What Did LaVar Ball Do for a Living?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“Who is this guy and why does his name keep showing up in my news feed?” A lot of non-sports fans have been asking that question about LaVar Ball lately. For those who don’t follow the NBA, college hoops, or high-profile Twitter feuds, here’s a quick rundown.

LaVar Ball was born on October 23, 1967 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Canoga Park High School, where he became a star quarterback. At West Los Angeles College, Ball’s focus shifted to basketball and he set a school record for single-season rebounds by amassing 316 of them in 1985. He transferred twice, first to Washington State University and then to California State University, Los Angeles.

In the early 1990s, Ball’s brief tenure as a collegiate tight end got him invited to an NFL tryout. He’d go on to join the practice squads of the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. Across the pond, he briefly played for the London Monarchs—a British-based American football franchise—before retiring from the game in 1995.

By that point, Ball had saved up quite a lot of football money. With this, he established himself and his wife, Tina (another college basketball veteran), in an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood. Once there, she got a job teaching high school physical education, while he kicked off a new career as a personal trainer. Today, Ball still earns money by helping clients attain their fitness goals. But nowadays, the man’s also got a lucrative side hustle.

LaVar and Tina have three sons: Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo. Like their parents, all three are basketball players—and they’ve become celebrities in the world of hoops fandom. Lonzo, in particular, has earned a lot of well-deserved attention. Following his magnificent career at UCLA, the Los Angeles Lakers selected him as the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

In 2016, LaVar founded an athletic apparel company called Big Baller Brand, or “BBB” for short. Advertisements for the organization have centered heavily on Lonzo and his brothers.

LaVar’s also shown a penchant for controversy. Within the past three years, he’s claimed that he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one in college and that Lonzo is more talented than two-time NBA champion Steph Curry. Both claims provoked outrage from journalists. And the media really had a field day this past March, when BBB honored Lonzo by putting out a line of $495 sneakers. During the frenzy, the great Shaquille O’Neal recorded himself lambasting Ball in rap form.

Sports enthusiasts aren’t the only people who’ve taken issue with LaVar Ball’s statements; last month, he managed to tick off Donald Trump. Their feud started when LiAngelo was visiting China for an exhibition game in November 2017. He and two UCLA teammates were accused of shoplifting and detained by the authorities. Trump, who was also in China at the time, discussed the matter with President Xi Jinping. Following their chat, LiAngelo and his fellow players were released on bail—and thus dodged a potential 10-year prison sentence. Although the UCLA students thanked Trump, LiAngelo’s father publicly refused to do so himself.

After the dust had somewhat settled, Ball did end up sending Trump three pairs of those $500 sneakers. “They’re a hot item,” Ball told CNN's Chris Cuomo.

Why Are We So Scared of Clowns?

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

With the recent box office-smashing success of Stephen King's It, it’s safe to say that coulrophobia (fear of clowns) isn’t a fringe phenomenon. The colorful circus performers are right up there with vampires and werewolves on the list of iconic horror villains. But unlike other movie monsters, clowns were originally meant to make kids laugh, not hide under their beds in terror. So what is it about clowns that taps into our deepest fears?

According to Yale doctoral candidate Danielle Bainbridge, the unsettling clown stereotype goes back centuries. In the inaugural episode of the PBS digital series Origin of Everything, Bainbridge explained the long history of this pervasive part of our culture.

Before clowns wore floppy shoes and threw pies at each other’s faces, early versions of the performers could be found in royal courts. The court jester wasn’t evil, but he was the only person in the kingdom who could poke fun at the monarch without fear of (literally) losing his head. The fact that fools didn’t fall within the normal social hierarchy may have contributed to the future role clowns would play as untrustworthy outsiders.

From the medieval era, clowns evolved into the harlequins of 16th-century Italian theater. Again, these weren’t bloodthirsty monsters, but they weren’t exactly kid-friendly either. The characters were often mischievous and morally bankrupt, and their strange costumes and masks only added to the creepy vibes they gave off.

Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the white-faced circus clowns we know today started gaining popularity. Unlike the jesters and harlequins that came before them, these clowns performed primarily for children and maintained a wholesome image. But as pop culture in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s showed us, that old perception we had of clowns as nefarious troublemakers never really went away. Steven King’s It, the cult classic Killer Clowns From Outer Space (1988), and that scene from Poltergeist (1982) all combined these original fears with the more modern association of clowns with children. That formula gave us one of the most frightening figures in horror media today.

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Why Do We Call a Leg Cramp a Charley Horse?

iStock.com/Jan-Otto
iStock.com/Jan-Otto

If you’re unlucky enough to have experienced a charley horse—a painful muscle spasm or cramp in your leg—then you may have found yourself wondering what this nonsensical phrase even means. Who is this Charley character? Where did he come from? And what does he know about my pain?

Like the words flaky and jazz, this term likely entered the language from the baseball field. While the idiom’s etymology isn’t 100 percent certain, archived newspaper articles suggest it was coined by a baseball player in the 1880s. We just don’t know which player said it first, or why.

According to a January 1887 article in the Democrat and Chronicle, the phrase was well-known to baseball players at the time—but to the average person, charley horses were as enigmatic as “an Egyptian hieroglyphic.” That year, charley horses were mentioned in a slew of newspapers across America, and some attempted to tackle the phrase’s murky origin. “Nearly every sporting journal gives a different version as to how the term charley horse originated in baseball circles,” the Oakland Daily Evening Tribune reported at the time.

The likeliest tale, according to the paper, centered around John Wesley "Jack" Glasscock, a shortstop who at the time was playing for Indianapolis. At some point a few years earlier, the player had strained a tendon in his thigh during a game and afterwards went home to his farm, where his father looked after a lame old horse called a "Charley horse." When the senior Glasscock saw his son limping along, he reportedly exclaimed, “Why, John, my boy, what is the matter; you go just like the old Charley horse?” John supposedly shared the funny turn of phrase with his teammates, and from there it spread. Similar accounts were reported in other newspapers, but they were attributed to various other players.

Other reports say the phrase has nothing to do with a live animal, but rather the fact that an injured player, while running, resembles a rocking horse or a child riding astride a wooden hobby horse.

The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson details a few other theories. In two versions of the same basic tale, Orioles or Chicago Cubs players went to the races and bet on a horse named Charlie who "pulled up lame in the final stretch." The next day, a player pulled a tendon in his leg and was said to resemble “our old Charlie horse.”

Alternatively, its origin may relate to an old workhorse that was tasked with pulling a roller across the infield. “Often in the 1800s, old workhorses kept on the grounds of ballparks were called Charley. The movements of the injured, stiff-legged ballplayers were likened to the labored plodding of these old horses, and the injury itself eventually became known as a ‘charley’ or ‘charley horse,'" Tim Considine wrote in 1982's The Language of Sport.

It also appears that charley horse originally implied a much more serious injury—or perhaps there was a bit of hysteria surrounding a condition that seemed new and scary in the late 19th century. The Democrat and Chronicle described a charley horse as a “giving way of one of the small tendons of the leg” and said an injured baseball player might need an entire season to recover. Another article from 1887 said ballplayer George Van Haltren’s relatives were worried he would get a charley horse, “although they do not know what that is.” He was said to have been “very fortunate” because he had “not yet encountered the terrible charley horse.”

For comparison, Healthline.com now says charley horses “are generally treatable at home” by stretching, massaging, or icing the afflicted area, although the muscle pain can linger for up to a day in some cases. So there you have it. We may never know the exact etymology of the charley horse, but the next time you get a sharp pain in your leg, you can thank an old-timey ballplayer for making your struggle sound so silly.

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