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6 of History's Greatest Losers

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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

WashingtonGeneralsLogo.jpgThe 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

norman-thomas.jpgAny 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

newhart.jpgIt'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

neil-lomax.jpgIt 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

62mets.jpgFew 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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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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