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7 Underhanded Sports Tactics (Including how to knock out a deaf guy)

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As Chris Connolly found out, cheating is unimaginative, brutish, and plain crass. Underhandedness, on the under hand, requires a certain moustache-twirling panache—a boldness that beguiles us, no matter what the rulebooks say! Here's to 7 of the Greatest Underhanded Sports Tacticians of All-Time.

1. The Real McCoy: Giving New Meaning to Hitting Below the Belt

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Seeking to psych out challengers in the days leading up to big fights, Hall of Fame boxer Charles "Kid" McCoy frequently feigned illness or spread rumors of an injury. Then, when the bout came around, McCoy would show up in perfect form. (This supposedly prompted reporters to wonder whether they'd be seeing "the real McCoy" in the ring.) But McCoy's lowest blow? In 1893, when he fought a deaf mute. Toward the end of the fourth round, McCoy simply dropped his gloves and walked back to his corner as though the bell had sounded. When the deaf fighter turned to do the same, McCoy ran over and knocked him out.

2. Red Auerbach: The Host From Hell

Coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach, the cigar-chomping mastermind behind the great Boston Celtics teams of the 1950s and 1960s, wasn't one to let any advantage go unused. Auerbach knew his home stadium inside and out and manipulated it to create one of the greatest home court advantages in the history of sport. To foster a feeling of alienation among opposing players, he would assign visiting teams a different locker room in the Boston Garden each time they came to town. To foster a feeling of nausea, he reportedly made sure at least one toilet in the visitor's quarters was stopped up and overflowing. And finally, to foster a feeling of "it's so hot I'm gonna die," he contrived to have the building's boilers stoked and steaming right before tip off and again at halftime.

3. The Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team: Playing Dumb

The grand champions of sport ethics obliteration have to be the members of the 2000 Spanish Paralympic basketball team. How low could they go? After the team snagged a gold medal, it was revealed that 10 of the 12 players had never been tested, and were, in fact, not mentally challenged.

4. Eddie Stanky and The Stanky Maneuver

One of the all-time greats at probing the limits of sports rulebooks was second baseman Eddie "The Brat" Stanky. The best evidence of Stanky's creative rule interpretations came in 1950, when baseball commissioner Ford Frick had to forbid Stanky from using what had become known as the "Stanky Maneuver," a dubious defensive tactic in which he took advantage of his position behind the pitcher by "jumping up and down while waving wildly in an attempt to distract opposing batters."

5. Jason Grimsley and The Ol' Bat-and-Switch

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When suspicions arose that Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle had been corking his bat, it made for a cloak-and-dagger spy-fest. Tipped off about Belle's bat during a 1994 game against the White Sox, umpires confiscated it and took it to a locker room for later investigation. Knowing Belle's bat was doctored, and not wanting to lose their best offensive player to a suspension, the Indians dispatched pitcher Jason Grimsley to sneak into the room and switch out the bat for a legal model. Grimsley climbed through about 10 feet of ducts and a false ceiling to pull the switch. The plan might have worked, if only he hadn't replaced it with an autographed Paul Sorrento model. The caper was quickly discovered, and Belle soon found himself suspended.

6. Donald Crowhurst and Some Not-So-Smooth Sailing

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When 36-year-old Donald Crowhurst entered the British Sunday Times Golden Globe round-the-world yacht race in 1968, all he had going for him were an experimental plywood sailboat, a little sailing experience, and a gift for underhanded improvisation.

Crowhurst set out with good intentions, but soon encountered problems with his ship. Dubious about his craft's chances in the brutal Southern Ocean near Antarctica, Crowhurst simply detoured across the Atlantic and holed up off the coast of South America at a position much farther along the course. As he waited for his competitors to catch up, Crowhurst sent out bogus radio reports claiming he was in second place. The scheme came to a tragic end, however, when he learned that Nigel Tetley, another racer, had capsized in an all-out attempt to catch him, or, at least, his reported position. Overcome with remorse, Crowhurst scratched out a confession, stepped off the side of his vessel, and committed suicide by drowning. We didn't include this story to depress you; we included it so that you couldn't accuse us of endorsing cheating.

7. Gene Bossard and the Field of Streams

For groundskeeper Gene Bossard, lending the Chicago White Sox an underhanded hand was the family business. Gene managed the turf at Comiskey Park from 1940 to 1983, and when he stepped down, his son Roger took over operations. Together, the Bossards were known for doctoring and dampening the diamond to give the Sox a true home field advantage. In fact, opposing teams took to calling the infield "Bossard's Swamp," because Gene kept it watered down to benefit the Sox's sinkerball pitchers and to slow opposing baserunners.
Bossard's most infamous trick, however, seems to be inventing the "frozen baseball." Perhaps Roger Bossard explained the phenomenon best: "In the bowels of the old stadium my dad had an old room where the humidifier was constantly going. By leaving the balls in that room for 10 to 14 days, they became a quarter- to a half-ounce heavier." The Sox manager during the frozen ball era in the late 1960s? Number 4 on this list, Eddie Stanky.

NOTE: This piece is excerpted from Chris Connolly's terrific 10 Underhanded Sports Tactics piece from Vol. 5, Issue 5 (available at the mental_floss store, here).

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Pop Culture
When MAD Magazine Got in Trouble for Printing Counterfeit Money
Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

MAD magazine has always prided itself on being a subversive, counter-culture presence. Since its founding in 1952, many celebrated comedians have credited the publication with forming their irreverent sense of humor, and scholars have noted that it has regularly served as a primer for young readers on how to question authority. That attitude frequently brought the magazine to the attention of the FBI, who kept a file on its numerous perceived infractions—like offering readers a "draft dodger" card or providing tips on writing an effective extortion letter.

The magazine's "Usual Gang of Idiots" outdid themselves in late 1967, though, when issue #115 featured what was clearly a phony depiction of U.S. currency. In addition to being valued at $3—a denomination unrecognized by the government—it featured the dim-witted face of MAD mascot Alfred E. Neuman.

The infamous $3 bill published in a 1967 issue of 'Mad' magazine
MAD Magazine

When taken at its moronic face value, there was absolutely no way anyone with any sense could have confused the bill for actual money. But what MAD hadn't accounted for was that a machine might do exactly that. Around the time of the issue's release, automated coin change machines were beginning to pop up around the country. Used in laundromats, casinos, and other places where someone needed coins rather than bills, people would feed their dollars into the unit and receive an equal amount of change in return.

At that time, these machines were not terribly sophisticated. And as a few enterprising types discovered, they didn't have the technology to really tell Alfred E. Neuman's face from George Washington's. In Las Vegas and Texas, coin unit operators were dismayed to discover that people had been feeding the phony MAD bill into the slots and getting actual money in return.

How frequently this happened isn't detailed in any source we could locate. But in 1995, MAD editor Al Feldstein, who guided the publication from its origins as a slim comic book to netting 2.7 million readers per issue, told The Comics Journal that it was enough to warrant a visit from the U.S. Treasury Department.

"We had published a three-dollar bill as some part of an article in the early days of MAD, and it was working in these new change machines which weren't as sensitive as they are now, and they only read the face," Feldstein said. "They didn't read the back. [The Treasury Department] demanded the artwork and said it was counterfeit money. So Bill [Gaines, the publisher] thought this whole thing was ridiculous, but here, take it, here's a printing of a three-dollar bill."

Feldstein later elaborated on the incident in a 2002 email interview with author Al Norris. "It lacked etched details, machined scrolls, and all of the accouterments of a genuine bill," Feldstein wrote. "But it was, however, freakishly being recognized as a one-dollar bill by the newly-introduced, relatively primitive, technically unsophisticated change machines … and giving back quarters or whatever to anyone who inserted it into one. It was probably the owner of those machines in Las Vegas that complained to the U. S. Treasury Department."

Feldstein went on to say that the government employees demanded the "printing plates" for the bill, but the magazine had already disposed of them. The entire experience, Feldstein said, was "unbelievable."

The visit didn't entirely discourage the magazine from trafficking in fake currency. In 1979, a MAD board game featured a $1,329,063 bill. A few decades later, a "twe" (three) dollar bill was circulated as a promotional item. The bills were slightly smaller than the dimensions of actual money—just in case anyone thought a depiction of Alfred E. Neuman's gap-toothed portrait was evidence of valid U.S. currency.

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Watch 18 Minutes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Bloopers
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Sometimes you just need to settle in and watch professional actors cracking up, over and over. That's what we have for you today.

In the two videos below, we get a total of 18 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers, specifically focused on Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Louis-Dreyfus cracks up, Seinfeld can't help but make it worse, goading her. It's delightful.

Sample quote (during an extended break):

Seinfeld: "We won an Emmy, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus: "Yeah, but I didn't."

Her individual Seinfeld Emmy arrived in 1996; the show started winning in 1992. But in September 2017, Louis-Dreyfus—who turns 57 years old today—set a couple of Emmy records when she won her sixth award for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.

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