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Root (or boot) all 32 NFL teams

Coming Thursday: Woody's Winners for Week 1! In the meantime, mental_floss has your football fix right here. Even if you're not an NFL fan, now that the new season is almost upon us, someone, somewhere will ask you your opinion about a team or two. We've done the work for you by scouring last year's pro football statistics, so whether you want to "talk up" an NFL team or rant about how horrible they are, one of these factoids should fit the bill. Enjoy!

ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • A good sign from last season: The Cardinals completed 94.7% of their field goals in 2009, best in the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Cardinals were worst in the NFL in 2009 with 18 lost fumbles.

ATLANTA FALCONS

  • A good sign from last season: The Falcons committed only 78 penalties in 2009, fewest in the NFC.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Falcons defense allowed opponents a 43.5% third-down completion rate in 2009, highest in the NFC.

Click "more" to view the positives and negatives of each of the NFL's other 30 teams.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • A good sign from last season: The Ravens allowed only 3.4 yards per rush in 2009, best in the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Ravens had trouble in close games in 2009; 5 of their 7 losses were by six or fewer points.

BUFFALO BILLS

  • A good sign from last season: The Bills defense led the AFC in 2009 with 29 interceptions.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Bills scored only 6 rushing TDs in 2009, worst in the AFC.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • A good sign from last season: The Panthers boasted two 1000-yard rushers with 17 TD between them.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Panthers allowed 24.8 yards per kickoff return in 2009, highest in the NFC.

CHICAGO BEARS

  • A good sign from last season: The Bears were the only NFL team in 2009 not to allow any opponent a return/recovery TD.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Bears rushed for 71 first downs in 2009, fewest in the NFL.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

  • A good sign from last season: The Bengals averaged 11.9 yards per punt return in 2009, best in the AFC.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Bengals lost 12 fumbles in 2009, twice as many as their defense recovered.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • A good sign from last season: The Browns scored 3 touchdowns on kickoff returns in 2009, most in the AFC.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Browns scored in single-digits in 7 of their first 11 games in 2009.

DALLAS COWBOYS

  • A good sign from last season: The Cowboys scored at least 25 points in five of their first 7 games in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Cowboys didn't return a kickoff for more than 41 yards last year, worst in the NFL.

DENVER BRONCOS

  • A good sign from last season: The Broncos defense forced 30 fumbles in 2009, most in the AFC.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Broncos won their first six games of 2009, but then had two four-game losing streaks.

DETROIT LIONS

  • A good sign from last season: The Lions' 101-yard interception return for a TD was 2009's longest.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Lions were the only team to lose to the Rams in 2009, and they did so at home.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • A good sign from last season: The Packers scored three or more TDs in 15 of 16 games last season.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Packers led the NFL with 118 penalties in 2009.

HOUSTON TEXANS

  • A good sign from last season: The Texans led the NFL with 290.9 passing yards per game in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Texans' longest rush of 2009 was 32 yards, worst in the NFL.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

  • A good sign from last season: The Colts completed 49.2% of their third-down conversions in 2009 to lead the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Colts allowed opponents to complete 45% of their third-down conversions in 2009, tied for worst in the NFL.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • A good sign from last season: The Jaguars had the fewest penalties and fewest penalty yards in the NFL in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Jaguars were sacked 44 times in 2009 while their defense only doled out 14.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

  • A good sign from last season: The Chiefs kicked 41 punts inside the opponents' 20, most in the NFL in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Chiefs had as many fumbles as touchdowns (31 of each) in 2009.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

  • A good sign from last season: The Dolphins scored 22 rushing TDs in 2009, tying them for the league lead.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Dolphins defense allowed 14.2 yards per catch, worst in the NFL in 2009.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

  • A good sign from last season: The Vikings scored 27 or more points in 13 games in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: Three of the Vikings' four 2009 losses came to non-playoff teams.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

  • A good sign from last season: The Patriots earned 397.3 yards per game, best in the AFC.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Patriots' 39-yards-per-punt average was worst in the NFL.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

  • A good sign from last season: The Saints scored 9 TDs on returns and recoveries in 2009, three more than any other team.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Saints allowed 14.3 yards per punt return in 2009, worst in the NFL.

NEW YORK GIANTS

  • A good sign from last season: The Giants only punted for touchback twice in 2009, tied for first in the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Giants scored single digits in three of its final six games last season.

NEW YORK JETS

  • A good sign from last season: The Jets' defense held opposing QBs to a 51.6 completion percentage in 2009, lowest in the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Jets had trouble in close games, losing 5 times by five points or fewer in 2009.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

  • A good sign from last season: The Raiders averaged 51.1 yards per punt in 2009, 3.5 yards more than any other team.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Raiders only scored 22 points in the 3rd quarter all of last season.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

  • A good sign from last season: The Eagles averaged 13.1 yards per pass completion in 2009, tops in the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Eagles lost to the Cowboys three times in 2009 (twice in the regular season, once in the playoffs).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

  • A good sign from last season: The Steelers sacked opposing QBs 47 times, most in the AFC in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Steelers allowed 4 kickoff returns for TD in 2009, while no other NFL team allowed more than 2.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

  • A good sign from last season: The Chargers' 13.3 yards per reception in 2009 was tops in the NFL.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Chargers' 3.3 yards per carry in 2009 was worst in the NFL.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

  • A good sign from last season: The Seahawks scored two shutout victories in their first five games last year.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Seahawks led the NFL with 33 fumbles in 2009.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • A good sign from last season: The 49ers held their opponents to 10 or fewer points in seven games in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The 49ers led the NFC in punts in 2009 with 99.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

  • A good sign from last season: The Rams were successful on 6 of 7 FG of 50+ yards in 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Rams allowed 4 interception returns for TD in 2009, tied for the NFL lead.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

  • A good sign from last season: The Buccaneers defeated the Super Bowl Champion Saints during the 2009 regular season.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Buccaneers only scored more than 24 points in one game in 2009.

TENNESSEE TITANS

  • A good sign from last season: The Titans averaged 27 points per game over the last 10 games of 2009.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Titans did not have a TE or WR with 50 or more catches in 2009.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

  • A good sign from last season: The Redskins boasted two players with 11 sacks.
  • A bad sign from last season: The Redskins took the ball away only 17 times in 2009, fewer than any NFL team.

NOTE: The use of current and former NFL logos is for identification and informational purposes only, and these logos remain the copyrights of the National Football League and/or the franchises depicted.

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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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olympics
The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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Quinn Rooney, Getty Images
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Big Questions
How Do You Steer a Bobsled?
 Quinn Rooney, Getty Images
Quinn Rooney, Getty Images

Now that the Olympics are well underway, you might have developed a few questions about the games' equipment. For example: How does one steer a bobsled? Let's take a crack at answering this pressing query.

How do you steer a bobsled?

Bobsled teams careen down an icy, curving track at up to 90 miles per hour, so steering is no small concern. Drivers steer their sleds just like you steered your childhood sleds—by manipulating a pair of ropes connected to the sled's steel runners. The driver also gets help from the rest of the crew members, who shift their weight to aid with the steering.

Why do speed skaters wear glasses?

speed-skating

Speed skaters can fly around the ice at upwards of 40 mph, so those sunglasses-type specs they wear aren't merely ornamental. At such high speeds, it's not very pleasant to have wind blowing in your eyes; it's particularly nightmarish if the breeze is drying out your contact lenses. On top of that, there's all sorts of ice and debris flying around on a speed skating track that could send you on a fast trip to the ophthalmologist.

Some skaters also say the glasses help them see the track. American skater Ryan Bedford recently told the Saginaw News that his tinted shades help him focus on the track and filter out distracting lights and camera flashes from the crowd.

What kind of heat are the biathletes packing?

Getty Images

As you might guess, there are fairly strict rules governing what sort of rifles biathletes carry on the course. They are equipped with guns chambered for .22 LR ammunition. The gun must weigh at least 3.5 kilograms without its magazines and ammunition, and the rifle has to have a bolt action or a straight-pull bolt rather than firing automatically or semi-automatically.

Is a curling stone really made of stone?

Getty Images

You bet it is, and it's not just any old stone, either. Curling enthusiasts swear by a very specific type of granite called ailsite that is only found on the Scottish island of Ailsa Craig. Ailsite supposedly absorbs less water than other types of stone, so they last longer than their competitors.

Ailsa Craig is now a wildlife sanctuary, so no new ailsite has been quarried since 2002. As a result, curling stones are incredibly expensive. Kays of Scotland, which has made the stones for every Olympics in which curling has been an official event, gets prices upwards of $1,500 per stone.

What about the brooms?

The earliest curling brooms were actual brooms made of wood with straw heads. Modern brooms, though, are a bit more technologically advanced. The handles are usually made of carbon fiber, and the heads can be made of synthetic materials or natural hair from horses or hogs. Synthetic materials tend to be more common now because they pull all of the debris off of the ice and don't drop the occasional stray bristle like a natural hair broom might.

What are the ski jumpers wearing?

Getty Images

It may look like a ski jumper can pull on any old form-fitting bodysuit and hit the mountain, but things are a bit more complicated than that. Their suits have to be made of a spongy material and can't be thicker than five millimeters. Additionally, the suits must allow a certain amount of air to pass through them; jumpers wearing suits without sufficient air permeability are disqualified. (This rule keeps jumpers from wearing suits that could unfairly act as airfoils.) These rules are seriously enforced, too; Norwegian skier Sigurd Petterson found himself DQed at the 2006 Torino Games due to improper air permeability.

Those aren't the only concerns, though. In 2010, judges disqualified Italian jumper Roberto Dellasega because his suit was too baggy.

What's up with the short track speed skaters' gloves?

Gloves
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

If you watch a bit of short track speed skating, the need for gloves quickly becomes apparent. When the skaters go to make passes or careen around a turn, they need the gloves to keep from cutting their hands due to incidental contact with other skaters' blades.

There's more to the gloves than just safety, though. Since the skaters' hands often touch the ice during turns, they need hard fingertip coverings that won't add friction and slow them down. The tips can be made of any material as long as it's hard and smooth, but you've got to give American skater Apolo Ohno some style points for the gold-tipped left glove he broke out in 2010.

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