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10 Acts of Good Sportsmanship

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If LeBron James' ESPN special left you feeling down about the state of sports, perhaps these stories will remind you why you started watching athletics in the first place. Here are 10 acts widely considered to be examples of good sportsmanship. Feel free to add your own and debate the merits of each of these in the comments.

1. Lutz Long

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At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, long jumper Lutz Long set an Olympic record during the preliminary round to qualify for the finals. American Jesse Owens fouled on his first two attempts and faced disqualification if he fouled again. Before Owens made his final attempt, Long, a German, advised him to adjust his take-off point—to several inches behind the foul line—to ensure that he would advance to the next round. Owens heeded Long's advice, qualified for the finals, and set a new world record to win the gold medal. Long took the silver. "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens later said. "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-carat friendship that I felt for Lutz Long at that moment." Long was killed in World War II, but his family has remained in contact with Owens' family ever since.

2. John Landy

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Australian John Landy made history when he became the second man to break 4 minutes in the mile, 46 days after Roger Bannister became the first in 1954. Landy is revered in Australia, where he served as the 26th Governor of Victoria, in part because of the mile race he ran at the 1956 Australian national championships. During the third lap, 19-year-old Ron Clarke, who would go on to set 17 world records during his career, tripped and fell. Landy, who was trailing close behind, leapt over Clarke and accidentally scraped his rival's arm with his spikes in the process. Landy stopped running to make sure that Clarke wasn't badly hurt before resuming his chase of the pack that had charged ahead. To the amazement of everyone in the crowd, Landy came from behind to finish first in a time of 4 minutes, 4 seconds.

Fifty years after the fact, Landy reflected on the astonishing race. "I reacted on the spur of the moment," he said. "You do things like an embedded impulse. You don't ask why." Today, a bronze statue in Melbourne commemorates Landy's good deed. It's titled, simply, "Sportsmanship."

3. Jimmy Connors

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There wasn't much love lost between Jimmy Connors and John Newcombe throughout their careers, but there was at least one time when the tennis foes played nice. During the third set of the 1975 Australian Open final, Connors was the beneficiary of three consecutive controversial calls. Leading 40-15, Connors intentionally double-faulted, drawing a round of applause from the pro-Newcombe crowd. After Connors faulted on his first serve of the next point and lobbed the ball in the air for his second serve, a fan shouted "double fault." Connors caught the ball, but would then double fault. He lost the game, the set, and ultimately the match. "I don't regret throwing it, but don't put me in the same position again," Connors said afterward of his somewhat questionable display of sportsmanship.

There are at least two accounts of how Newcombe responded to the gesture. According to one report, Newcombe applauded his rival's act, saying, "Today, Jimmy Connors proved to me that a champion has to know how to win—and how to lose." According to another account, Connors's gift fueled Newcombe's fire. "That's something a goose would do," he said, "and the only thing you do with a goose is put him in the oven and cook him."

4. Jack Nicklaus

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The 1969 Ryder Cup at the Royal Birkdale Club in Southport, England, was tied as the final pair, the United States' Jack Nicklaus and England's Tony Jacklin, teed off on the 18th. Nicklaus, who was playing in his first Ryder Cup, sank his four-foot par putt, and before Jacklin could address his two-foot par putt to tie, reached down and picked up his opponent's ball marker. It was a sporting gesture by Nicklaus, who didn't want to put Jacklin through the pressure of making the "gimme" before thousands of British fans.

By conceding the putt, Nicklaus ensured that the competition would end in a tie for the first time in its 42-year history. "I don't think you would have missed that putt, but in these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity," Nicklaus told Jacklin. While the United States, which had won the previous 10 events, retained the Ryder Cup with the tie, team captain Sam Snead reportedly wasn't happy with Nicklaus's decision.

5. Nate Haasis

When Nate Haasis learned that his own coach had made a deal with the opposing team to allow him to set a record in his final game at Southeast High School in Springfield, Ill., the star quarterback decided to make things right. Haasis set the Central State Eight Conference record for career passing yards in the final minute of a loss to Cahokia High in 2003, but he remembers thinking it was strange that Cahokia's defenders backed 20 yards off the line of scrimmage and made no attempt to defend or tackle the receiver who caught his record-setting pass. The next day, the local newspaper reported that the coaches had made a deal to allow Haasis to set the record, a story both coaches confirmed. "I had my guys put their arms in their jerseys so they couldn't tackle," Cahokia's coach later said.

Three days after the game, Haasis decided to write a letter to the director of the conference, requesting that his final pass be omitted from the conference record book. "I would like to preserve the integrity and sportsmanship of a great conference for future athletes," Haasis wrote. His request was granted.

6. Matt Ziesel

A friendly agreement between opposing teams isn't always unsportsmanlike, however. In the case of two Missouri high school freshman football teams, one such deal led to one of the more heartwarming sports stories in recent memory. St. Joseph Benton trailed Maryville 46-0 with 10 seconds to play in its third game of the 2009 season when Benton head coach Dan McCamy called a timeout. McCamy inserted freshman Matt Ziesel, who was born with Down syndrome, at running back, and ran across the field to the Maryville freshman defensive coach with an odd request. "Most teams would want a shutout, but in this situation I want to know if maybe you can let one of my guys run in for a touchdown," McCamy said. Maryville's players were happy to oblige. They attempted to make the play seem as real as possible by trailing in pursuit of Ziesel, who didn't participate in full-contact drills in practice and had yet to play in a game, as he raced 60 yards untouched into the end zone.

"When they grow up and they get older, everybody will realize the impact that maybe that play (has) had—not just on that kid's life, because Matt will remember that forever—but on some of these other kids and what they may have been a part of," McCamy told the Kansas City Star. For more on this story, including the backlash from people who were critical of the play, check out ESPN's E:60 report:

7. Paolo Di Canio

During a 2000 English Premier League match between West Ham and Everton, Paolo Di Canio displayed an act of sportsmanship that, as one reporter wrote, "will live longer than the forgettable game it accompanied." With the match tied in extra time, Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard injured his knee after leaving the net to challenge a West Ham striker. While Gerrard lay writhing in pain, another West Ham player sent a cross toward Di Canio, who waited in front of the wide-open goal. Rather than receiving the pass and scoring the go-ahead goal, Di Canio caught the ball to allow Gerrard to be treated. His unselfish act drew a standing ovation and earned him FIFA's Fair Play Award in 2001.

8. Pete Goss

On Christmas Day in 1996, a month and a half into the round-the-world Vendee Globe yacht race, English sailor Pete Goss received a mayday notification. Competitor Raphael Dinelli's yacht had wrecked in a storm in the Southern Ocean and the Frenchman needed help. Goss decided to abandon course and attempt a daring rescue of Dinelli, which required sailing his yacht, Acqua Quorom, into hurricane-force winds. While Goss's yacht was knocked down several times en route, he eventually found Dinelli with the aid of an Australian Air Force plane. Since the rescue, France awarded Goss the Legion d'Honneur and the two men have become close friends.

9. Central Washington University

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Western Oregon senior outfielder Sara Tucholsky was so excited after she hit her first career home run in an important conference game against Central Washington that she forgot to touch first base. As she reversed direction to properly start what should have been a joyous home run trot, her knee gave out. With Tucholsky unable to continue around the bases under her own power, the umpires, who had misinterpreted an NCAA rule, told Western Oregon coach Pam Knox that if Tucholsky received any assistance from a coach or a trainer while she was an active runner, she would be called out. Tucholsky's only other option was to return to first base, be replaced by a pinch runner, and have her three-run home run ruled a two-run single.

But Central Washington pitcher Mallory Holtman, who had allowed the home run, had a better idea. She asked the umpire if it was within the rule for her and a teammate to carry Tucholsky around the bases. The umpires said it was, and so they did. "I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do," Holtman said. Western Oregon held on to win, 4-2.

10. Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had just thrown the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history—except he hadn't. With two outs in the ninth inning of a game against the Indians earlier this season, first base umpire Jim Joyce botched a call that would have sealed the third perfect game of the season. After Joyce ruled that Cleveland's Jason Donald beat first baseman Miguel Cabrera's throw on what should have been the final out of the game, Galarraga, who was covering first, could only smile in disbelief. Joyce admitted his mistake when he watched a replay of the call after the game. "It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [expletive] out of it," Joyce told reporters. "I just cost that kid a perfect game." Joyce felt bad for Galarraga and Galarraga felt bad for Joyce. "You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry,' " Galarraga said. The next day, Joyce was assigned to work as the home plate umpire. Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who had come out of the dugout to berate Joyce the previous night, sent Galarraga out to present the lineup card before the game. Joyce fought back tears as he shook Galaragga's hand and patted him on the back.

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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.


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


"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


"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


"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



"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


"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


"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


"[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


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


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
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"[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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