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6 of History's Greatest Losers

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Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are currently 0-12, and with a tough remaining schedule, it's hard to see how the team will avoid the ignominious distinction of completing the season without a win. In the interest of giving the Lions and their fans some much-needed company in their misery, we've found a few more of history's spectacularly consistent or notable losers.

1. The Washington Generals

The Harlem Globetrotters can boast that they have the highest winning percentage of any franchise in professional sports; the team alleges it has won 98.4% of its contests. Of course, all of this success has come at the expense of the Globetrotters' futile opponents, the Washington Generals. The nail-versus-hammer dynamic has been going strong since 1953, when former Villanova star and NBA champion Red Klotz got the opportunity to put together a team to tour the world playing the Globetrotters. Klotz's team, the Generals, got off to a rocky start as the straight men for the Globetrotters' gags. Not only were they being teased, the Generals were also taking thumping after thumping on the court. It's hard to tell just how many games the Generals lost in a row to the Globetrotters, but the teams agree that when Klotz's team finally got the upper hand in a 100-99 game in 1971 Harlem was riding a 2,495-game winning streak. (Who hit the winning shot in that game? None other than Red Klotz, at the time a 50-year-old player/coach/owner.) Klotz retired the Generals name in 1995, but in 2007 the team reformed for more years of futility.

2. Norman Thomas

Any old Dukakis or Mondale can lose a presidential election. It takes someone special, though, to be soundly rejected by the electorate, shrug it off, and run again four years later. In this realm, Norman Thomas had no peer. When the Socialist Party of America's perennial presidential candidate Eugene Debs died in 1926, Thomas picked up the Sisyphean job of heading the Socialist ticket in presidential races. He actually picked up over 250,000 votes in the 1928 election and grabbed almost 900,000 votes in 1932. However, after those two races his vote totals declined precipitously, although he continued running every four years until 1948, for a total of six unsuccessful presidential bids.

But Thomas can't match Canada's John C. Turmel, who holds the Guinness record for most unsuccessful runs. Turmel has lost in 66 separate elections while running as an independent and for a variety of minor parties, some of which he founded himself.

3. Newhart

It's hard not to pull for Bob Newhart and his mild-mannered brand of comedy "“ unless you're an Emmy voter. Newhart's sitcom Newhart ran for eight seasons between 1982 and 1990 and received generally positive reviews. The tales of an author acting as an innkeeper in rural Vermont even received 25 Emmy nominations. Here's hoping that if Newhart ever used the old cliché that "it's an honor just to be nominated," he said it sincerely. Despite the 25 nominations, Newhart never took home a single statuette, a record for Emmy futility.

Bob Newhart, for his part, seemed to take it all in stride without holding an anti-Emmy grudge. For the 2006 Emmys, he agreed to be locked in a box with exactly three hours of breathable air to keep the proceedings moving; if award winners went too long in their acceptance speeches, they would be responsible for the beloved comedian suffocating. The notoriously long award show actually ended three minutes early that year.

4. Cy Young

The very mention of Cy Young's name evokes pitching greatness for baseball fans. After all, you have to be pretty snazzy on the mound to have the annual award for each league's best hurler named after you. Young, though, holds another distinction in baseball history: he's the game's most accomplished loser. Over the course of his 22-year career, Young piled up 316 losses, a Major League record. Of course, Young also has the MLB career lead for wins with 511. His high loss total is less a function of any deficiency on Young's part than it is a reflection of how pitchers were used in his era. Young took the mound much more frequently than his modern counterparts do, and with few relief pitchers available, he pretty much always pitched a complete game and got a decision when he started. (He had a now-unthinkable 749 career complete games.)

5. The Arizona Cardinals

It must be doubly galling for the Lions to be so bad while having to watch the Cardinals, the team that's usually their fellow NFL punchline, make a playoff push. Even if the Lions can't squeak out a win this season, though, they can console themselves that they're not close to taking the Cardinals' title as the NFL's all-time losingest franchise. Since the team's inception in 1920, the Cardinals have bounced from Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona, but losing has followed no matter where the franchise tried to hide. The Cardinals have lost 672 games in their storied history, 107 more than the next-closest contender (the Lions). Granted, the Lions' franchise is ten years younger, but 107 extra losses is quite the cushion. (Of course, if Matt Millen still had personnel control in Detroit, another seven straight winless seasons wouldn't seem so far-fetched.)

6. 1962 New York Mets

Few teams are quite as synonymous with "failure" as the 1962 New York Mets. The Mets were in their first year as an expansion franchise, and despite getting some solid players like Richie Ashburn through the expansion draft, they were bad. Really, truly, hilariously bad. The rest of the roster was largely populated with aging former members of the Dodgers and Giants who were meant to attract fans of these departed franchises. Legendary Yankees manager Casey Stengel came out of retirement to lead the ill-constructed team to victory, but the task was beyond even his talents. Although the Mets had two of baseball's finest names that season, Choo Choo Coleman and Vinegar Bend Mizell, they couldn't string together any wins. The team staggered to a 40-120 record, which put them a mere 60.5 games out of first place. Since 1900, no team lost more games in a season, though the 2003 Detroit Tigers came close, finishing 43-119.

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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.

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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.

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