5 Sports Franchises That Folded

Tina Thompson of the Comets shoots a free throw.
Tina Thompson of the Comets shoots a free throw.
Otto Greule, GETTY IMAGES

It's not uncommon for a sports franchise to move to another city. Before this season, for example, the NBA's Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. But it's rare for a franchise to pack it in and fold entirely. Here are some examples of teams who called it quits.

1. Cleveland Spiders (folded in 1899)

Established in 1887, the Spiders were a respectable team for most of their existence before falling victim to their owner's brash stupidity. Unhappy with what he perceived as lousy attendance in Cleveland, Frank Robison purchased a second National League team, the St. Louis Perfectos, in 1899. Robison then transferred most of Cleveland's stars, including Cy Young, to St. Louis. The moves essentially turned Cleveland, which was coming off a fifth-place finish, into a minor league team. The result was predictable.

Cleveland finished a historically awful 20-134, 84 games behind first-place Brooklyn and 35 games behind the next worst team, Washington. Attendance was so bad at the Spiders' home games "“ an average of 179 fans per game at League Park "“ that teams refused to travel to Cleveland. As a result, the Spiders played the final 36 games of the season on the road and lost all but one of them. The Spiders were one of four teams contracted from the National League after the 1899 season. A team based in Cleveland joined the American League, which was a minor league at the time, in 1900.

2. Montreal Wanderers (folded in 1918)

The Wanderers were founded in 1903, won five Stanley Cups by 1910, and, despite facing financial trouble, joined the NHL for its inaugural season in 1917. The Wanderers won their first NHL game, but competing with the Canadiens for the attention of Montrealers, the fan turnout was poor. With only 12 players, the Wanderers lost their next three games by a combined score of 29-7 and owner Sam Lichtenhein threatened to withdraw the team from the league if he couldn't sign reinforcements. Help eventually arrived in the form of players from other leagues, but personnel issues, it turned out, would be the least of the Wanderers' problems.

On January 2, 1918, Montreal's 20-year old home rink, Montreal Arena, burned down. The team disbanded immediately. While their time in the league was short-lived, the Wanderers managed to make a bit of history that didn't involve its arena being reduced to ashes. Wanderers forward Dave Ritchie is credited with scoring the NHL's first goal.

3. Chicago Tigers (folded in 1920)

According to some accounts, the Tigers folded after their only season in the American Professional Football Association to fulfill a promise they made to Chris O'Brien, the owner of the cross-town rival Chicago Cardinals. O'Brien didn't think the Windy City was big enough for two teams, so he suggested the Tigers and Cardinals make a wager on their second meeting of the 1920 season: the loser would agree to drop out of the league. The teams had played to a scoreless tie in their previous meeting, but the Cardinals won the battle for city exclusivity, 6-3. John "Paddy" Driscoll (pictured) scored the game's only touchdown on a 40-yard run.

Some football historians question the validity of the story, as O'Brien seemed to welcome George Halas' request to move the league's Decatur Staleys to Chicago the following season. The Staleys became the Chicago Bears in 1922 and the Bears eventually drove O'Brien and the Cardinals out of Chicago. The Tigers' greatest legacy remains helping start the tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving, when they lost to the Staleys on November 25, 1920.

4. Baltimore Bullets (folded in 1954)

The Bullets, who began play in the American Basketball League, joined the NBA in 1949. They became the last and longest-tenured team to disband from the NBA in 1954, after starting the season 3-11. Former Wyoming standout Ken Sailors (who popularized the jump shot), head coach Clair Bee (who led Long Island University to two undefeated seasons), and player/coach Buddy Jeannette were three of the more notable figures in the franchise's brief history.

When the Bullets disbanded, all but four of Baltimore's players were picked up by other NBA teams. One of the four players who were left unexpectedly unemployed was the late Al McGuire, who was hired as an assistant coach at Dartmouth the next year. McGuire would go on to win a national championship as a head coach at Marquette and enjoyed a successful broadcasting career before losing his battle with cancer in 2001. Unlike the Comets, the Bullets were never the class of the NBA. They compiled a 112-244 record before "“ to borrow one of McGuire's memorable phrases "“ the carnival gates were closed on the franchise.

5. Houston Comets (folded in 2008)

The WNBA's Houston Comets disbanded earlier this month after the league decided it wouldn't be able to complete the sale of the once-proud franchise to a new ownership group by the start of the 2009 season. Houston's players were reallocated among the league's 13 remaining teams through a dispersal draft. The Comets won the first four WNBA titles from 1997-2000 with stars Tina Thompson, Cynthia Cooper, and Sheryl Swoopes, but attendance waned in recent years as the team missed the playoffs in three of its last five seasons.

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7 Tips for Winning an Arm Wrestling Match

iStock
iStock

Geoff Hale was playing Division II college baseball in Kansas City, Missouri, when he sat down and started flipping through the channels on his TV. There—probably on TBS—was Over the Top, the 1987 arm wrestling melodrama starring Sylvester Stallone as Lincoln Hawke, a truck driver who aspires to win his estranged son’s affections. And to do that, he has to win a national arm wrestling tournament. Obviously.

Neither the worst nor the best of Stallone’s efforts, Over the Top made Hale recall his high school years and how the fringe sport had satisfied his athletic interests, which weren't being met by baseball. “I had never lost a match,” Hale tells Mental Floss of his arm wrestling prowess. “The movie reminded me that I was good at it.”

That was 13 years ago. Now a professional competitor known as the Haleraiser, the full-time petroleum geologist has won several major titles. While you may not have the constitution for the surprisingly traumatic sport (more on that later), you might still want to handle yourself in the event of a spontaneous match breaking out. We asked Hale for some tips on what to do when you’re confronted with the opportunity to achieve a modest amount of glory while arm-grappling on a beer-stained table. This is what he told us.

1. KNOW THAT SIZE DOESN'T MATTER.

A child uses books to help in arm-wrestling an adult
iStock

Well, it does. But really only if your opponent knows what they’re doing. Otherwise, having a bowling pin for a forearm isn’t anything to be wary about. If anything, your densely-built foe may have a false sense of confidence. “Everyone has arm-wrestled since they were a kid and thinks they know what it is,” Hale says. “It looks easy, but there’s actually a very complex set of movements. It’s good to check your ego at the door.”

2. PRETEND YOU’RE PART OF THE TABLE.

A man offers to arm wrestle from behind a table
iStock

When you square up with your opposition to lock hands—thumb digging into the fleshy part, fingers wrapped around the back—don’t lean over the table with your butt in the air. And don’t make the common mistake of sitting down for a match, either. “It limits you from a technique standpoint,” Hale says, and could even open you up to injury.

Instead, you want to plant the foot that matches your dominant hand under the table with your hip touching the edge. With your free hand, grip the edge or push down on the top for stability. “Pretend like you’re part of the table,” Hale says. That way, you’ll be able to recruit your shoulders, triceps, and biceps into the competition.

3. REMEMBER TO BREATHE.

Two men engage in an arm wrestling match
iStock

If you’re turning the color of a lobster, you’re probably holding in your breath. “Don’t,” Hale says. Remember to continue taking in air through your nose. There’s no benefit to treating the match like a diving expedition. The lack of oxygen will just tire your muscles out faster.

4. BEAT THE HAND, NOT THE ARM.

Two hands appear in close-up during an arm wrestling contest
iStock

There are three basic techniques in arm wrestling, according to Hale: the shoulder press, the hook, and the top roll. The shoulder press recruits the shoulder right behind the arm, pushing the opposing appendage down as if you were performing a triceps pressdown. The hook is more complex, varying pressure from all sides and incorporating pulling motions to bend the wrist backward. For the best chance of winning, opt for the top roll, which involves sliding your hand up your opponent’s so your grip is attacking the top portion nearest the fingers. That way, he or she is recruiting fewer major muscle groups to resist. “When you beat the hand, the arm follows,” Hale says. Because this is more strategy than strength, you might wind up toppling some formidable-looking opponents.

5. IN A STALEMATE, WAIT FOR AN OPENING.

A man and woman engage in an arm wrestling contest
iStock

While lots of arm wrestling matches end quickly, others become a battle of attrition. When you find yourself locked up in the middle of the table, wait for your opponent to relax. They almost always will. “In a neutral position, it’s good to stay static, keeping your body and arm locked up,” Hale says. “You’re just waiting for your opponent to make a mistake.” The moment you feel their arm lose tension, attack.

6. TRY SCREAMING.

A woman screams while winning an arm wrestling contest
iStock

Arm wrestlers play all kinds of psychological games, and while some might be immune to trash talk, it’s likely your rival will be influenced by some selective insults. “You can make someone lose their focus easily,” Hale says. “In a stalemate, you can give them a hard time, tell them they’re not strong. It’s intimidating to be out of breath and to see someone just talking.”

7. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GO SECOND.

A man struggles while losing an arm wrestling contest
iStock

Arm wrestling exacts a heavy toll on winners and losers alike: The prolonged muscle contractions can easily fatigue people not used to the exertion. If you fear a loss from a bigger, stronger opponent, conspire to have them wrestle someone else first, then take advantage of their fatigue.

If all goes well, you might want to consider pursuing the sport on more competitive levels—but you probably shouldn’t. “It takes a toll on the body,” Hale says. “I’ve got tendonitis and don’t compete as much as I used to. On the amateur level, it’s common to see arm breaks, usually the humerus [upper arm] bone. The body was not really made for arm wrestling.”

Does the University of Florida Still Make Money Off Gatorade?

George Frey, Getty Images
George Frey, Getty Images

In September 1965, 10 freshmen players on the University of Florida's Gators football team agreed to let the school's kidney disease specialist, Robert Cade, assess their hydration levels during practices. He took urine samples. He interviewed athletes. He asked to take their rectal temperature during games.

The players agreed to all but the last request. In analyzing his results, Cade discovered that the wilting heat, coupled with a lack of hydration, resulted in subjects who were very low on electrolytes like sodium and potassium, sometimes losing six to nine pounds of water per practice session—with some footballers having anecdotes of 15 to 20 pounds lost during games. Cade felt that players suffered from low blood volume and low blood sugar. Many, in fact, were being hospitalized after overexerting themselves without drinking enough water, traditionally seen as a way of building toughness in players. Those who remained on field were surely not playing up to their potential.

Cade mixed water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice, then ordered them to drink the solution to keep their bodies in balance. By 1967, the Gators were all consuming "Gatorade," and incidences of heat stroke fell sharply. The Gators secured a 9-2 record in 1966; the team became renowned for their renewed energy during the second half, and ignited a transformation in sports science. Decades later and backed by a massive promotional machine, Gatorade has permeated both professional sports and amateur athletics alike, replenishing electrolytes lost during physical activity. Roughly 632 million cases were sold in 2013 alone.

With the sports drink having been born on the Gators's playing field and invented by a University of Florida employee, it's not hard to see why both Cade's estate (he died in 2007) and the school get a percentage of royalties from sales, an agreement that's still in place today. But if they had their way, the university would be getting all of it.

A University of Florida coach is soaked in Gatorade by his players after a win
Donald Miralle, Getty Images

After Cade and his co-researchers finalized Gatorade’s formula, Cade approached the school's head of sponsored research to see if they wanted to come to an arrangement over the rights to the drink (Cade wanted $10,000) and determine if they wanted to try and sell it to a national distributor. According to Cade, University of Florida (UF) officials weren't interested, so he struck a deal with beverage maker Stokely Van-Camp in 1967.

Stokely's offer was for Cade and his cohorts—now known as the Gatorade Trust—to receive a $25,000 cash payment, a $5000 bonus, and a five-cent royalty on each gallon of Gatorade sold. When UF realized that they had been shortsighted in assessing the brand's mass market appeal—and that they were missing out on profits—they allegedly told Cade that the drink belonged to them.

"Go to hell," Cade responded, a statement that kicked off several years of litigation.

While Cade was a university employee, funds for his work actually came from the government—specifically, the Department of Health. He also managed to avoid signing an agreement solidifying his inventions as school property. For these reasons, and because both sides anticipated an endless and costly legal jiu-jitsu match in their futures, the two accepted a federal ruling in 1972. The Gatorade Trust would continue to receive their royalties, and the school would take 20 percent of the disbursement.

Initially, that meant one cent for every gallon of Gatorade sold, a fraction of the five cents owed to the Trust. In September 1973, following the first full year of the agreement, UF made $115,296 in royalties and earmarked the funds for kidney research and marine science.

Gatorade cups are shown stacked in a locker room
J. Meric, Getty Images

That's a considerable sum, but it's nothing compared to what poured out in the decades to come. When Stokely Van-Camp was purchased by Quaker Oats in 1983, they kicked off a heavy promotional campaign that highlighted Gatorade in commercials and sponsored teams. Coaches began getting doused with jugs full of Gatorade following big victories. When PepsiCo bought Quaker for $13.4 billion in 2000, they leveraged their marketing muscle to further engender the brand.

Consequently, both the Gatorade Trust and UF have profited immensely. As of 2015, the Trust had earned well over $1 billion in royalties, with 20 percent, or about $281 million, going to UF. The five-cent per gallon formula has been replaced by a percentage: between 1.9 percent and 3.6 percent depending on how much Gatorade is sold annually, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell, with the University taking a fifth of that. The funds have been invested in the school's Genetics Institute, the Whitney Marine Laboratory in St. Augustine, and to help disperse seed money for grants.

The school naturally has an affinity for the stuff, but that can occasionally come into conflict with other marketing deals. In 2016, the University of Florida’s women's basketball team played in the NCAA Tournament, which was sponsored by Powerade, a competing sports drink made by Coca-Cola. As a compromise, the players dumped their Gatorade into Powerade bottles and cups. The beverage born on campus—one that's netted them nearly $300 million to date—always comes first.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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