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Category Archives: Sports

Whereas Andy Kaufman (1949 – 1984) was one of the funniest entertainers you will ever see, he did not consider himself a comedian. He grew up admiring the razzmatazz of wrestling, and in 1979, as the self-proclaimed “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World”, he offered a $1,000 prize to any woman who could pin him.
A challenge from wrestling superstar Jerry “The King” Lawler set in motion an extraordinary chain of events(Kaufman getting hammered in the ring by Lawler; an injured Kaufman goading Lawler live on TV and getting smacked again, despite his neck-brace) which transpired to be an elaborate hoax in which the two had colluded.


In 1976 Maurice Flitcroft entered the qualifying tournament for the British Open Golf Championship.
Mr. Flitcroft, a 46 year old crane driver from Barrow, had only ever played golf on his local playing fields. He bought his clubs from a mail order company. His imposture was soon recognized as he carded the worst score ever in the tournament, 121 (49 over par).

Do you like volleyball? Look at the folks in this Bacardi advert- from 1979. They’ve given up on the volleyball and are about to succumb to alcoholism. If you’ve ever spent an hour in 40 degree heat trying to batter an old football over a saggy net, spending most of the time falling on your ass blinded by sweat and chewing sand you’ll understand the temptation to reach for the bottle.
When in 1895 William G. Morgan of Holyoke (Mas.) YMCA devised Mintonette as an indoor game to rival basketball, it was rather devoid of glamour. Beach volleyball evolved in the 1920’s amongst the surfers of Hawaii, soon spreading to California. (For more on the history of beach volleyball…)

This picture shows an early beach volleyball gathering in Hawaii:

Here we see actress and model Greta Thyssen with Gene Selznick and Bernie Holtzman, winners of the 1957 state beach open, Santa Monica, California.

Impromptu games resembling volleyball were a feature of Kartoshka family vacations back in the day.

In the above pic are a very young Pa Kartoshka, Maria – Bethania, one of Uncle Carlos’ innumerable ‘step children’, and the man himself- Carlos Alberto Dos Santos, aka Uncle Carlos.
These days of course, the beach volleyball is notable for the way in which male fans turn out in large numbers purely to show their appreciation for the athletic prowess of the female competitors:

July brings us to possibly the greatest event in the sporting calender.
So they take drugs?
Surely, they would be mad not to.

In it’s 107 year history the Tour de France has given us a great many stories of endeavour and fortitude; romantic triumphs and tragic failures litter its history like discarded water bottles.
Something that the uninitiated often overlook is that cycling is a team sport. Whereas to win the Yellow Jersey appears to be a supreme individual achievement, the great riders also rely on hard work and sacrifice from their companions, most of whom will never become household names. Let’s look at two stories concerning the French rider, Rene Vietto (1914-1988).

In the 1934 Tour Vietto was doing very well in the mountain stages, and went on to win that years King of the Mountains. However, on stage 16 , his team captain, Antonin Magne (1904- 1983) damaged a wheel and , alerted by a motorcycle marshal, Vietto rode back to give Magne his cycle, effectively sacrificing his opportunity to take the Yellow Jersey.


Vietto following his act of sacrifice…

When racing resumed after the war, Vietto had graduated to a position of greater seniority. His relationship with his juniors, however, was strange to say the least. During the 1947 Tour Vietto suffered from a septic toe. His only hope of continuing the race was to have the afflicted digit amputated on a rest day. Vietto insisted that his teammate Apo Lazarides (1925-1998) underwent the same procedure. Lazarides, who had aided the French Resistance movement during the Nazi Occupation, was so much under Vietto’s spell that he went along with this.*
Later on in the race Vietto narrowly avoided a bizarre accident when an aeroplane crashed on the course, and was also said to have performed badly in the time trial because he had drunk a bottle of cider during the stage.

Vietto passes the recently crashed plane…

Vietto (who holds the record for having won most Yellow Jerseys without having been the overall winner of the Tour) finished 5th, Lazarides 10th, both limping slightly. Vietto’s toe is said to be preserved in a jar of formaldehyde in a bar in Marseilles. The whereabouts of Lazarides toe is unknown.


Apo Lazarides, dedication…

*I’m tempted to call this a footnote:
Checking the details of the 1947 Tour, it appears that Vietto and Lazarides were not team mates, but it’s a great story …

In 1971 Billie Jean King became the first woman in sport to top $100,000 winnings in a single year. In 1973 she earned an estimated $150,000 for playing a single match. At the time Billie Jean, age 29, was the worlds number one. Her opponent in this match, billed as ‘The Battle of the Sexes’, was 55 year old Bobby Riggs, whose time at the top of the men’s rankings had come in the 1940’s. The match took place in the Houston Astrodome on September 20th, 1973 in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a tennis match (30,472). An estimated 40 million watched on TV, the game being broadcast in over 30 countries. Riggs was a ‘hustler’ and a publicity maestro. In the lead up to the event he hammed it up in the role of a chauvinist. He had previously beaten Margaret Court, and vowed that despite his age, no woman could beat him, and he promised to jump off a bridge if he lost, although it is rumoured that he bet heavily on his opponent.
King was borne into the arena on a gold chariot, carried by five toga-clad men. True to character Riggs arrived in a gold rickshaw pulled by six young women who were referred to as Bobby’s Bosom Buddies.
Billie Jean won with relative ease, a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 straight sets victory.

(click to enlarge)

Has ever a sport done so much for fashion as golf? Being the preserve of the bourgeoisie and steeped in tradition and etiquette golf demanded smart but serviceable attire. Whereas the earliest pros would be decked out as if they were going grouse shooting on the inhospitable Scottish moors, by the middle of the 20th century golf was developing a sartorial code of it’s own.
Top line:Here we see Henry Cotton sporting an Argyle sweater and plus fours.Sam Snead has a very rakish American style, the F. Scott Fitzgerald of the sportsworld, whereas debonair Max Faulkner looks as though he’s just popped out of the office.
Kathy Whitworth shows the move into more chic and daring styles for lady golfers in the swinging sixties. Middle line: Ben Hogan- the master of casual; four unknown gents in the thirties displaying a remarkable example of fairway dandyism; Moe Norman, a true genius of the game- this is the era when sportswear became distinct from the generic casual look- where else could a grown man wear those pants other than on the golf course? Bottom line: Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and James Bond (Sean Connery) illustrate the contrast between the old and the new. Kathy Whitworth again- modern prints, slim waist, suntan; Kel Nagle, the Australian penchant for hats reached into the present day thanks to Greg Norman; Gary Player typifies the slim clean cut look of the sixties- the first mod- golfer.
In the next few weeks we’ll see the US open and The British Open- there will probably be some remarkable outfits on display, but I doubt that any will match the elegance of the bygone days of tweed and hickory shafts.