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Getty Images

21 Super Facts About the Carolina Panthers

Getty Images
Getty Images

You’ve got to tip your hat to the Panthers. Despite ranking among the NFL’s youngest franchises, they have enjoyed a level of success and rabid fan support that many older teams would kill for. Here’s a quick primer on Carolina’s Super Bowl-bound squad.    

1. Pro football was first introduced to the Tar Heel State long before the Panthers came along. A depression-era team known as the Charlotte Bantams played there for three seasons before folding in 1934. This was followed in 1941 with the Dixie League’s Charlotte Clippers, and in the 1970s when the Charlotte Hornets played for the now forgotten World Football League.

2. Bipartisanship helped bring the modern NFL to the Carolinas. Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC) both lobbied the league for an expansion team that would represent their shared region. Thanks in part to these two politicians, Charlotte was officially awarded a brand-new franchise on October 26, 1993.

3. The nicknames “Cobras,” “Rhinos,” and “Cougars” were all considered before franchise owner Jerry Richardson settled on “Panthers” at the suggestion of his son Mark, who’d always liked the big, black cats.

4. Super Bowl XXXI could have featured a pair of not-quite-2-year-old teams. In 1995, both the NFC’s Carolina Panthers and AFC’s Jacksonville Jaguars made their on-field debuts. Just one season later, they reached the Conference Championship round of the playoffs—coming up short against the Packers and Patriots, respectively.

5. Bank of America Stadium—the current name of the team's home—wasn't ready for the Panthers until 1996, so their first season was played at Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina.

6. According to NFL Films, the Panthers logo “loosely [represents] the outline of North and South Carolina.” Tilt your head and squint and you’ll see it.

Thomas Davis

7. Among the NFL’s 31 current owners, Jerry Richardson—a former Baltimore Colt—is the only one who’s actually played in the league. Perhaps his proudest moment on the gridiron came during the 1959 NFL Championship Game, when he caught a touchdown pass thrown by Johnny Unitas. Richardson’s Colts went on to win 31-16.

8. The inaugural 1995 campaign came with a huge highlight. By defeating San Francisco in Week 10, the Panthers became the first franchise to ever beat a reigning Super Bowl champion during its maiden season.  

9. Mascot Sir Purr is advertised as “the coolest cat in the Carolinas.” Slick as he may be, the feline screwed up big-time during a 1996 home game against Pittsburgh. After one Steeler punt, Sir Purr dove onto the (live) ball in Carolina’s end zone, forcing his Panthers to settle for a touchback. Performer Tommy Donovan was wearing the suit that day. “It never registered that I was interfering with the game,” he said. “But the crowd went nuts. I looked up and all these players were around me, laughing and hitting me and saying, ‘Good job. Way to down that punt.’”

10. Super Bowl XXXVIII pitted Carolina against Tom Brady’s Patriots. That contest—which the Panthers lost—saw the most fourth-quarter points in Super Bowl history, with the two teams combining for a grand total of 37.

11. A multi-sport athlete, longtime Panther Julius Peppers (currently with the Packers) played football and basketball at the University of North Carolina. Along with ex-Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, he’s one of only two men to have ever participated in both a Super Bowl and an NCAA Final Four game.

12. Statistically, the chances of losing 13 consecutive coin tosses are one in 8192. But that’s exactly what happened to the 2012 Panthers, who didn’t get a favorable flip until Week 14.  

13. Though they now call Charlotte home, Jerry Richardson’s club reports for training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With this fact and the Clemson connection in mind, Governor Nikki Haley of the Palmetto State declared July 30, 2012 “Carolina Panthers Day.”

14. In 2014, the Panthers became the first team to ever win back-to-back NFC South titles. As if that weren’t impressive enough, they’ve gone and clinched the division for a third consecutive time this season.   

Greg Olsen

15. The Boston Red Sox aren’t the only pro sports team to embrace a certain Neil Diamond song. After every home win, you’ll hear “Sweet Caroline” being broadcast throughout Bank of America Stadium. 

16. At home, the Panthers have started an adorable tradition. After almost every successful touchdown drive, the players give away the football to a lucky kid in the stands. In this year’s NFC championship game, Carolina defended its home turf against the Cardinals, finding the end zone on five separate occasions. But when the dust settled, only four youngsters wound up with a TD ball. The fifth was reserved by wide receiver Devin Funchess, who’d promised to save one for his grandfather.

17. Panther Cam Newton has recently become the first quarterback in league history to have at least 3000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in five consecutive seasons.

18. Carolina’s Ron Rivera is now the first Hispanic head coach to bring an NFC team to the Super Bowl.

19. So far, the Panthers have never won a playoff game in their black home jerseys—which they’ll be rocking at Super Bowl 50. This awkward situation comes courtesy of Denver. In even-numbered Super Bowls, the AFC squad is designated the home team and given the choice of what colors to wear. This year the Broncos bucked the trend and selected their white road outfits instead, thus forcing Carolina’s hand.

20. We’re all about to witness the largest-ever age gap between opposing Super Bowl quarterbacks. Peyton Manning of the Broncos is 39, making him 13 years Newton’s senior.

21. “Keep pounding” is the team’s rallying cry. This was the personal motto of linebacker Sam Mills, who, after a battle with intestinal cancer, passed away in 2005. To honor his memory, those words are now stitched inside the collar of every Panthers jersey. 

All photos courtesy of Getty Images 

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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