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5 Athletes Who Struggled as Politicians

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Once athletes are done dominating on the field, they're free to take their millions of dollars and go enjoy lives of golf and celebrity restaurant ownership. Some former sports stars, though, eschew this easy life in favor of entering an even more competitive arena: politics. While some achieve great triumphs in the political world, like basketball star Bill Bradley, NFL quarterbacks Jack Kemp and Heath Shuler, and retired Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, others struggle to find their niche as public servants. Here are a few of our favorite campaigns that didn't pan out:

1. Jerry "The King" Lawler Tries to Become Mayor

It's tough to knock anything about Jerry "The King" Lawler's professional wrestling career. The man boasts over a hundred title reigns across various promotions, has had a successful career as a commentator, and even feuded with comedian Andy Kaufman.  Throughout his career, he maintained strong ties to his hometown of Memphis, and in 1999 Lawler made a bid at becoming the city's next mayor. His platform was largely predicated upon what he called "common sense," and included cutting costs, making streets safer, undertaking beautification projects, and improving schools.
Although Lawler's platform and status as a favorite son may have been appealing to some voters, he wasn't able to deliver one of his trademark piledrivers to incumbent Willie Herenton, who grabbed 45.7 percent of the vote to win a third term. Lawler came in at a distant third with 11.7 percent of the vote. Of course,  he probably didn't help his chances when he attacked a police officer during a dispute on airport parking. He did, however, make some terrific campaign ads:

2. Another "King" Tries to Become Secretary of State

Picture 314.pngMaybe there's something about having the nickname "The King" that makes retired stars want to run for office, but Lawler's fellow "King," NASCAR legend Richard Petty decided to run for North Carolina Secretary of State in 1996. The state's Republican party thought this idea sounded like a perfect fit for NASCAR-crazed North Carolina, and Petty's signature cowboy hat, shades, and mustache hit the political trail. However, pundits soon learned that an old racer's habits die hard. Petty became embroiled in a scandal when he used his racing knowledge to deal with a slowpoke who wouldn't let him pass on I-85; like any good stock car driver would, Petty allegedly sped up and gave the driver a little bump. Petty paid a measly $65 fine for the incident, but it probably didn't help his campaign. He ended up losing to Democratic candidate Elaine Marshall 53.48-45.17.

3. Lynn Swann Runs a Gubernatorial Route

Picture 59.pngLikewise, former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann had a football career almost beyond compare. The Hall of Famer boasts four Super Bowl rings, three trips to the Pro Bowl, and a spot on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1970s. He could not, however, catch the political hearts of Pennsylvanians when he ran for governor in 2006.
Swann, a Republican, squared off against incumbent governor Ed Rendell, a popular former mayor of Philadelphia. Swann's hope seemed to be grabbing the conservative middle section of the state and swinging in some Steelers fans from his native Pittsburgh. His platform included changing the property tax structure and "reforming" Harrisburg through "change." Nobody seemed to know what these ridiculously vague notions meant, though, and Swann quickly fell in a large fundraising hole to Rendell. By the time the election rolled around, Rendell handily thumped Swann, who collected just under 40 percent of the vote. Great campaign ads for football fans, though

4. Olympian Tries to Swordfight With FDR

Henry S. Breckenridge may not be the most instantly recognizable name on this list, but he was a world-class athlete in his day. Blessed with a privileged upbringing, Breckenridge graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law and found himself sitting in the position of Assistant Secretary of War under Woodrow Wilson at just 27 years old. He was also a terrific fencer who competed in the 1912 Olympics before captaining the American squad at the 1928 Olympics. Breckenridge, who was a member of the Army Officers' Fencing Club, was tough to beat with a sword, but unfortunately for him, he was a bit less intimidating at the polls. He made an unsuccessful run at a Senate seat from New York as part of the Constitutional Party in 1934; his efforts garnered less than one percent of the vote.
Following this defeat, Breckenridge, who opposed the New Deal, took on an even more Herculean task: he actually ran against Franklin Roosevelt for the Democratic nomination for president in 1936. Roosevelt, who was wildly popular at the time, didn't file for the New Jersey primary. It ended up being the only state in which Breckenridge made a respectable showing. By the time the votes were counted, FDR had racked up close to five million supporters, while Breckenridge only had 136,000, or a margin of victory of roughly 93 percent to three percent.

5. Sports Prodigy Fails to Nab Parliament Seats

Picture 68.pngC.B. Fry's legend in the U.K. is almost on par with Jim Thorpe's mystique in the United States. At the turn of the 20th century, Fry wasn't just a standout in one sport; it seemed like he was dominating them all. He excelled at cricket in a way that no one had ever really seen before, including a stunning six consecutive first-class centuries in 1901. He was strong enough at soccer to play both professionally and on England's national team. On top of all that, Fry also held the world long-jump record!
All of these facts may it tough luck for Fry that England didn't elect its MPs via decathlon, in which case he would have been a lock. He ran as a reforming Liberal for a seat from Sussex, but fell 5,000 votes short. Undeterred, Fry later unsuccessfully tried to win a set from Banbury and then took another close loss for a seat from Oxford.  After gracefully accepting these three defeats, Fry quit campaigning for Parliament. He did, however, finally get a little bit of political love when he became delegate to the League of Nations for three years during the 1920s. According to rumor, he was even considered as a candidate to be king of Albania during this period.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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