Step Up to the Plate
1. Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball
Doubleday is more often cited as the inventor of baseball than any other person. While the true inventor is still a bone of contention with many, it certainly wasn’t Doubleday. One man who definitely should be considered for the position is Alexander Cartwright. He is the one who founded one of the first baseball teams, the New York Knickerbockers, and published the first guidebook with the rules and regulations of baseball. His Knickerbockers would play the first official game of baseball against the New York Nine. While it’s unlikely that any single person can take sole credit for inventing the sport, Congress nevertheless recognizes Cartwright as the inventor.
But where does Doubleday come in? What does a Civil War general have to do with baseball? Well, according to the story, Doubleday invented the game as a young man in his hometown of Cooperstown, New York. Later on, a group dubbed the Mills Commission was founded in order to track down the origins of the sport. One of the men, in particular, named Albert Spalding, wanted the game to be 100% American. Back then it was simply seen as a variation of the English game rounders. When the commission stumbled upon the story of Doubleday, they decided that it’s the truth, not necessarily because there was any evidence to support the idea, but because it was the most convenient choice.
2. Ice Hockey Is Canadian
Right off the bat, let’s specify that this is not yet established for certain. Plenty of hockey experts still argue that Canada was the birthplace of this beloved Canadian pastime, whether we’re talking about Windsor, Nova Scotia or Montreal which had the first organized hockey team and published the first official set of rules.
However, other historians (Canadian, I might add) are now claiming that the UK was actually where hockey first got started. They cite British sources that make references to hockey way before the game was played in Canada. Oddly enough, one of their main sources for the sport is…Charles Darwin. Yes, that Charles Darwin. They presented a letter of his from 1853 to his son William in which the two talk about playing “hocky” on an icy pond.
3. Basketball Is American
To make it fair, it should be mentioned that a Canadian did invent basketball. James Naismith has long been credited with inventing the sport in 1891. He also published the first official rulebook for the sport and founded the first basketball program at the University of Kansas. To be sure, basketball was invented in America, but Naismith was from Almonte, Canada. He would eventually go on to become an American citizen, but this didn’t happen until 1925, almost 35 years after he invented basketball. This is why he is included in the Canadian Sports, Olympic and Basketball Halls of Fame, but not in the American ones.
4. William Webb Ellis Invented Rugby
This one could be true. There’s simply no evidence to substantiate the tale apart from stories passed-down from one person to another. The story goes that in 1823, while at Rugby school (meaning a school in the town of Rugby, England, not a school where you learn rugby), young William Webb Ellis was playing a game of football with other classmates. Then, showing complete disregard for the rules, he picked up the ball in his hands and made a run for it, thus creating a completely new game.
The actual story didn’t actually surface until a few years after Ellis’ death, further casting doubts on it. It was then investigated and no substantial evidence was found to support it. Even so, it remains a popular tale even today and the “William Webb Ellis Trophy” is even awarded to the champions. For what it’s worth, Rugby school presents the story as fact.
5. Michael Jordan Was Cut from His High School Team
Nowadays, this one is used more as a motivational story. If someone fails at something, you just tell them how they have to work hard and try again because even Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
The problem is that that’s not really what happened. Jordan wasn’t so much “cut” as he was moved, as an underclassman, to the junior varsity team. This is actually quite common for sophomores. Most spots on the team would have already been occupied by returning players so Jordan would not have seen a lot of minutes anyway. Exceptions were made for tall players, but Mike was only 5’10” back then. Instead, he played junior varsity and had an excellent year, showing people glimpses of the legend-to-come.
6. Muscle Turns into Fat If You Don’t Exercise
So you take a lean, muscle-bound Adonis and make him stop exercising for a year and then he becomes a flabby mess. His muscles turned into fat, right? It certainly might look that way, but muscle cannot turn into fat just like your kidneys cannot turn into lungs. They are simply two different things. What actually happens is that the muscle mass begins to shrink and it is replaced (not transformed) by adipose (fatty) tissue. In the hypothetical scenario above, the fitness buff who stopped working out is still likely to consume as many calories as he used to except that now he isn’t burning them off in the gym. This means that he can pack on the pounds quite fast because his calorie intake is still high, but his energy expenditure has decreased considerably.
7. The Length of the Marathon Comes from Ancient Greece
A true marathon isn’t just a really long race. It has a specific length set in 1921 by the International Amateur Athletic Federation – 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 km). But why such a specific number? Surely there must be a story behind it, right? Well, there is. According to legend, the distance comes from the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. A Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran that exact distance from Marathon to Athens in order to inform everyone of their victory. Upon arriving in Athens, he had just enough energy to mention the victory before dying of exhaustion.
Fast-forward a few thousand years to the modern Olympics. The creator of the modern games, Pierre de Coubertin, liked that story so he decided to use it once marathons became an Olympic event. However, before 1921, the distances always varied. They were around 25 miles which is roughly the distance between the two ancient Greek cities. Even if the story of Pheidippides was 100% true, nobody would know precisely how far the man ran down to the last yard. The distance of 26 miles and 385 yards comes from the 1908 event held in London. That marathon stretched from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, finishing in front of the Royal Box. 13 years later, this would be adopted as the standard length of a marathon.
8. Black Belts Are Martial Arts Experts
You can look up dojos online right now and find places that guarantee you a black belt in about 2 years and even have programs for kids. So you see a 12-year old with a black belt – does that make them a master of the martial arts? No, of course not. It is this idea we have that black belts make people lethal weapons. We want to be able to say we’re black belts as fast and with as little effort as possible so that is what dojos offer us.
For starters, black belts are not some ancient, mystical element. They were invented in the 1880s by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. However, he awarded them to his students when they completed their first step in training, not when they became masters. He also created the dan/kyu ranking systems which are still used today by most martial arts. They are a far better representation of the skill level of a fighter than the color of his belt since a 1st Dan and a 10th Dan can both wear black belts but the difference between them is like night and day.
9. Wally Pipp’s Sick Day Started Lou Gehrig’s Famous Streak
Lou Gehrig played for 14 years straight (2,130 games) for the New York Yankees, earning him the nickname “The Iron Horse” before being struck with ALS. However, all of this supposedly started when regular Yankees first baseman, Wally Pip, called in sick. According to the story, Pipp had a headache and took a sick day and his coach used a young rookie by the name of Lou Gehrig to fill his position.
While it’s true that Gehrig took Pipp’s job, it wasn’t because Pipp was feeling bad one day, it was simply because Gehrig was a better player. The Yankees weren’t having such a great season so management decided to start experimenting with the lineups. Gehrig stepped up to his position, did a good job and stayed there from 1925 until 1939.
10. LeBron James Started the Superteams Fad
Usually, most NBA teams will have one, maybe two superstars on their rosters. Salary restrictions would normally prevent them from acquiring more than that even if they represent a lucrative market like New York or Los Angeles. And this is done in order to keep things fair. However, LeBron James put a stop to that when he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Three genuine All-Stars on the same team. Since then, every other team with real hopes of winning the championship has been trying to create their own superteam and this is taking the fun out of basketball.
At least that’s the story. How good superteams are for the sport is up for debate, but they have been around long before LeBron’s decision to take his talents to South Beach. The 2008 Celtics are a good example – Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought in to team with Paul Pierce and they won a championship that same year. Before them, Gary Payton and Karl Malone were brought to the Lakers to play with Shaq & Kobe with less successful results. Michael Jordan, as good as he was, wasn’t alone on that team – he had Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Plenty of other superteams have been in the NBA before the LeBron-led Miami Heat and it’s not always a guarantee that they will be a success.