7 Silly Civic Wagers on Sports

Does ketchup go well with octopus? Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is about to find out. Kilpatrick is expected to receive a shipment of Pittsburgh goodies, including Heinz ketchup, Primanti Brothers sandwiches and an octopus from Wholey's Fish Market after winning a bet with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on the outcome of the Stanley Cup finals.

No such wager on the NBA Finals was widely reported in the days leading up to Game 1 between the Celtics and Lakers, but there's still time for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to announce a bet. Count legendary sportswriter Frank Deford among those who hope they don't. "It's like teams pouring the Gatorade on the coach," Deford told the Boston Globe before February's Super Bowl. "The first time it was funny, the second time, OK. And then it never ends. It's really time to end this."

Is it time for civic bets to be retired? Take a look back at some of the more absurd wagers from the past 25 years and decide for yourself. Future public officials, take note.

1. Super Bowl XVII: Washington Redskins vs. Miami Dolphins

If Virginia Gov. Charles Robb and Florida Gov. Bob Graham wanted to be lame, they might have wagered crates of apples and oranges, respectively, on the 1983 showdown between the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. 300_honeybees.jpgInstead, they got creative. Robb put a Virginia pig named Josephine on the line, an ode to the Redskins' short and big-bellied offensive linemen, who were collectively referred to as the Hogs. Graham countered with 3,000 live Florida honeybees, a nod to the Dolphins' Killer B's defensive unit led by the likes of Bill Barnett, Bob Baumhower and Doug Betters.

Clearing space for running back John Riggins, the Hogs got the better of the B's in the game and the Redskins won 27-17. The delivery of the bees—Graham tripled his original offering and sent 9,000 total—was delayed until April by cold weather. In the meantime, Washington Post columnist Jack Eisen put in writing what many locals were probably wondering: "What f'hevvin's sake does Robb plan to do with a hive of bees, unless they're trained to sting only Republicans?" In fact, Roanoke, Va., city treasurer and beekeeper Gordon Peters housed the bees in a Super Bowl hive display in his "Honey-N-Hive Supply" store. Naturally, Virginia State Sen. Dudley "Buzz" Emick—his nickname predated the wager, believe it or not "“ aided in the delivery.

2. 1986 World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Mets
If only Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn had the foresight to wager the rights to Bill Buckner in his bet with New York City Mayor Edward Koch. After the Mets capitalized on Buckner's infamous error to come back and win Game 6 and ray-knight.jpgthen went on to win Game 7, Flynn sent Koch victory crocks of Boston baked beans and New England clam chowder. Flynn also agreed to fly a New York flag above Boston City Hall for a week, though he refused to unfurl the "I Love the New York Mets: Don't Tread on Me" variety that Koch sent him. That's when this otherwise traditional bet got interesting.

Three days after it was raised, a group that called itself the Red Sox Revenge Squad stole the flag. The group told a Boston newspaper that it would hold the banner hostage until the Mets issued a formal apology "for the behavior of their security force and fans" after Red Sox secretary Jack Rogers was hit by a bottle following Game 7. It also demanded that Koch "dress up in a bunny outfit and scream to the people of New York, "˜Ray Knight (the Mets' third baseman and Series MVP) is my Cabbage Patch twin.'" A cheap imitation flag was raised following the theft and Koch refused to give in to the demands. He issued a warning to the thieves, saying he "salted" the flag with a mysterious substance that causes it and anyone holding it to dissolve in three weeks, "just like the tapes in Mission: Impossible." Koch also suggested that, if caught, the culprits should be placed in the Boston Common stocks. Flynn fired back through a spokesman: "I think New York City should be aware that the punitive treatment applied during the Pilgrim era has gone the way of Cotton Mather." Zing.

3. 1988 NBA Finals: Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers

When Walter Moore learned that Inglewood, Calif., Mayor Ed Vincent was offering up a copy of the Los Angeles Lakers' drug awareness video "˜Just Say No' as his half of their friendly wager, the Pontiac, Michigan mayor's blue-collar influence shined through. "At least he isn't offering sushi," said Moore, who offered two weeks' use of a sparkling new Pontiac Grand Prix and some Everlite bulbs (another Pontiac product) in exchange for the privilege to play the video "for the entire Pontiac City Council." Just say yes to watching the video, which features classic verses like this one:

I'm Kareem, the captain of the team,
I don't need drugs, I've got a higher thing,
My sky hook makes the team look good,
But there's a hook we gotta shake from the neighborhood.

Alas, Moore and the city of Pontiac missed out on Kurt Rambis' short-shorts, A.C. Green's killer shades, and James Worthy's amazing solo, as the Lakers prevailed in seven games. Vincent enjoyed his car, which he presumably drove to all of the local sushi bars while continuing to fight the war on drugs. "It's kinda nice," Vincent said. "Has some nice pistons."

4. 1993 World Series: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Philadelphia Phillies
A mayor has yet to wager his first born child on the outcome of a sporting event, but the Philadelphia Zoo did put up some of its extremely rare, yet-to-be-born white lion cubs against a pair of Tasmanian devils in a bet with the white-lion.jpgToronto Metro Zoo. Alan Tonks, a Toronto zoo representative, said the animals involved in the bet characterized each city's respective team. What better way to represent Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and the rest of the Phillies than with an animal that treats its prey viciously and emits a foul odor when stressed, right? Toronto's zoo won the bet after the Blue Jays won the series in six games and the first white lion born in America was born in Philadelphia the following March. Tandi—the Zulu word for Joe Carter or Love, depending on who you ask—weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces and became only the 15th white lion known in existence. Philadelphia made good on the bet by lending Tandi and her two sisters to the Toronto zoo the following summer.

As for the Tasmanian devils, they were to be a gift to Toronto from the Tasmanian government. But when the Australian Wildlife Protection Authority learned that the devils were part of a sports bet, they promptly canceled the shipment. "We don't export animals to be part of bets or publicity stunts," AWPA Director Paul Jewell said.

5. Super Bowl XXXIII: Atlanta Falcons vs. Denver Broncos
John Elway's second Super Bowl win and final career game in 1999 was preceded by several civic bets between cellucci.jpgofficials in Atlanta and Denver. Peanuts, buffalo steaks, Coca-Cola, an autographed football, Rocky Mountain oysters, custom-made golf balls, pecans and disposable cameras were all wagered, but they all paled in comparison to the bet between Denver Palm restaurant manager Scott Fickling and Atlanta Palm restaurant manager Willy Cellucci.

Cellucci (pictured) paid off the bet by dressing up in a Broncos cheerleader outfit and working as the maitre d' at Fickling's restaurant in Denver for three hours. Thankfully there's no visual evidence, but Fickling, who would've done the same thing at Cellucci's restaurant in Atlanta had the Falcons won, said the results weren't pretty. "Let's just say that Willy has a midriff issue," Fickling told the Denver Post. "We had the cheerleader outfit custom made—by Denver Tent and Awning Company."

6. 2002 Stanley Cup Finals: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Perhaps Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was too busy texting his ex-top aide to take the time to figure out that the Carolina Hurricanes play in Raleigh. Kilpatrick reportedly phoned the mayor in Charlotte—a three-hour drive from kwame.jpgRaleigh—to work out a wager before he realized his mistake. "Perhaps by the time the series is over, the Mayor of Detroit will know where the Hurricanes are based," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker told the press. When the two mayors finally connected, Kilpatrick (pictured) wagered a Michigan cherry tree and a 20-pound octopus, while Meeker put up a North Carolina oak tree.

The Red Wings won the series and Kilpatrick won his tree, but he likely earned little respect from the people of Raleigh. The eco-friendly bet, though, paved the way for future "green wagers." St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman will plant a tree in front of the Xcel Energy Center wearing a Colorado Avalanche jersey before the Republican National Convention in August, the payoff for losing a bet on a first-round NHL playoff series to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

7. 2007 Grey Cup: Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Any bet that involves the loser and winner doing anything outside in Saskatchewan in February is worthy of making this list. In case you've been living under a rock, the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in last year's Grey Cup to win the CFL championship. As a result, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz had to stand on a street corner in downtown Regina, Saskatchewan, wearing a Saskatchewan jersey and holding a sign that proclaimed the Roughriders as the greatest team in Canada. Katz had previously worn the jersey to a council meeting and donated four sets of Roughriders season tickets to charity as part of the bet. Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco braved the cold and stood next to Katz for at least part of the frigid ordeal, answering questions about who is the better mayor and muttering something about taxes. Only in Canada.

Scott Allen is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com. Back in January, he wrote a detailed history of The Bud Bowl.
* * * * *
Shhh...super secret special for blog readers.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios