Bud Shaw's Year in Review

In 2010, retired heavyweight Mike Tyson appeared on Animal Planet.

As a pigeon racer.

The Pittsburgh Pirates fired a pierogi mascot for ripping the team on Facebook.

A Norwegian cross country skier blamed failing to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics on watching too much porn.

A Phillies fan purposely threw up on a man and the man's daughter during a game.

An NFL executive asked a draft prospect if his mother was a prostitute.

Baltimore Orioles player Brian Roberts missed the last six games of the season with concussion-like symptoms after hitting himself in the helmet with a bat in frustration after a ninth-inning strikeout.

Joslyn James, one of Tiger Woods' mistresses, complained that Woods led her to believe she was the only one in his life...other than his wife.

And thus was the sanctity of adultery compromised.

We come today not to salute the last 12 months as much as shake a finger at the sky and blame it on the heavens.

In November, Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone in overtime. The Steelers prevailed over his Bills.

Johnson did not blame his hands, a case of nerves or even the sun (this was Buffalo after all). He blamed God.

Tweeted Johnson: "I praise you 24/7!!! And this how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I'll never forget this!! Ever!!"

As if to mitigate the fallout of angering a vengeful deity, he added:

"Thx tho."
* * *
Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White tweeted that the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl last February because "the grace of god gave them tht championship so tht city wouldn't wouldn't fall apart."

White apologized (sort of), saying, "I'm sorry. I really didn't say anything about the hurricane but they took it that way."

So what did he mean? Mardi Gras?

Not all the signs from above were divinely inspired.
Tiger Woods, who talked of his re-commitment to Buddhism after months of scandal linked him to women all over the country, was greeted on the first tee at The Masters in April by a plane trailing the following message:

"Tiger: Did you mean bootyism?"

Some people showed they literally do not know what "literally" means.
After losing lots of weight, golfer John Daly signed a deal with Slix underwear.

The press release called Slix "thoughtfully designed garments that literally change lives" and that "literally put a spring in your step."

Ben Roethlisberger, for one, literally changed one aspect of his life.
That was his vow after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for another off-field incident.

So the former pride of Findlay, Ohio, reportedly changed his biographical information in the Steelers' media guide.

The Associated Press said Roethlisberger was upset with some unflattering things said about him in his hometown after he was accused (but not charged) in a sexual assault incident in the offseason. So he dropped Findlay and listed Corey Rawson, Ohio as his hometown.

Introducing the greatest, unparalleled, best-ever, life-changing "Overstatements of the Year."
"Tim Tebow is 250 pounds of concrete cyanide." -- Jon Gruden, before the April NFL draft.
* * *
"He came from a team that was always looking for a savior to a team that knows how to win. No one would understand what he's been through unless you've been drowning." -- Malesa Plater, Braylon Edwards' mom, to the New York Times on the tribulations her son endured while playing in Cleveland.
* * *
Sociologist Harry Edwards explained the cultural divide between white college coaches and black players this way to Yahoo! Sports.

"At the end of the day, you have a situation where it's Lawrence Welk and Pat Boone talking to Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Vanilla Ice in the locker room. They don't get it. They don't understand it."

At least not like they get Lawrence Welk references.
* * *
Curtis Wenzlaff, the man who supplied steroids to baseball slugger Mark McGwire, told ESPN's Outside The Lines the combination of steroids McGwire used would make anybody bigger, stronger and faster.

"Will it help you hit a baseball?" Wenzlaff said. "Let me put it to you this way. If Paris Hilton was to take that array, she could run over Dick Butkus."
* * *
And the winner is...
"We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butts in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would've called off the game? People would've been marching down the stadium. They would've walked and they would've been doing Calculus on the way down." -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell after the NFL canceled Vikings-Eagles this past Sunday due to a blizzard.

Of all the reasons the U.S. has fallen behind China, not being willing to risk life and limb to get to a football game is somewhere down the list.

When some athletes don't feel the love, they make up for it by taking a hard look at the mirror.
"I feel love for me. I love me." -- baseball player Milton Bradley on Milton Bradley.

"People love me everywhere I go. I'm excited to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people." -- Manny Ramirez.

"I am a complete football player. If anybody wonders about me I'm a complete football player. I can say that twice. You can't do better than me." -- wide receiveer Michael Crabtree.

"I mean, even my family gets spoiled at times watching me doing things that I do, on and off the court," LeBron James telling GQ Magazine he didn't regret saying during a season-ending playoff loss to Boston that he spoiled Cleveland fans with his "greatness."

Sometimes logic was downgraded from "probable" to "ridiculously doubtful."
Bengals' receiver Chad Ochocinco said he jogs naked on the wooded property he owns.

"What's wrong with that?" Ochocinco told "I take a shower naked."

Indianapolis Colts' punter Pat McAfee was arrested for public intoxication after he appeared to take a pre-dawn swim in a canal. The shirtless McAfee was soaking wet. He blamed it on rain even though it hadn't rained for days. Asked by police how much he had to drink, said McAfee, "A lot cause I'm drunk..."

A 69-year-old Michigan man delayed getting a pacemaker so he could watch Michigan State play Michigan in football. "Whatever happens," he told The Detroit News, "I want to see the game."

Joseph Rimmer, an amateur English soccer player, didn't like a referee's call. So he drove his Range Rover onto the field and got the ref in his sights.

That upped the discipline from a yellow card to a six-month jail sentence.

No marijuana was used (that we know of) in the making of this statement.
Snowboarder Graham Watanabe was asked what it was like to make the U.S. Olympic team.

"Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride it into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That's what it feels like."

If only mulligans applied off the golf course...
Oprah Winfrey got up out of her chair to wipe at the smudge she thought was lipstick on the side of New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees' face during a post-Super Bowl guest appearance.

It was a birthmark.

(Fortunately, she fought the urge to scream to her audience, "You get a permanent blemish, you get a permanent blemish, e-ver-y-bod-y gets a permanent blemish.")

"The pregame altercation got us going. We were like pit bulls, ready to get out of the cage." -- Eagles' receiver DeSean Jackson on a pre-game scuffle with the Washington Redskins.

(Come on, your teammate is Mike Vick. Do I have to say more?)

"You can't have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow," Washington Nationals TV analyst Rob Dibble on his XM Sirius Radio show after Stephen Strasburg grabbed his elbow and left the field.

(A week later, Strasburg was scheduled for Tommy John surgery and will miss at least a year. Dibble was fired.

LeBron James denied he said contraction in the NBA would be good for the league.

"That's crazy, because I had no idea what the word 'contraction' meant before I saw it on the Internet," James said. "I never even mentioned that. That word never even came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the '80s and how it could be good again. I never said, 'Let's take some of the teams out.'"

As comedian Jay Mohr pointed out, James' statement that he didn't know the meaning of the word "contraction" contained three contractions.

The stone-cold lock of the year...
Sept. 11, 2010 was the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb's all-time record for hits.

Rose is banned from his sport for life for betting on baseball but the Reds got clearance to honor him.

Except they had to move the celebration to Sept. 12 because Rose had a previous engagement.

He was making an appearance in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

At a casino.

Some showed razor-like focus and child-like tendencies.
Guard Larry Hughes reportedly grew his beard in protest of his diminished playing time with the Knicks.

Hughes has played for seven teams. After the beard incident, his fan club consisted only of ZZ Top band members.

NBA big men Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard actually spent time debating which of them should get to call himself "Superman."

Once again, it was good advice to be wary of false advertising.
A website dedicated to Major League Umpire and self-proclaimed Renaissance man Joe West describes him as a "true Patriot, Humanitarian, a Believer and a person with millions of funny stories to tell but also a man that will give an answer to any question."

After getting fined by Major League Baseball for his antagonizing a situation during the White Sox-Indians game, West was asked for a comment: "I will say that's none of your business," was his non-answer.

The Surgeon General warns you could put a hole in somebody'e ear lobe with one of those things.
Nine Miami Dolphins' players raked the field in search of defensive end Kendall Langford's diamond after Langford forgot to remove his earrings and lost one during practice.

The size: 2.5 carats.

The value: $50,000.

Knowing you out-blinged Zza Zza Gabor: priceless.

The fine line between sharing athletic insight and giving too much personal information.
Norwegian cross country skier Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset attributed his disappointing silver medal in the 4x10-kilometer relay at the Winter Olympics to less than focused preparation.

"I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days," he said.

At least he didn't blame God.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at, and read all his mental_floss articles here.

job secrets
10 Secrets of Hotel Room Service

Guests visiting New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel in the 1930s enjoyed an amenity that was unheard of at the time: waiters delivering meals directly to their rooms. While the Astoria’s reputation for luxury has endured, room service is no longer exclusive to five-star stays. Roughly 22 percent of the country’s 54,000 hotels [PDF] are willing and able to bring breakfast, lunch, or dinner to people who prefer to eat while splayed out on a large and strange bed.

To get the scoop on what goes into getting food from the kitchen to your floor, Mental Floss spoke with Matt, a hospitality specialist who spent a total of 10 years working in and around room service for a major San Francisco hotel. Matt preferred not to use his last name; since his stories sometimes involved naked people, undercooked chicken, and Oprah, you can understand why. Below, check out a few things you should know before you dig into that tray.


When a room service delivery employee takes a tray from the kitchen to your room, it’s typically covered in a metal lid to retain heat and to prevent other guests from sneezing on it. The higher up you are, the longer it has to travel—and the more that lid traps steam, soaking your food in moisture. “Food sweats in there,” Matt says. “Instead of having crispy, toasted bread, you get wet toast. The longer it stays in there, the worse it gets.” If you want crunchy fries, you’d better be on the first couple of floors.


A seafood dinner is presented on a plate

That lid is a nuisance in other ways. Because it traps heat, it’s effectively cooking your food in the time it takes to get from the chef’s hands to yours. “If you order a steak medium, it will probably be medium well by the time it gets to you,” Matt says. While you can try to outsmart the lid by requesting meat be cooked a notch lower than your preference, it's not so easy to avoid overcooked fish—which will probably also stink up your room. Instead, stick with burgers, club sandwiches, or salads. According to Matt, it’s hard to mess any of them up.


Just because you see a menu in your room, it doesn’t mean the hotel has a kitchen or chef on-site. To cut costs, more hotels are opting to out-source their room service to local eateries. “It might be ‘presented’ by the hotel, but it’s from a restaurant down the street,” Matt says. Alternately, hotels might try to save money by eliminating an overnight chef and having food pre-prepped so a desk clerk or other employee can just heat it up. That’s more likely if sandwiches or salads are the only thing available after certain hours.


Two coffee cups sit on a hotel bed

No, not for the reason you’re thinking. Because so many hotel guests are business travelers who are away from home for weeks or months at a time, some of them get tired of eating alone. When that happens, they turn to the first—and maybe only—person who could offer company: the room service waiter. “People are usually traveling alone, so they’ll offer you food,” Matt explains. Sometimes the traveler is a familiar face: According to Matt, he once sat down to eat with Oprah Winfrey, who was eating by herself despite her suite being filled with her own employees. He also says he had a bite with John F. Kennedy Junior, who wanted to finish watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High before heading for his limo.


Busy hotel kitchens aren’t always paying attention to whether the chicken wings they buy in bulk are frozen raw, frozen cooked, or somewhere in between. “Ask for them extra crispy,” Matt says. That way, they’ll be cooked thoroughly regardless of their freezer status. “I recommend that to everyone.”


A hotel guest pours milk into a bowl of cereal

Breakfast is undoubtedly the busiest time for room service, and those little cards that allow you to check off your menu items the night before are a huge help. “It’s great for everybody involved,” Matt says. “The kitchen can pace themselves and you can get your food on time.”


Yes, guests answer the door barely clothed. No, this is not optimal. “We don’t want to see it,” Matt says. “It's something we dealt with numerous times.” While it's likely your waiter will use discretion, any combination of genitalia, drugs, or illicit activity is best kept out of their sight.


A hotel room service tray sits in a hallway

That move where you stick your soggy fries outside your door? It can lead to some awkward encounters. Matt says he’s seen other guests stop, examine trays, and then pick up discarded food from them. Other times, people leave unimaginably gross items on the trays. “I’ve found condoms on there. Divorce paperwork. All kinds of things.”


Weird people aside, “We don’t really want it out there,” Matt says. “It stinks.” Instead, dial 0 for the front desk and let them know you’re done eating. They’ll dispatch someone to come and get it.


A tip is placed near a hotel check

People pay out the nose for room service, with hotels adding surcharges for “service” and “in-room” dining that can turn a $5 club sandwich into a $15 expense. That’s not great news for guests, but it does mean you don’t need to feel bad about not offering a cash tip. Those service fees usually go straight to the employees who got your food to your room. “I never tip,” Matt says. “Most of the time, the service and delivery charges are given to the waiter or split between the people who answered the phone and pick up the tray. It’s better to leave it all on paper to make sure it gets divided up.”

Big Questions
What is Mercury in Retrograde, and Why Do We Blame Things On It?

Crashed computers, missed flights, tensions in your workplace—a person who subscribes to astrology would tell you to expect all this chaos and more when Mercury starts retrograding for the first time this year on Friday, March 23. But according to an astronomer, this common celestial phenomenon is no reason to stay cooped up at home for weeks at a time.

"We don't know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people," Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells Mental Floss. So if Mercury doesn’t throw business dealings and relationships out of whack when it appears to change direction in the sky, why are so many people convinced that it does?


Mercury retrograde—as it's technically called—was being written about in astrology circles as far back as the mid-18th century. The event was noted in British agricultural almanacs of the time, which farmers would read to sync their planting schedules to the patterns of the stars. During the spiritualism craze of the Victorian era, interest in astrology boomed, with many believing that the stars affected the Earth in a variety of (often inconvenient) ways. Late 19th-century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall. Characterizations of the happening as an "ill omen" also appeared in a handful of articles during that period, but its association with outright disaster wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today.

While other spiritualist hobbies like séances and crystal gazing gradually faded, astrology grew even more popular. By the 1970s, horoscopes were a newspaper mainstay and Mercury retrograde was a recurring player. Because the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth, and communication, in astrological circles, Mercury the planet became linked to those matters as well.

"Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde," an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers. "A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backwards. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication." The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it's blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.


Though hysteria around Mercury retrograde is stronger than ever, there's still zero evidence that it's something we should worry about. Even the flimsiest explanations, like the idea that the gravitational pull from Mercury influences the water in our bodies in the same way that the moon controls the tides, are easily deflated by science. "A car 20 feet away from you will exert a stronger pull of gravity than the planet Mercury does," Dr. Hammergren says.

To understand how little Mercury retrograde impacts life on Earth, it helps to learn the physical process behind the phenomenon. When the planet nearest to the Sun is retrograde, it appears to move "backwards" (east to west rather than west to east) across the sky. This apparent reversal in Mercury's orbit is actually just an illusion to the people viewing it from Earth. Picture Mercury and Earth circling the Sun like cars on a racetrack. A year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth (88 Earth days compared to 365), which means Mercury experiences four years in the time it takes us to finish one solar loop.

When the planets are next to one another on the same side of the Sun, Mercury looks like it's moving east to those of us on Earth. But when Mercury overtakes Earth and continues its orbit, its straight trajectory seems to change course. According to Dr. Hammergren, it's just a trick of perspective. "Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are," he says. "They're not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion."

Embedded from GIFY

Earth's orbit isn't identical to that of any other planet in the solar system, which means that all the planets appear to move backwards at varying points in time. Planets farther from the Sun than Earth have even more noticeable retrograde patterns because they're visible at night. But thanks to astrology, it's Mercury's retrograde motion that incites dread every few months.

Dr. Hammergren blames the superstition attached to Mercury, and astrology as a whole, on confirmation bias: "[Believers] will say, 'Aha! See, there's a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury's retrograde.'" He urges people to review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic. They'll likely find that misinterpreted messages and technical problems are fairly common throughout the year. But as Dr. Hammergren says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn't retrograde, "we don't get that hashtag. It's called Monday."

This story originally ran in 2017.


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