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There are 44 million words in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I recently read every single one of them and lived to write a book about it. Here, a concise encyclopedia of the best sports trivia.
Basketball -- The score of the first basketball game--played in 1891 with a soccer ball and peach baskets--was 1--0, thanks to a midcourt basket by William R. Chase. Presumably, Chase then signed a multihundred-dollar cream-soda endorsement deal.
Bobsledding -- The name comes from the early belief that if the sledders bobbed their heads back and forth, it would help increase their speed. It didn't, but it did help them look incredibly dorky.
Caravaggio -- The baroque painter Caravaggio was the John McEnroe of his day. He killed a man during a brawl over the score of a tennis match.
Catchers, Multiple -- When baseball was first played, teams had a second catcher behind the regular catcher whose job was to field foul balls. What Mike Piazza would give for that.
Football -- Football players in 1905 killed more people on the field than current players do off the field. Eighteen players died from injuries during the college season. Teddy Roosevelt had a presidential commission investigate. From that came a shorter game and the forward pass.
Gloves, Boxing -- Bare-knuckle boxing, oddly enough, caused less brain damage than gloved boxing. The combatants didn't want to hurt their hands, so they rarely hit an opponent's head.
Gold Medals -- An Olympic gold medal is actually silver, plated with six grams of gold. So Marion Jones can take comfort in that.
Golf -- Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Scots did not invent golf. The true inventors were the Dutch. The Scots, though, did give us the first woman golfer-- Mary, Queen of Scots. A literal golf widow, she got arrested for playing golf too soon after the death of her husband.
Heisman, John -- The legendary football coach--he of the trophy--was also a noted Shakespearean actor. His pep talks were often peppered with Bard-speak, and he called the football a "prolate spheroid." Sounds like Bill Parcells and his love of quoting Henrik Ibsen. Well, maybe I just imagined that last part.