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The Fan Club: Spectacular Stories of Storied Spectators

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It's a great day for people who root for stuff. Over at YesButNoButYes, our good friend Jellio has a great post on the world's most rabid fan bases. As a companion piece, we've compiled a less controversial list of noteworthy fans. Some of these not-so-secret admirers could sell their own jerseys in stadium stores; some should be locked up (and one is).

+Bobby Murcer's Biggest Fan. Our first story has a fairy-tale middle and a horrible ending. In August of '77, Bobby Murcer of the Cubs promised to hit a home run for terminally ill fan Scott Crull. That night, Murcer hit two of them. Pretty amazing, especially when you consider Murcer only hit nine homers the whole next season. But that's not why Crull "“ a 12-year-old from Calumet City, Illinois, with bone cancer "“ makes this list.

Broadcasting the game nationally on ABC, Keith Jackson told the country how Murcer had fulfilled the dying boy's last wish. Eyes watered, spines tingled. There was only one problem "“ nobody had ever told the boy he was dying. His parents were horrified. Three weeks later, Crull passed away.

stewart_hair.jpg+The John 3:16 Guy. Also known as "Rainbow Man," the born-again Rollen Stewart and his John 3:16 signs were fixtures at major events in the 1970s and 80s. He brought his message to the World Series, Super Bowl, Olympics, and World Cup. He was outside Buckingham Palace when Di & Charles wed; he went to see the Pope in Alaska. But he was more religious fanatic than sports fan. According to the LA Times, Stewart planned to assassinate President Bush and candidate Clinton in 1992. And he's now serving three life sentences for holding a maid hostage at a Los Angeles Hyatt, also in 1992.

By the way, chapter three, verse sixteen of the Gospel of John says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is also printed on cups at the In-N-Out Burger.

+The All-Star Heckler. For 12 years, Maryland lawyer and Washington Bullets fan Robin Ficker was the NBA's most prominent heckler. robin_ficker.jpgWith season tickets behind the visiting team's bench, his antics were legendary. When he reminded Frank Layden of the Jazz that USA Today had rated him Worst Dressed Coach, Layden had to be restrained by security. With the Bulls in town, Ficker loudly read excerpts of Maverick, coach Phil Jackson's sex-laden 1975 autobiography. During the 1993 Suns-Bulls NBA Finals, Charles Barkley (of the Suns) flew Ficker to Phoenix and bought him a ticket behind the Chicago bench. Ficker was ejected in the first quarter.

The Bullets became the Wizards in 1997 and moved into the MCI Center the following season. Ficker's new seats were not in shouting distance from the visiting team, forcing him into heckling retirement. Last week he received 9.5% of the vote in a losing bid for for Montgomery County Executive.

+Kim Jong-il. That's right, the world's most feared dictator is a hoops junkie. During a 2000 visit, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented him a basketball signed by Michael Jordan. The Chicago Bulls are the favorite team of Kim Jong-il, who is reported to curate a video library of every game Jordan ever played. At 5'3", the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army is roughly the same height as Mugsy Bogues.

+The Good Luck Charmers. Every sport has its own strange traditions. I'd argue hockey's "throwing an octopus on the ice for good luck" is the weirdest. Tossing the eight-tentacled cephalopod was the brainchild of Detroit storeowners Pete & Jerry Cusimano. The date was April 15, 1952; the logic was one tentacle for each of the eight victories it took to win the Stanley Cup. Later that spring, most likely fueled by the good luck octopus, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. PETA has objected to this practice, which continues to this day. The Red Wings mascot is not a Red Wing, but Al the Octopus.

+David Letterman's Stalker. David Letterman's biggest fan was also his biggest headache. When she was arrested for stealing Dave's Porsche in 1988, Ray told police she was Mrs. Letterman. She was a frequent trespasser on Dave's estate, once camping out on his tennis court. Ray's antics made her a regular target. But the jokes stopped in 1998, when Ray jumped in front of a moving train. The collective guilt spread when we learned she was schizophrenic, as were her two brothers, who also committed suicide.

+Joe from Saddle River. A die-hard Jets, Mets and Rangers fan, Joe Benigno was a frequent caller to WFAN, New York's sports radio station. benigno.jpgBenigno won the station's Fan Appreciation Day contest in 1994, earning a chance to guest-host his own show. By 1995, Joe was WFAN's overnight guy, a title he held for almost a decade. In 2004, he was deemed ready for daytime and given the 10am-1pm timeslot. For all the lonely and passionate talk radio callers out there, Joe gives hope.

+Steffi Graf's Biggest Fanatic. Deranged and obsessed with seeing Steffi Graf return to the top of the rankings, Gunter Parche stabbed Monica Seles during a 1993 match in one of the most disturbing incidents in sports history. Almost as disturbing was his punishment. Parche received a two-year suspended sentence and was ordered to attend mandatory counseling. Even more shocking, I can't find footage of any of this on YouTube.

Also receiving votes: John Hinckley; the fan who started the Pistons-Pacers brawl in 2004 ("The Artest Melee"); The Kissing Bandit; "Butch" from Middlebury; every Little League parent; Metallica superfan-turned-bass player Jason Newstead; Steve Bartman; AC/DShe; and Bill Rancic.

I'm sure the noteworthy fans I failed to mention could fill Giants Stadium. Consider this a wiki, and add your selections in the comments.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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