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6 Reasons People Gave Up Their Super Bowl Rings

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Courtesy of SCP Auctions

Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor’s ring from Super Bowl XXV fetched $230,401 in an auction over the weekend. Over the years, several athletes and at least one owner have relinquished ownership of their championship bling for various reasons. Here are some examples.

1. Because a Little Girl Made You

In 2008, New England Patriots safety Je’Rod Cherry was challenged by a girl at a youth conference to sell his Super Bowl XXXVI ring to raise money for charity. Cherry did, helping raise nearly $150,000. “I do not disrespect the idea of what the ring represents,” Cherry told reporters. “I tried to elevate it to something even better.” It probably made Cherry’s decision to sell the ring a little easier knowing that he still had two others.

2. For Good Dental Hygiene

Legendary cornerback Lester Hayes won two rings with the Raiders and took out a loan on one of them to pay for an emergency dental procedure in 2000. According to Hayes, his cash was tied up in a “Charles Barkley-kind of bet” and he didn’t want to tip his family and friends off that he had a gambling addiction by asking for help. When Hayes failed to return to the pawn shop to claim the ring within the requisite seven-day window, it sold for more than $18,000 on eBay. Hayes has since purchased a replica Super Bowl ring from the manufacturer. “It taught me a valuable lesson,” he said. “To stop gambling.”

3. Because Vladimir Putin Wanted It

In 2005, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a group of American executives met with Russian president Vladimir Putin. When Kraft showed Putin his latest Super Bowl ring, which was encrusted with 124 diamonds, Putin put the ring on his finger and then in his pocket.

The Russian media initially speculated that Kraft had not meant to give the ring to Putin, but Kraft released a statement the following day that quelled those concerns: “The Russian president was clearly taken with its uniqueness,” Kraft said. “At that point, I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin.”

4. For Drug Money

In 1999, lawyer John O’Quinn surprised Dexter Manley with the Super Bowl ring the Washington Redskins star had previously sold to buy cocaine. “I believe in miracles,” Manley said, “and it’s an act of God that I have my ring back in my possession.” Manley returned the ring to O’Quinn, a friend who had previously employed the defensive lineman, for safekeeping until he fully overcame his addiction. After O’Quinn died in a car crash in 2009, Manley recovered the ring from O’Quinn’s estate.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam also sold his Super Bowl ring to buy drugs before changing his ways and becoming a counselor for drug abusers. In a case of good fortune, John Cannick, a Boston businessman who overcame a drug addiction, recovered the ring and returned it to Gilliam.

5. Because the IRS Came Calling

In 1984, the IRS confiscated the 1978 Super Bowl ring belonging to Dallas Cowboys star Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and auctioned it for $11,000. Former Steelers running back Rocky Bleier sold his four Super Bowl rings in the 1990s to help pay back taxes. Former Raiders punter Ray Guy was ordered by a judge to sell his three Super Bowl rings after filing for bankruptcy last year. The rings fetched $96,000 in an online auction.

6. Plain Old Theft

In 1987, a man who identified himself as “Bill” put the following classified ad in several newspapers across the country: "Super Bowl Ring, (NU) 1. Best offer. Write: PO Box 8116, Fort Collins, Colo. 80526." Former Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene wrote the man and got his story.

Bill had bought the ring for $75 from a man who had reportedly found it on the floor of a Green Bay bar. Bill told Greene that the ring was engraved with the name Tommy Joe Crutcher, a second-string linebacker with the Packers. The best offer he had received was $18,000. Greene called Crutcher, who had purchased a replacement ring for $700 after his original ring was stolen by one of three women he had invited back to his hotel one night. When Greene alerted Crutcher to the ad, he responded, “I’m nostalgic, but I ain’t $18,000 worth. … Tell him I’m not a buyer, but good luck in selling it.”

About Super Bowl Rings

The NFL covers the cost for up to 150 Super Bowl rings at $5,000 per ring; teams pick up any additional costs. In 2009, for instance, the Pittsburgh Steelers bought every one of their full-time employees a Super Bowl ring, though the rings for the lower-level employees had less gold and fewer diamonds.


Jostens, which also designs yearbooks and class rings, has worked with team officials to design the majority of the Super Bowl rings. While diamonds remain the most popular gem, emeralds, aquamarines, rubies and sapphires have also been used. Rings typically feature the Lombardi trophy and are often engraved with the final score in addition to the player’s name.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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