WTF Fun Fact 13280 – The History of NFL Free Agency

The history of NFL free agency goes back to 1947. The first free agent in NFL history was Charley Trippi. He signed with the Chicago Cardinals in ’47 after his contract with the team expired.

However, free agency as we know it today, with unrestricted players being able to sign with any team, was introduced in 1992. This was only after players sued for the right to choose their own teams as free agents.

The complex history of NFL free agency

According to the Bleach Report (cited below), prior to 1947, a “clause in a player’s contract allowed the team to re-sign him every year to the same contract, meaning that he wasn’t going anywhere unless they traded him or he decided to retire. This was considered acceptable by just about everyone until players started to step forward and demand some sort of role in these transactions.”

Between 1989 and 1992, the NFL instituted a policy called “Plan B.” The decision allowed teams to protect their 37 best players each year.

An 8-woman federal jury found Plan B to be illegal in 1992. This happened after 8 players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. According to a New York Times story after the verdict:

The players argued that the league’s system of free agency — known as Plan B — constituted a restraint of trade by illegally limiting their ability to earn top salaries comparable with those of players in other pro sports.”

At the time, the NFL vowed to appeal the decision. Furthermore, they claimed that Plan B was essential to maintain a competitive balance between all 28 teams.

The jury awarded no damages to the players who filed the suit. But the judge ordered the NFL to pay their legal fees.

The first unrestricted free agent

The NFL’s first unrestricted free agent was Reggie White. White signed with the Green Bay Packers in 1993. White was a defensive lineman. He spent six seasons with the Packers and helped lead the team to victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

White’s signing as an unrestricted free agent was a landmark moment in NFL history, as it paved the way for other players to enjoy greater freedom and control over their careers. The current free agency system, which allows for unrestricted free agency and limits the use of the franchise tag, was put in place in part because of the lessons learned from White’s signing.

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Source: “How Free Agency Changed the NFL Forever” — Bleacher Report

WTF Fun Fact 13245 – The First NBA All-Star Game

NBA players played the first All-Star Game in Boston in 1951. That’s when Boston Celtics owner Walter A. Brown proposed the exhibition game after a college basketball gambling scandal damaged the reputation of the sport. As a result, Brown hoped the game would help restore public confidence in professional basketball.

What’s the story behind the first NBA All-Star game?

The first NBA All-Star Game was played on March 2, 1951, at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston Celtics owner Walter A. Brown proposed the idea in the aftermath of a point-shaving scandal that had rocked the college basketball world.

The point-shaving scandal affected college basketball in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This involved players from several high-profile college basketball teams. The players were paid to manipulate the outcomes. They did so by deliberately missing shots or committing fouls to keep the final score within a certain point spread. (The point spread is the predicted margin of victory determined by oddsmakers in Las Vegas. Bettors place wagers on the final score of the game based on this spread.)

In 1951, authorities arrested several players from the City College of New York and charged them with accepting bribes to fix games. That’s what brought the scandal to light. Eventually, players from New York University, Long Island University, and the University of Kentucky also admitted involvement.

The scandal had a significant impact on the sport, damaging the reputation of college basketball and hurting attendance at games. It also led to a crackdown on gambling and corruption in sports and resulted in changes to NCAA rules and regulations to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

How the game has changed

The NBA All-Star Game has changed significantly over the years, evolving from a simple exhibition game to a weekend-long event with multiple events and activities.

The All-Star Game originally featured two teams, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference, competing against each other. However, in 2018, the NBA changed the format to a playground-style draft, with team captains selecting their rosters from the pool of All-Star players.

In the early years of the All-Star Game, the players were selected solely by the coaches of the respective teams. However, in 1974, the NBA began allowing fans to vote for the starting lineups, and today, fans make up 50% of the vote, with players and media members each making up 25%.

In addition to the All-Star Game itself, the weekend now includes a number of skills competitions, such as the Slam Dunk Contest, the Three-Point Contest, a Skills Challenge, a celebrity game, and a Rising Stars Challenge featuring the best young players in the league.

In recent years, the All-Star Game began including a charitable component, with the NBA and its players donating funds to various causes and organizations in the host city.  WTF fun facts

Source: “1951 NBA All-Star Game” — Wikipedia

WTF Fun Fact 13199 – The Nike Waffle Iron Story

Do you know the Nike waffle iron story? They’re two things that seem to have nothing in common. However, the first pair of Nike sneakers were made in a waffle iron. The company patented the design as the “Nike Waffle” in 1974.

The weird Nike waffle iron story

The design for the sole of the first Nike shoe was created by a co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, who was a track coach at the University of Oregon. Bowerman was always looking for ways to improve the performance of his athletes.

One day, while making waffles for breakfast, he noticed the unique pattern on the waffle iron and had an idea to create a shoe sole with a similar pattern. He experimented with pouring liquid urethane into his wife’s waffle iron and the Waffle sole was born.

Nike named the shoe the “Nike Waffle Trainer” and introduced it in 1974.

It was a revolutionary design that provided excellent traction and durability. It quickly became a favorite among athletes.

Nike makes its mark

The Nike Waffle Trainer was a success for Nike in the 1970s. It helped establish the company as a major player in the athletic shoe market.

Top runners wore the shoe and helped Nike become known as a company that produced high-performance athletic footwear.

Nike not only patented the design but used the waffle sole in many of their other shoe models in the following years. The Waffle Trainer was one of the first shoes that Nike marketed as a performance shoe.

Nike still produces shoes with waffle soles. But they’re not as common as they were in the 1970s.

The company still uses the Waffle sole design in some of the company’s retro releases of the Waffle Trainer and other models like the Nike Waffle Racer. The waffle sole is also used in some of Nike’s newer running shoes since it provides excellent traction and durability.

While the Waffle Trainer is not as prevalent as it was in the past, it remains an iconic and important shoe in the company’s history and is still popular among some sneaker enthusiasts.

The cost of a Nike Waffle shoe can vary depending on the specific model. For example, the retail price of the Waffle Racer, which is one of the most popular models of the Waffle series, is around $85. However, prices can be higher or lower depending on the colorway, edition, and other factors. Retro releases of the Waffle Trainer can be more expensive, as they are considered collectible items and can be sold at a premium price. Prices for these retro releases can be anywhere from $100 to $200 or even more, depending on the condition of the shoe and its rarity.

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Source: “How a Dirty Old Waffle Iron Became Nike’s Holy Grail” — Popular Mechanics

WTF Fun Fact 13132 – The Super Bowl Shuffle

In 1985, the Chicago Bears recorded a hit rap song called “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” The song was even nominated for a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. However, they lost to the late singer Prince’s song “Kiss.”

The Bears’ Super Bowl Shuffle

We never expected to see the Chicago Bears nominated for a Grammy. But that’s precisely what happened after the team members known as the “Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew” released The Supe rBowl Shuffle in 1985.

The song was distributed through Capitol Records – and notable, it was released two months BEFORE their win in Super Bowl XX. How embarrassing would it have been if they lost?!

The song was popular, but it peaked at number 41 on the charts (hey, not everyone is a Bears fan).

The son’s Grammy nomination came in 1987. And that’s where the Bears lost.

The song’s legacy

The Super Bowl Shuffle made about $300,000, which went to the Chicago Community Trust to help struggling city families with housing (hence Walter Payton’s line “Now we’re not doing this because we’re greedy / The Bears are doing it to feed the needy.”)

Singers included Walter Payton, Willie Gault, Mike Singletary, Jim McMahon, Otis Wilson, Steve Fuller, Mike Richardson, Richard Dent, Gary Fencik, and William Perry. Meanwhile, the “Shufflin’ Crew” was on instrumentals and included some less well-known players like punter Maury Buford on cowbell and defensive back Ken Taylor on the tambourine. A “Shufflin’ Crew” chorus included players like Leslie Frazier. Few players declined to be involved.

The Bears weren’t the first or last team to try and make music history. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers recorded “We Are the 49ers” before winning the Super Bowl champs, but the disco-pop hit wasn’t all that successful (neither was their do-over “49ers Rap”). They were no “Super Bowl Shuffle,” cringey as it may have been.

And who could forget (except everyone) the Green Bay Packers’ attempt to spoof the “Macarena”, by recording “Packarena” in 1996?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Throwback Thursday: When the Chicago Bears Sang ‘The Super Bowl Shuffle” — Hollywood Reporter

WTF Fun Fact 13125 – NFL Referees Get Superbowl Rings

NFL referees don’t get a lot of love, But the refs chosen to work the Superbowl do get their own Superbowl rings.

Receiving a Superbowl ring

A Superbowl ring is obviously a valuable object. Only the winning team gets them, but so do all the referees. The tradition goes all the way back to the first NFL-AFL Championship Game in 1967, which is retroactively called Superbowl I.

Only referees with the best reputations and records are chosen to officiate the Superbowl. They do receive compensation above and beyond their salaries for the work. But the ring serves as an extra reward and moment.

In fact, the refs are the only people guaranteed to get Superbowl rings regardless of the outcome of the game.

But rest assured, they’re nowhere near as large or as valuable as the massive diamond-encrusted rings the players get.

Who else gets a ring?

According to NBC 6 News (cited below):

“While there isn’t a hard-and-fast number to how much a Super Bowl ring is worth, depending on the circumstances and details of the ring, experts generally appraise them between $30,000 and $50,000 based on the jewels and features alone.”

As of 2020, all 53 players on a winning NFL team, as well as coaches, team executives, and the practice squad get Superbowl rings. But they’re not all worth the same amount of money. The bling that goes to non-players is up to the discretion of team owners. And they have so much discretion that they can even choose to bestow some type of ring on cheerleaders and trainers.

While the losing team members do not get Superbowl rings, they do get conference championship rings. But it’s a lot rarer for someone to show one of those off, so we don’t hear much about them.

Who makes and pays for Superbowl rings?

Ever wonder who makes Superbowl rings? It’s typically Jostens – the same company that makes most yearbooks and class rings! However, they have to bid on the job each year. In the past, they’ve been outbid a few times by Balfour and even Tiffany’s & Co.

Wondering who pays for all this bling?

The cost of team rings is split between the NFL (which contributes roughly $5k to $7k per ring for up to 150 rings per team) and team owners.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Here’s How Much a Super Bowl Ring Costs and How It’s Made” — NBC 6

WTF Fun Fact 13114 – The Eiffel Tower is Taller in Summer

The Eiffel Tower is taller in summer (it also shrinks in the winter). The reason? Thermal expansion (and contraction).

How is the Eiffel Tower taller in summer?

At 330 meters high, you won’t be able to tell just by looking at it that the Eiffel Tower grows by 15 centimeters in the summer. At 132 years old, the Tower spent 42 glorious years as the world’s tallest building. And the structure wasn’t even meant to be permanent.

The Eiffel tower is made of iron, puddled iron (or wrought iron) to be exact. And to be even more precise, it’s puddled iron from the Forges de Pompey near Nancy, France.

At the time, architect Gustave Eiffel had relied heavily on iron and had not worked with steel in any significant way in his architecture. Of course, steel does not change during temperature fluctuations, whereas iron does.

The growing and shrinking Tower

According to the structure’s tourism website (cited below):

“When temperatures rise, the Tower increases in size! This is a natural physical phenomenon called thermal expansion. Heat causes an increase in volume that makes the Eiffel Tower a few centimeters taller. This expansion also causes the Tower to tilt slightly away from the sun. The sun only hits one of the 4 sides of the Tower creating an imbalance with the other 3 sides, that remain stable, thus causing the Eiffel Tower to lean. In this way, the sun’s movement over the course of a clear day can cause the top of the Tower to move in a more or less circular curve measuring approximately 15 centimeters in diameter.”

You probably can’t see it in your photos, but you read that right – the Tower does lean slightly in the summer since the sun only hits one side directly, causing it to expand.

This expansion goes away when the sun isn’t strong.

Thermal contraction is a winter problem. During the cold months, the metal structure shrinks from its normal height.

You might think all this contracting and shrinking causes the iron to become weaker, but the Tower is so large that there’s no risk of cracking. It was also built to withstand wind. In fact, it was designed to sway with the wind (or at least vibrate) to avoid structural damage.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Why does the Eiffel Tower change size?” —

WTF Fun Fact 13019 – Surfing Invented By Ancient Polynesians

When was surfing invented? Probably 700 years ago, at least. The Polynesians invented surfing – that is, standing on a board while riding a wave – long before contact with European colonists. Only later did it come to Hawaii.

Who invented surfing?

Surfing goes back to at least the 12th century. Polynesians made the first surfboards from long pieces of wood. They likely used the activity as a means of transportation between the islands of Polynesia. But it was also a sacred activity and a way to train warriors.

Today, we typically think of Hawaii as the birthplace of surfing, but it likely originated on other Polynesian islands. The Polynesians brought it to Hawaii later.

According to the surf blog Errant Waves (cited below):

“Surfing was a central part of the power relationship on these islands. For example, the tribe with the highest rank had the best beaches and the best ‘boards.’ In addition, the chiefs of the tribes were the best surfers in the clan, who therefore were allowed to have the best boards made of the best wood. The ‘normal’ people were not allowed on the beaches of the tribal chiefs. They had to surf on their own, lesser beaches. Surfing was therefore literally a royal sport on these islands.”

While cave paintings tell us how old surfing may be, the earliest descriptions are in the notes of European colonists.

Colonists’ describe the invention of surfing

The first description of surfing on the island of Hawaii comes from the botanist onboard Captain Cook’s HMS Resolution. Joseph Banks wrote:

“(…) the shore was covered with pebbles and large stones; yet, in the midst of these breakers, were ten or twelve Indians swimming for their amusement: whenever a surf broke near them, they dived under it, and, to all appearance with infinite facility, rose again on the other side...At this wonderful scene we stood gazing for more than half an hour, during which time none of the swimmers attempted to come on shore, but seemed to enjoy their sport in the highest degree; we then proceeded in our journey, and late in the evening got back to the fort.”

Less than a decade later, in 1777, Dr. William Anderson wrote another description. In 1777, he published these words about surfers in Tahiti:

“I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and so smoothly by the sea; especially as, though the tents and ships were so near, he did not seem in the least to envy or even to take any notice of the crowds of his countrymen collected to view them as objects which were rare and curious. During my stay, two or three of the natives came up, who seemed to share his felicity, and always called out when there was an appearance of a favorable swell, as he sometimes missed it by his back being turned, and looking about for it. By then I understood that this exercise… was frequent among them; and they have probably more amusements of this sort which afford them at least as much pleasure as skating, which is the only of ours with whose effects I could compare it.”  WTF fun facts

Source: History of Surfing – Collections of Waikiki

WTF Fun Fact 12941 – Jousting is Maryland’s State Sport

On June 1, 1962, Maryland became the first U.S. state to adopt an official sport. And you may be totally confused by its choice. That’s because jousting is Maryland’s state sport.

Why on earth is jousting Maryland’s state sport?

For most of us, it seems like an odd choice. But if you explore the Maryland State Archives, you’ll see that “jousting tournaments have been held in Maryland since early colonial times but became increasingly popular after the Civil War.”

And they never really stopped jousting in Maryland. According to The Culture Trip: “The pageantry is not lost in modern-day tournaments. Men (referred to as knights) and women (referred to as maids) are dressed in colorful costumes full of regalia and many of the medieval customs and practices are still utilized. The Maryland State Jousting Championship is held annually and has been sponsored by the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association since its founding in 1950.”

Ok, so we just have to chalk our surprise up to ignorance. But in all fairness, they should really televise that stuff widely.

Making jousting “official”

States that want an official anything – whether it’s a bird, song, flower, or sport – need only propose a bill and have it passed by their state government. Not all states have an official sport, but we’re sure some followed in Maryland’s footsteps (though they didn’t pick jousting).

For Maryland, the whole thing was apparently a no-brainer. In 1962 “Henry J. Fowler, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from St. Mary’s County, introduced a bill during a session of the Maryland General Assembly to establish jousting as the official state sport. The bill passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor J. Millard Tawes.

Modern Maryland jousting

Today’s jousting competitions in Maryland are held throughout the state and abide by rules created in 1950. It’s a non-contact sport “where competitors on horseback with lance in hand try to spear hanging rings of various sizes while quickly riding by three arches. Rings, ranging in diameter from one-quarter of an inch to approximately two inches, are hung nearly 7 feet off the ground.”

Tournaments take place between May and October

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Source: “Why Jousting Is Maryland’s Official State Sport” — The Culture Trip

WTF Fun Fact 12919 – Hockey’s Emergency Backup Goalie

A few years ago, the NHL revisited rules surrounding the emergency backup goalie rules, but decided they were fine as is. While most of us probably have Disney movie-type visions of people being called out of the crowd to fill in, the rule is actually a little more mundane. That said, even an accountant has been called in to stop some pucks.

What is the emergency backup goalie in hockey?

NHL emergency backup goalies (EBUG) have been in the news recently because of COVID and the increasing need to call on them.

According to the NHL: “Under Rule 5.3, if both goalies are unable to continue, a team can dress and play any available goalie who’s eligible. If both goalies are injured in quick succession, the EBUG gets enough time to get dressed and then a two-minute warmup (unless he’s facing a penalty shot). If the EBUG is already on the bench when the second goalie is injured, the EBUG comes in and plays immediately.”

But the EBUGs don’t come from anywhere, they have goalie experience, which is pretty specialized (otherwise teams could just ask a bench player to suit up in goalie pads).

An article by the NHL on the role of emergency backup goalies (cited below) notes that: “Since the 2016-17 season, the NHL has required teams to have a list of local emergency goalie options for themselves and visiting teams. They’ve been used each season outside of 2020-21, when, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL required teams to have taxi squads (four to six players per team, including at least one goalie).”

There’s very little money in it, but the EBUG does get to swoop in and save the day.

Heroic backups

Scott Foster and David Ayres are often cited as two examples of great EBUGs. Foster was employed as an accountant when he suited up as backup goalie in 2018 for the Chicago Blackhawks-Winnipeg Jets game and saved all 7 shots that came his way to win the game. Ayers was a building operator for the Toronto Maple Leafs when he came in and saved 8 out of 10 shots to help win the game.

While neither had ever played in the NHL, they did both have goalie experience in another league.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Emergency goalies stay ready to fulfill NHL dreams at moment’s notice” —