eithne,” Enya changed her name to the phonetic spelling of her real name. Yep, “Eithne” = “Enya.”

10. Flea

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs in concert during The Getaway World Tour at the AT&T Center on January 5, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas
Rick Kern/Getty Images

Real Name: Michael Peter Balzary

The itchy moniker goes back to Balzary's high school days, when friends called him “Mike B the Flea.”

11. Gotye

Musician Gotye, winner Best Alternative Music Album for "Making Mirrors" and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Somebody That I Used To Know", poses in the press room at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles,
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Real Name: Wouter “Wally” De Backer

It’s the French version of his real name, Wouter. "Wouter translates into French as 'Gaultier,'" Gotye told Interview Magazine. "When I was in my early 20s, I wanted a name for my project that was kind of personal and similar to the way that I felt about my music: using the past to broaden into the present. I called her up, and she reminded me of that name. I decided how to spell it as a kind of jumbled surname, Gotye. I wanted a name that had passion. I came up with my own spelling for it, and that’s where it comes from."

12. Hammer

MC Hammer attends the premiere of Lionsgate's "All Eyez On Me" on June 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
David Livingston/Getty Images

Real Name: Stanley Kirk Burrell

Yeah, if you’re of a certain age, you probably know him as MC Hammer, but he dropped the Master of Ceremonies a while back. The “U Can’t Touch This” rapper and former batboy for the Oakland A's received his nickname from an unlikely source: Pedro Garcia, then of the Milwaukee Brewers, who thought a young Burrell was a dead ringer for Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. (Reggie Jackson has also taken credit for the nickname.)

13. Ice-T

Ice-T performs onstage at the Premiere Ceremony during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Real Name: Tracy Lauren Marrow

The name is a tribute to Iceberg Slim, a reformed pimp who later wrote novels. “I’d taken my name as a tribute to Iceberg, and then it hit me one day—dude is a writer. I thought he was fly because he was a pimp, but I realized that I really admired him because he was a writer,” Ice-T wrote in his autobiography.

14. Jay-Z

Shawn "Jay Z" Carter makes an announcement on the Steps of City Hall Downtown Los Angeles for a Labor Day Music Festival at Los Angeles City Hall on April 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Real Name: Shawn Corey Carter

There are a few theories as to where Jay-Z came from, including that he was paying homage to his mentor, Jaz-O, or that it was a nod to the spot in Brooklyn where the J and Z trains meet up. But Carter maintains that it’s just a variation on his childhood nickname, “Jazzy.”

15. Ke$ha

Kesha attends the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada
John Shearer/Getty Images

Real Name: Kesha Rose Sebert

Kesha is her real name, but the dollar sign was part of her party girl image. She’s actually just Kesha now; she dropped the symbol several years ago. In a discussion at SXSW, Kesha told Refinery 29, “I let go of my facade about being a girl who didn't care. My facade was to be strong, and I realized it was total bullshit. I took out the $ because I realized that was part of the facade.”

16. Liberace

Liberace in the back seat of a limo
Terry Disney/Getty Images

Real Name: Władziu Valentino Liberace

It's just his last name. After using the stage name “Walter Busterkeys” for a time, Liberace decided to go by his surname only as a nod to his idol, pianist Igancy Paderewski, who did the same.

17. Lizzo

Recording artist Lizzo performs at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on October 25, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
David Becker/Getty Images

Real Name: Melissa Jefferson

Contrary to popular belief, Jefferson swears that her moniker was not inspired by the Jay-Z song “Izzo.” It came about in middle school, when she and her friends created nicknames by adding “O” to the end of their names. “You would be Gayle-O,” she told Gayle King. Because the musician went by Lissa at the time, she became Lisso, which eventually evolved into Lizzo.

18. Ludacris

Rapper Ludacris performs in concert during So So Def 25th Cultural Curren$y Tour at State Farm Arena on October 21, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Real Name: Chris Bridges

"Ludacris' is something that I made up," Bridges told MTV News in 2000. "It just kind of describes me. Sometimes I have like a split personality. Sometimes I'm cool, calm, and collected, and other times I'm beyond crazy. I'm ridiculous, I'm ludicrous. Plus my birth name is Chris, so it kind of incorporates that.”

19. Madonna

Madonna performs a tribute to Prince onstage during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Real Name: Madonna Louise Ciccone

While we're in the M section: Madonna's given name is, in fact, Madonna.

20. Moby

Moby performs onstage during The Last Weekend Kickoff LA Presented by Swing Left at The Palace Theatre on November 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Real Name: Richard Melville Hall

“The basis for Richard Melville Hall—and for Moby—is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great granduncle,” Hall once explained.

21. Nenê

Nene Hilario #42 of the Houston Rockets reacts on the bench during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Toyota Center on April 3, 2018 in Houston, Texas
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Real Name: Maybyner Rodney Hilário

Nenê is one of the few mononymous people in the U.S. to have legally switched to a single name. The Brazilian basketball player, who most recently played for the Houston Rockets, was called “Nenê” as a child because he’s the youngest kid in his family and nenê is Portuguese for “baby.”

22. Pink

Recording artist Pink performs on stage during Pink at Nomadic Live! at The Armory on February 2, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Real Name: Alecia Beth Moore

According to the magenta musician herself, it was a cruel childhood nickname: "It was a mean thing at first; some kids at camp pulled my pants down and I blushed so much, and they were like, 'Ha ha! Look at her! She's pink!' And then the movie Reservoir Dogs came out and Mr. Pink was the one with the smart mouth, so it just happened all over again."

23. Prince


BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Real Name: Prince Rogers Nelson

The artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was, indeed, born Prince Rogers Nelson.

24. ?uestlove

Questlove of music group The Roots performs onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET

Real Name: Ahmir Khalib Thompson

Before he was ?uestlove, the former Ahmir Khalib Thompson wanted to be plain old ?, which he meant to mean “anonymous.” When people started calling him “Question Mark,” he changed his name again to “B.R.O. the R. ?” That didn’t work either: fans thought his name was Brother Question Mark. He finally arrived at ?uestlove because “in the old days, your name ended in rock, ski or love. ?uestrock was not happening and neither was ?uestski. So ?uestlove became my new old school name, ’cause I’m so old school!”

25. Raffi

Real Name: Raffi Cavoukian

Because when your name is actually Raffi, you don’t need a surname.

26. Rihanna

Rihanna attends the Queen & Slim at AFI FEST 2019.
Rihanna attends the Queen & Slim premiere at AFI FEST 2019.
FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY IMAGES

Real Name: Robyn Rihanna Fenty

The singer/actor from Barbados goes by her middle name professionally. "I get kind of numb to Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna," she told Rolling Stone, noting that her close friends and family still call her by her first name. "When I hear Robyn, I pay attention."

27. Sade

Singer/songwriter Sade performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena September 3, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Real Name: Helen Folasade Adu

Though her given name may be Helen, no one has ever referred to the velvet-voiced singer as such. Her parents called her Sade, a shortened version of her middle name, from a young age.

28. Sinbad

Sinbad attends Pilot Pen & GBK Celebration Lounge - Day 2 at LÕErmitage on September 15, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for GBK Productions

Real Name: David Adkins

Adkins thought using one distinctive name would help him stand out in the saturated world of stand-up comedy. He chose Sinbad after the mythological seafarer, telling Ebony magazine: “Sinbad was a leader. When monsters would show up, the men would scream out Sinbad’s name. He wasn’t the biggest guy, but he was clever and resourceful. He was a loner and lived life as a journey.”

29. Skrillex

Skrillex performs during the SnowGlobe Music Festival 2019 at Bijou Park on December 31, 2019 in South Lake Tahoe, California
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Real Name: Sonny John Moore

Here’s another case of a high school nickname that got carried over into adulthood. “Throughout my teen years my friends would call me Skrillex or Skril or Skrilly. Just became a stupid nickname that came out of the social online networking handles," Moore explained. "Really means nothing.”

30. Slash

Slash performs onstage at the GIBSON NAMM JAM Opening Party 2020 at City National Grove of Anaheim on January 16, 2020 in Anaheim, California
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Gibson

Real Name: Saul Hudson

The Guns N’ Roses guitarist credits a rather surprising source for his badass nickname: character actor Seymour Cassel. Slash was friends with Cassel’s son, and after observing him always running around “in a hurry, hustling whatever it is I was hustling at the time,” Cassel dubbed him Slash.

31. Twiggy

Twiggy Lawson attends a private screening of 'The Boy Friend' hosted by Twiggy at Kings Cross Everyman Cinema on October 23, 2019 in London, England
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Everyman

Real Name: Lesley Lawson (née Hornby)

When the fashion model was just a girl, kids at school referred to her as “Sticks” because she was so thin. Her boyfriend later gave her a slightly nicer (?) version of the nickname, which became her name when she hit it big. “Twiggy is a stupid name for a woman in her 40s,” she once remarked, “But it would be hard to drop.”

32. Usher

Usher performs at the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California
John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Real Name: Usher Terry Raymond IV

Let’s just say it’s a good thing Usher didn’t go the route of Drake and other celebs who eschewed their first names for their “cooler” middle names.

33. Voltaire

Portrait of French writer, essayist and philosopher Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), author of "Candide
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Real Name: François-Marie Arouet

Is it any surprise that Voltaire liked wordplay? The Latinized spelling of his surname is “AROVET LI,” and “Voltaire” is an anagram of that.

34. will.i.am

Will.i.am attends The Voice UK 2019 photocall at The Soho Hotel on December 16, 2019 in London, England
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Real Name: William James Adams, Jr.

“I liked playing with words. I noticed that my name was a sentence, meaning one with will, who is strong-willed. And so I called my mom and said, ‘Hey, Mom, do you mind if I call myself Will.i.am?’ She was like: ‘Whaaa? You’re crazy.’ She was cool with it.”

35. Yanni

Yanni performs at The Greek Theatre on June 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Oliver Walker/Getty Images

Real Name: He was born Yiannis Chryssomallis, though that's sometimes Americanized to John Yanni Christopher.

See “Raffi,” above. Actually, Yiannis is a very common name in Chryssomallis's native Greece. He was known as “John” to his classmates at the University of Minnesota. Yanni is a just a slight variation of his given name.

36. Zendaya

Zendaya attends the Bvlgari B.zero1 Rock collection event at Duggal Greenhouse on February 06, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Real Name: Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman

Zendaya is her real name. She’s never used her last name professionally, though, because her first name is so distinctive. “I [dropped my last name because I] just thought it was cool, like Cher or Prince,” she told Allure.

37. Zucchero

Zucchero Sugar Fornaciari attends the 70° Festival di Sanremo (Sanremo Music Festival) at Teatro Ariston on February 05, 2020 in Sanremo, Italy
Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

Real Name: Adelmo Fornacirari

Zucchero is the Italian word for sugar, a name given to him by one of his elementary school teachers. It’s also an apt description for his sweet, sweet music: The Italian musician has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Pavarotti and has a couple of World Music Awards and a Grammy nom under his belt.

54 Super Facts for Your Super Bowl Party

Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

Want to be the smartest person in the room at this year's Super Bowl party? Bust out a few of these fun facts about Big Games past.

1. Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest eating day of the year.

plate of chicken wings
iStock.com/bhofack2

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Super Bowl Sunday is America's "second-largest food consumption day." (Only Thanksgiving Day beats it.)

2. Those rumors about sewage systems failing because of all the flushing toilets during halftime are just that: rumors.

Close-up of a toilet flushing
kanjana intaounwong/iStock via Getty Images

A persistent rumor says that sewage systems in major cities occasionally fail during Super Bowl halftimes, because a large volume of people supposedly all flush their toilets simultaneously. Don't worry! There's absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

3. Peyton Manning is the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams: the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and the Denver Broncos in 2016.

4. Phil Simms was paid a lot of money to say he was celebrating his Super Bowl win by "going to Disney World."

Phil Simms is going to Disney World
Allsport/Getty Images

Phil Simms was paid $75,000 to shout "I'm going to Disney World” on the field moments after his Giants won Super Bowl XXI. Disney also paid Denver’s John Elway the same amount of money to yell the same thing—just in case his team won.

5. Two teams are tied for most Super Bowl wins—and a third could join them after Super Bowl LIV.

Mewelde Moore #21 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates holds up the Vince Lombardi trophy as he celebrates with his daughter Jalyn Chantelle after their 27-23 win against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009
Jamie Squire, Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots are tied for the record for most Super Bowl wins, having captured six Vince Lombardi Trophies apiece. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have each won five.

6. The New England Patriots have both won and lost the most Super Bowls.

 Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes as Wesley Woodyard #52 of the Denver Broncos defends during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014
Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

Which team has lost the most? That would be a tie between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, who've each dropped five Super Bowl matchups.

7. Super Bowl fans would really like to see "Weird" Al Yankovic take the stage at halftime.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A 2014 Change.org petition to "Have Weird Al Yankovic Headline the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show" received more than 100,000 signatures.

8. Super Bowl I was far from a sell-out event.

A fan holds up a ticket to Super Bowl 50 outside Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

The priciest tickets to Super Bowl I, which was played on January 15, 1967, cost $12. Adjusted for inflation, that's the equivalent of about $89 today. And even at that bargain price, the event still didn't sell out.

9. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the first Super Bowl-winning team to visit the White House.

Jimmy Carter greets the Pittsburgh Steelers, 1980
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

In 1980, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the first Super Bowl-winning team to visit the White House. They visited with Jimmy Carter in a joint ceremony with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had won the 1979 World Series.

10. When it comes to accommodations, a Super Bowl host city is sometimes forced to get creative.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When Jacksonville, Florida, hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, the city didn't have enough hotel rooms to meet the NFL's requirements. So in their bid to serve as the Big Game's host, they had to recruit five docked cruise ships as "floating hotels" for the event.

11. Maryland sports fans had good reason to not love New York back in 1969.

Joe Namath
Elsa/Getty Images

Maryland sports fans must have really hated the Big Apple in 1969. On January 12 of that year, the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Nine months later, the New York Mets prevailed over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in the '69 World Series.

12. The Super Bowl I halftime show included 300 pigeons.

iStock

The Super Bowl I halftime show consisted of two marching bands, acclaimed trumpeter Al Hirt, two men in jet packs, and 300 pigeons.

13. Western Pennsylvania produces a lot of star quarterbacks.

Joe Montana and Dan Marino
DOUG COLLIER/AFP/Getty Images

Western Pennsylvania is quarterback country. Six Hall of Fame QBs hail from this region, five of whom (Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly) played in at least one Super Bowl each as quarterbacks. The sixth, George Blanda, competed as a placekicker in Super Bowl II.

14. There's a simple way to determine who will be the "home" team.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

In odd-numbered Super Bowls, the NFC team is the designated "home" team while AFC teams enjoy that honor during the even-numbered Super Bowls.

15. Super Bowl XLIV broke a longstanding TV ratings record.

M*A*S*H
Keystone/Getty Images

In 1983, 105.97 million people tuned in to the final episode of M*A*S*H, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in American history. It took more than a quarter-century, but in February 2010, Super Bowl XLIV finally broke that record when 106.5 million people watched the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts. Subsequent Super Bowls have broken even that record, with Super Bowl XLIX—which was played on February 1, 2015—currently holding the top spot, with 114.4 million viewers on average.

16. A record dollar amount is being (legally) bet in 2020.

Getty Images

It's estimated that more than $325 million will be (legally) bet on Super Bowl LIV—a record number.

17. In 1971, a member of the losing team was named MVP for the first (and so far only) time.

Chuck Howley
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Although the Baltimore Colts beat Dallas in Super Bowl V in 1971, Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game's MVP. He's the only player in history to earn this honor as a member of the losing team.

18. The Vince Lombardi trophy is crafted by a company everyone knows.

Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan
Tom Hauck /Allsport

The Vince Lombardi Trophies—a new one of which is handed out every year—are made out of sterling silver by Tiffany & Co.

19. A power outage put a halt to Super Bowl XLVII.

Super Bowl blackout (Superdome 2013)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

A power outage at New Orleans's Superdome put Super Bowl XLVII on hold for 34 minutes.

20. Installing new sod for a Super Bowl game is a pretty big task.

Super Bowl 50
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

A fresh layer of high-quality, natural sod is installed on the field prior to each Super Bowl played on natural grass. For Super Bowl 50, the company West Coast Turf harvested 75,000 square feet of premium grass on the NFL’s behalf.

21. Boston's former mayor had to send a lot of Dunkin' products to New York when they lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Giants Super Bowl XLII victory parade
Al Bello/Getty Images

In 2008, then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino lost a high-stakes bet to his Gotham counterpart when the Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Because of New England's defeat, Menino had to send a truckload of Massachusetts delicacies—including 42 pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (because it was the 42nd Super Bowl) and 12 dozen Boston cream pies (a reference to Tom Brady's number)—to New York City, where the food was donated to charity.

22. Jim McMahon embraced the pre-Super Bowl spotlight.

Jim McMahon, Super Bowl XX
Getty Images North America

A few days before Super Bowl XX in 1986, Bears QB Jim McMahon mooned a TV news helicopter that was flying over one of Chicago's practice sessions.

23. There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl.

NFL logo
Tom Hauck/Staff/Getty Images

There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins hold the record for fewest points scored in a Super Bowl; in 1972, they lost to Dallas, 24-3.

24. Only one Super Bowl game has gone into overtime.

Pats overtime TD
Elsa/Getty Images

Super Bowl LI was the first one to ever go into overtime. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.

25. For the first time ever, there were no cheerleaders at Super Bowl XLV.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLV was the first one in history that didn't include cheerleaders. That's because neither of the game's participating teams—the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the Green Bay Packers—has a professional cheerleading squad.

26. Cleveland has neither played in nor hosted a Super Bowl.

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Cleveland is the only current NFL city that has neither hosted a Super Bowl nor seen its own team, the Browns, make an appearance in one.

27. There was a major mishap when the second half kicked off in Super Bowl I.

football on field
iStock.com/tomazl

During Super Bowl I in 1967, NBC was still in commercial when the second half kicked off. Officials asked the Packers to kick off again.

28. The 1989 halftime show was broadcast in 3D.

Dan Witkowski

The 1989 Super Bowl halftime show was broadcast in 3D (a novelty for the time). In it, a magician dressed like Elvis Presley ("Elvis Presto") had the entire stadium participate in a round of the classic “Is this your card?” trick.

29. In 1977, a frisbee-catching dog provided some pre-game entertainment.

dog catching frisbee
iStock.com/Mordolff

Another unusual spectacle was the 1977 Super Bowl pre-game show, which included a Frisbee-catching dog named Ashley Whippet.

30. Lisa Simpson correctly guessed the winner of Super Bowl XXVI.

Lisa Simpson Predicts Super Bowl XXVI
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Springfield's resident wunderkind really knows her football. In an episode of The Simpsons which aired on January 23, 1992, Lisa correctly guessed that Washington would beat Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI, which was played three days later.

31. Not sitting president has ever attended a Super Bowl.

Titans fan Al Gore
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images

No sitting president has ever attended a Super Bowl. However, four sitting vice presidents—Spiro Agnew, George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, and Mike Pence—have made Big Game appearances.

32. The NFC had a 13-year winning streak.

Getty Images

From 1985 to 1997, the NFC won 13 straight Super Bowls. During that streak, the NFC clubs outscored their AFC opponents by a cumulative score of 490-219.

33. Things got messy at the White House celebration for Super Bowl XXI.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum

While celebrating the Giants' Super Bowl XXI victory with President Reagan at the White House, linebacker Harry Carson emptied a Gatorade tub of popcorn over the Gipper's head.

34. John Candy caused a momentary bit of distraction.

George Rose/Getty Images

On San Francisco's Super Bowl XXIII game-winning drive in 1989, Joe Montana saw a celebrity spectator; in mid-huddle, he nonchalantly asked his teammates, "Hey, isn't that John Candy over there?"

35. Joe Salave'a had the perfect answer to a reporter's question on Super Bowl Media Day 2000.

RICK RUNION/AFP/Getty Images

On Super Bowl Media Day in 2000, a reporter asked then-Titans defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, "What's your relationship with the football?" He replied: "I'd say it's strictly platonic."

36. There's been a fair amount of back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images

Back-to-back Super Bowl victories aren't as rare as you might think. The Packers, Dolphins, 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers have all pulled off this feat. In fact, Pittsburgh has won back-to-back Super Bowls on two separate occasions.

37. The Super Bowl has given some popular TV shows a great start.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Wonder Years, Family Guy, and Undercover Boss all made their premieres immediately after the Super Bowl.

38. The 1985 Chicago Bears were nominated for a Grammy.

Mike Powell/Getty Images

The 1985 Bears recorded a hit rap song called "Super Bowl Shuffle," which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. (It lost to Prince & the Revolution's "Kiss.")

39. Joe Montana had a perfect Super Bowl record.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Joe Montana not only emerged victorious from all four of his Super Bowl appearances, he did it without throwing a single interception in any of those games.

40. A streaker interrupted the 2004 Super Bowl.

Super Bowl streaker
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Just before the second-half kickoff in the 2004 Super Bowl, a man disguised as a referee stripped down to a G-string and streaked across the field. Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham was able to knock him to the ground, enabling security to apprehend the hooligan.

41. The coin used for Super Bowl XLIV's coin flip was out-of-this world.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV featured an unusual piece of memorabilia: The coin that was flipped right before the game had previously spent 11 days orbiting the Earth on a NASA space mission.

42. A California Aquarium hosts an Otter Bowl.

Otter!!
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

For the past several years, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, has hosted an annual Otter Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday, where a group of these adorable mammals play around with a football while a staffer narrates the action. The event was canceled in 2019 so that the aquarium and its visitors could pay tribute to Brook, a popular, 21-year-old sea otter resident who passed away shortly before the event following a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. The event has returned for 2020 though.

43. Tom Brady is the NFL's most winning quarterback.

Super Bowl QB Tom Brady
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New England Patriots' Tom Brady has won six Super Bowls, more than any other starting quarterback. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana won four apiece.

44. The player who scored the first-ever Super Bowl touchdown was hungover.

referee calling a touchdown
iStock.com/groveb

The very first Super Bowl touchdown was scored in 1967 by Packers wide receiver Max McGee (who was hungover at the time). 

45. Super Bowl players get pretty hefty bonuses.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Super Bowl bonuses are a thing. In 2019, every player on the Pats' championship roster earned $118,000 for winning. The defeated Los Angeles Rams received $59,000 each as a consolation prize.

46. University of Alabama and Purdue University have a good track record when it comes to quarterbacks.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Two colleges have produced three Super Bowl-winning starting quarterbacks: the University of Alabama (Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Ken Stabler) and Purdue University (Len Dawson, Bob Griese, and Drew Brees).

47. The Super Bowl used to go by a much longer name.

Green Bay Packers defensive linemen Willie Davis (left) and Henry Jordan (right) tackle Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (middle) in Super Bowl I.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The event we now call the "Super Bowl" originally went by a duller name: "The AFL-NFL World Championship Game." Although "Super Bowl" has been used unofficially since the very first game, the term wasn't officially recognized by the league until a few years later, with the name first appearing on the cover of the program in 1969 and on the ticket in 1970.

48. Forty years after winning Super Bowl VII, the Miami Dolphins were (finally) invited to the White House.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In 2013, 40 years after winning Super Bowl VII, the famous perfect-season Miami Dolphins were invited to the White House by Barack Obama.

49. A (presumably) excited fan stole Don Shula's watch in 1973.

Don Shula
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

As Don Shula was being carried off the field after the Dolphins' Super Bowl win in 1973, a fan reached up to shake his hand—and stole his watch.

50. The Super Bowl XXX website was banned by some servers.

Al Bello/Allsport/Getty Images

During the 1995-1996 season, some proxy servers blocked the Super Bowl website because it was Super Bowl XXX.

51. Hunter S. Thompson wrote about a couple of Super Bowls.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Hunter S. Thompson covered Super Bowls VII and VIII for Rolling Stone.

52. Ratings for the 1993 Super Bowl went up during Michael Jackson's halftime show.

Michael Jackson Super Bowl Halftime 1993
Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images

In 1993, Michael Jackson's halftime performance had higher ratings than the game itself.

53. Tom Brady is the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Tom Brady at the Super Bowl
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In 2019, Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at age 41—he beat Peyton Manning, who led the Broncos to a Super Bowl win in 2016 at age 39.

54. Kyle Shanahan is making history in Super Bowl LIV.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with his father, Mike Shanahan, after winning the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is making his Super Bowl debut in 2020—making he and his dad, Mike Shanahan (who led the Denver Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl victories in XXXII and XXXIII) the first father-son duo to each make a Super Bowl appearance as head coach.

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