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11 Athletes Who Had Their Own Cereals

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Plenty of athletes have adorned boxes of Wheaties. But only the best can take it a step further and market a brand of cereal dedicated entirely to themselves. Several athletes have used a limited edition cereal line to raise money for their favorite charities or boost their profiles -- here are 11 of the stars that managed to work their way onto the breakfast table

1. Flutie Flakes

Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie released his brand of corn flakes cereal in 1998 to raise money for autism awareness in honor of his son, who is autistic. The cereal ended up being a hit, selling more than 3 million boxes (Flutie eventually branched out into other foods, including a fruit snack called Flutie's Fruities). But the Flakes were also the center of controversy when then-Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson used them to celebrate a playoff win over Flutie and the Buffalo Bills. Celebrating in the locker room, Johnson slammed a box of the cereal on the ground and let his players dance and stomp on the flakes. Flutie objected, saying it was akin to stomping on his son and got Johnson to publicly apologize.

2. Votto’s

This season, Cincinnati Reds fans will be able to share breakfast with team star – and 2010 National League MVP – Joey Votto, thanks to his new cereal, Votto’s. The cereal is being sold at Krogers stores in the Cincinnati area. And the flavor? “It’s basically Cheerios,” said Votto at one promotional appearance, according to a report.

3. Fastball Flakes

With an eye towards breaking Flutie’s sales record, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander also announced this spring that he’ll be launching his own line of cereal. Verlander based the cereal on Frosted Flakes (his favorite cereal) and actually requested that the cereal be unhealthy because he likes to eat junk food before his starts. Despite his request, the cereal is fat-free.

4. Ochocinco’s

The toasted oat cereal honoring then-Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (formerly Chad Johnson) isn’t much remembered for its taste or nutritional value. Instead, the legacy of Ochocinco’s will be its accidental endorsement of a phone sex line. A phone number printed on the box was supposed to send shoppers to the main line of Feed The Children, the charity benefiting from the cereal sales. But manufacturers put the wrong prefix on the number and instead printed the bawdy number. When news of the accident broke, Ochocinco took to Twitter to say he was “bummed” about the mixup and asked “of all numbers why that one!!!”

5. Eckso’s

Eckso’s were not named after Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, but instead journeyman David Eckstein. Having won a World Series with the Angels and a second with the St. Louis Cardinals, Eckstein was a fan favorite for his scrappy play. That led to his cereal line in 2005 -- a brand of honey nut toasted oat O’s similar to Votto’s and Ochocinco’s.

6. Tommy Gun Flakes

After wandering around the NFL for years and playing in the Arena Football League and XFL, Tommy Maddox resurfaced with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2001. He led the Steelers to the playoffs that year, amassing a 10-5-1 record. After that season, he was also rewarded with the launch of Tommy Gun Flakes, a play on his nickname "Tommy Gun." Maddox had a disappointing 2002 season and was soon replaced by Ben Roethlisberger, but unopened boxes of his cereal can still be found online.

7. TO’s

Before he and Ochocinco teamed up for a season in Cincinnati, Terrell Owens actually mirrored him by launching his own cereal brand. The TO’s brand came out when TO joined the Buffalo Bills in the 2009 season and features a rather cryptic picture of TO flexing his bicep around a blown-up piece of cereal.

8. Warner’s Crunch Time

While with the St. Louis Rams, Kurt Warner was a part of the Greatest Show on Turf, winning two MVP awards and a Super Bowl. His rise from the Arena Football League and ascension from backup to starting star also made him a hit with fans. To capitalize, Warner put his face on a frosted corn flakes cereal called “Warner’s Crunch Time,” with proceeds going to Camp Barnabas, a Missouri camp for disabled children.

9. Buckeye HerOes

Coming off a successful 10-2 season in which they shared the Big Ten championship and won the Fiesta Bowl, the Ohio State Buckeyes expanded their already massive brand with the cereal Buckeye HerOes. Other universities had tried the cereal gimmick before, but OSU dwarfed their efforts by producing 75,000 boxes. School officials said they couldn’t get the cereal to be in the shape of the school’s traditional block O, so instead they had to go with the traditional round O. The school has also branded several other food items from pasta to hot sauce, so it's possible for a fan to plan an entire meal around the Buckeyes.

10. Ed's End Zone O's

A three-time Super Bowl winner, wide receiver Ed McCaffrey had most of his success when paired with John Elway on the Denver Broncos. While with the team, he also released his cereal brand: Ed’s End Zone O’s, as well as putting his face on a line of gourmet mustards and a horseradish sauce. Elway would also come out with a cereal line: John Elway's Comeback Crunch.

11. Lynn Swann’s Super 88

Named after his jersey number, Lynn Swann’s Super 88 cereal was released to honor the former Steelers star on his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2001. The proceeds from the cereal went to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters charities, as well as to fund scholarships to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Why the ballet scholarships? Swann used to study dance.

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Pop Culture
The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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retro-wrestling, eBay

For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

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History
Hans Schmidt, the "Nazi" Wrestler Who Incited Riots
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Courtesy of Dave Drason Byrzynski

Waiting inside the locker room of the Pioneer Memorial Stadium, The Des Moines Register reporter Walter Shotwell thought he had found a clever way to discredit a visiting professional wrestler named Hans Schmidt. Just a few days prior, on August 1, 1953, Schmidt had been seen on national television barking into a microphone using a thick German accent. He dismissed the concept of sportsmanship and vowed to “win ze title and take it back to Germany vere it belongs.”

In the years following World War II, a German nationalist was not likely to be cheered on anywhere in the United States, but the vitriol Schmidt encouraged was unlike anything pro wrestling had ever seen. Schmidt had fans practically frothing at the mouth, stabbing him with hairpins, waving cigarette lighters in his face, and vandalizing his car. Fearing for his safety, police would often have to escort him through angry mobs. It didn’t really seem to matter whether Schmidt was truly anti-American or just playing a role. Either one seemed egregious.

Shotwell suspected the latter. During his interview with Schmidt, he handed him a newspaper clipping and asked him to read it out loud in German. Schmidt refused, saying that Shotwell wouldn’t understand him. Looking at it closely, Schmidt could see it quoted residents of Munich, where he claimed to hail from, who said they had never heard of any Hans Schmidt.

Shotwell pushed it a little further, until Schmidt made it clear he wasn’t going to continue to play along. Had he admitted the truth—that he was not an actual Nazi, but a French-Canadian named Guy Larose—then he likely would have missed out on a career that would eventually make him one of the highest-paid and most reviled athletes in the world.

Courtesy of Dave Drason Burzynski

If pretending to be an enemy of the state was his destiny, then Larose was born at the right time. He was 24 in 1949, the year he decided to become a pro wrestler; his dream of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had ended while he was still in training after the police and several RCMP students tried to enforce an alcohol ban on a nearby Native community and had their vehicles pummeled with baseball bats.

Eager to exploit his six-foot-four, 240-pound frame, Larose turned to wrestling. In Michigan and across Canada, he was able to book contests but found that neither his persona nor his real name was drawing a crowd.

Arriving in Boston in 1951, Larose met wrestling promoter Paul Bowser, who took one look at the stern-faced wrestler and declared that he should adopt a Nazi persona. Larose wouldn’t be the first—Kurt Von Poppenheim had already devised a similar gimmick—but he’d have an opportunity to do it on television.

At the time, ring sports like boxing and wrestling were ideal for the burgeoning medium. Cheap to produce, they could easily fill programming schedules on networks like the DuMont Television Network, a onetime rival to CBS, NBC, and a burgeoning ABC that aired grappling contests from Chicago. Although Larose—now Schmidt—had been stirring up attention prior, it was his August 1953 appearance and interview with Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse that drew more disdain than usual.

After declaring “Germany has been good to me” and claiming that he believed there was no place for sportsmanship in wrestling, Schmidt was cut off by Brickhouse. With the emotional wounds of World War II still fresh, his appearance had struck a nerve. DuMont, Brickhouse would later recall, received more than 5000 angry letters from viewers who were disgusted by Schmidt. At least one viewer recommended he be deported.

Larose, however, exercised some restraint. The word “Nazi” was rarely tossed around, and he never goosestepped or carried a swastika with him. The implication of his allegiance seemed to be more than enough to stir the crowd into a frenzy, especially when he would remain seated during the National Anthem or turn his back at the sight of the American flag. He had been a motorcycle dispatcher during the war, he told journalists, and was once shot down while in a plane.

Although those details weren’t true, on many nights Larose may have felt as though he was in a war zone. Walking to the ring, he’d often be jabbed by women using their hairpins, or by men trying to singe him with their cigarettes. During matches, his “cheating”—using chairs to brain opponents, or kicking them in the groin—would draw crowds toward the ring in an effort to start a riot. At one engagement in Milwaukee, the ensuing chaos led to a brief ban on pro wrestling in the arena.

When the journalist Shotwell asked him what kind of car he drove, he hesitated. “A Lincoln,” he said. “I don’t want to describe it any more than that. I don’t want it wrecked.” He often came out of arenas to find ice picks in his tires.

Whatever argument existed about the good taste of Larose’s performance, there was no question it was lucrative. People who wished to see him get beaten in programs against the likes of Verne Gagne or Lou Thesz filled arenas. Once, special guest referee Joe Louis decked him in a staged climax. There was some kind of catharsis in watching Larose get pummeled.

Photo (C) by Brian Bukantis, www.wrestleprints.com

According to pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who inducted the Schmidt character into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2012, Larose made roughly $1 million in his 20-year career, which wound to a close in the mid-1970s. Other “foreign menaces” like Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik were coming in, diversifying wrestling’s villain culture.

The kind of loathing he had drawn from the crowd remained rare in wrestling, which hates its heels but usually doesn’t attempt to stab them or burn them with fire. It wasn’t until Sergeant Slaughter turned away from his patriotism and became an Iraqi sympathizer in the early '90s that emotions got a bit too heated for entertainment’s sake. The WWE (then WWF) was forced to assign security to Slaughter’s family until the act was dropped.

By that point, Larose had long been out of the spotlight, having returned home to Quebec. He died in 2012 at the age of 87, his status as one of the most infamous performers of the 20th century having been largely forgotten. Never once did he admit during his prime that he was from Canada.

“Of course I’m from Germany,” he told Shotwell. “Do you think I’d go on television and say things that weren’t true?”

Additional Sources: Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped Wrestling; The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos (C) Dave Drason Burzynski from the book This Saturday Night: Return to the Cobo, available at Wrestleprints.com. Used with permission.

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