Thursday Trivia (on Friday!): “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is a funky movie, in every sense of the world. Starring Julius Erving as Moses Guthrie, star player on the then-struggling, then-Pittsburgh Pythons, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is an out-there basketball film with a few touches of astrology and a downright fantastic soundtrack back from the days of funk and disco. But one of the coolest scenes is in the final throes of the film, when the Pittsburgh Pisces, the team renamed after wild success for a lineup centered around Moses’s astrological sign, when the team enters the Pittsburgh Civic Arena through its retractable roof via hot air balloon.

The Civic Arena is no more – the Consol Energy Center has since replaced it – but it’s important to note why, exactly, the arena had a retractable dome. (No, it wasn’t to play arena football outside for the stupidest oxymoron ever.) The arena’s original tenant was the Civic Light Opera, who used the retractable roof to perform  under the stars in good weather (which they did from their inception in 1946 to 1958), and in an enclosed theater in bad. They performed at the arena from 1961 until 1969 (in spite of what would seem to be downright atrocious acoustics), afterwards leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pipers ABA team as the building tenants.

Four more facts related to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh after the jump! Continue reading


Music Monday: Norteno on the 6 Train (plus things of note)

First off: there was a norteño band performing when I was on the 6 train yesterday. I rarely if ever see musicians performing on the Lexington Avenue Line, at least on the trains (musicians can easily be found on the platforms of most stations (including 68th Street-Hunter College, which is one of the stops I often use), along with the mezzanine for the 42nd Street station). The trains are generally too crowded and thus musicians really don’t have the space to play. I suppose they were there since it was a Sunday and the train was sparsely-occupied.

The song itself, as recorded for the Subway Music Archive (which I’ll make a page for here on the blog at some point, just have to get around to it) is a fragment, as they began playing just before the train pulled into the 51st Street station – since I was taking the 6 to the E to the 7 on the way to a Halloween party (video of which is over here on Tumblr), I had to transfer at 51st – but I recorded until the train doors closed.

Also, two other Mets-related things I wanted to tackle without writing a separate post: Ted Berg is moving to the Upper East Side (welcome to New York County, Ted!) today and has been posting some of TedQuarters‘s “greatest hits”, including this one on the closing and tearing-down of Shea Stadium. It’s cool because I’d never read it before – it was on his “Flushing Fussing” column before he began his blog – and that it mentions my dad and I. Not by name – otherwise I’d probably know about it – but as “a young man and an old man [playing] catch with mitts and a tennis ball,” which my dad and I did for basically the entirety of fall and winter of 2008-2009 after work at the Armstrong House as sort of a cathartic exercise as Shea was being taken down.

Second, the Mets announced they’re moving in the walls of Citi Field today. It oddly looks like the renderings Randy Medina of The Apple drew up. I’m just going to leave it at that.

Thursday Trivia: Things that Start with “X”

There are two reasons this post came about: first, because of one of the facts below that I learned at the Lists exhibit at the Morgan Library about a month or two ago. Second, and more importantly, because in virtually every alphabetical list, the letter “x” is presented with the word “x-ray.” Hell, even the NATO phonetic alphabet uses “x-ray” for the letter “x.” (At that rate, why don’t you just say “x”? The letter “x” is the only part of “x-ray” that particularly matters in that instance! Ughhhh….) Needless to say, that always leaves me a little perturbed. So instead, here are five things you can use in place of the word “x-ray” and a little bit of information about them:

  • Xenurine is an alternate name for a cabassou – which is in turn an alternate name for an armadillo. Cabassous is the genus for “naked-tail” armadillos, which lends credence to the etymology of xenurine – Greek for “strange tail.”
  • XI is not just the Roman numeral for 11, but is also a Greek letter and an acceptable two-letter word in Scrabble. Other two-letter words using tough tiles accepted in Scrabble include “qi” (a Chinese word meaning “vital energy needed in battle”) and “za” (a shortening of “pizza.”)
  • X is the first call letter for all Mexican radio stations, which is in turn divided into XE and XH for AM and FM, respectively (XH is also often used for TV stations). In Major League Baseball, the San Diego Padres’ English and Spanish radio stations are Mexican stations – so-called “border blasters,” which emanate from Mexico (specifically Tijuana) but have a high enough wattage to be heard in San Diego and elsewhere in Southern California.
  • In the Harry Potter universe, Xenophilius Lovegood was responsible for the publication of The Quibbler, which sort of served as the National Enquirer to The Daily Prophet‘s more upstanding, heralded culture (with the exception of Rita Skeeter, who is closer to the Perez Hilton of the wizarding world). Filled with stories of (most likely fictional) creatures and stories of cryptozoology, it makes sense that ol’ Xeno was given his first name by J.K. Rowling; “xenophilia” literally means “love of strange things” in Greek.

Thursday Trivia: Spyridon Louis

Spiridon Louis, 1896 Olympic marathon champion

Spyridon Louis, Greek sports legend/sharp dresser. (Image via Wikipedia.)

This is a departure from the usual ThursTriv format; instead of five facts about a certain topic, here’s one of my favorite Olympic stories.

Also, a reminder that the Thursday Trivia Podcast returns next week with five questions on Nintendo.

In 1896, when the Olympic Games were revived where they were born in Athens, the marathon was born (or, in a sense, reborn, following in the footsteps of Phidippides running from Marathon to Athens relaying the news of the Greeks’ victory in the Battle of Marathon – for the record, he died almost immediately after giving the word). After victories in the other track and field events by foreigners, the Greek people longed for one of their own to win the marathon.

Enter Spyridon Louis, who transported mineral water with his father outside of Athens. After coming in fifth in the second qualifying race, he competed in the official race and ran his way into Olympic history and Greek lexicon.

Continue reading

Thursday Trivia: Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige was undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all time – a career record of 103-61 in the Negro Leagues with an ERA of just over 2, and even in his late 40s he was still blowing batters away, averaging 96 strikeouts per season when playing in the big leagues (all his time spent in the American League), but in actuality, one of his most famous pitches would be illegal in baseball today. No, it’s not a spitball – it was his “Hesitation Pitch,” in which it was said that Paige would have an even higher leg kick than usual, hold it, and with a slower motion than usual throw it home. Now, that’s regularly a balk – there has to be a completion of the motion, and you can’t stop midway – and eventually American League President Will Harridge eventually ruled it as such, but I think Jack Brickhouse, the late former Cubs broadcaster, said it best when he said that Paige “”threw a lot of pitches that were not quite ‘legal’ and not quite ‘illegal.'”

Four more facts about Leroy “Satchel” Paige after the jump!

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Stuff I Dislike: People Waving on While on Cell Phones at Televised Sporting Events

So you’re behind home plate at a baseball game; the game’s on TV (most are, especially if it’s a major league game or like last night’s Cyclones game, which I was at and which was the impetus for this post), and as a result, you’re on TV. Now, you could just do the smart thing and watch the game, or – realizing that you’re behind home plate before you go – tell your friends that you’ll be on TV and tell them to watch it or record it or whatever. Same goes for being in the end zones at a football game, or near the penalty box or behind the benches at a hockey game, or court-side at a basketball game (you rich sonofagun, you).

But noooooo, instead you’ve got to call your friends and family every damn half-inning telling them that you’re on TV.

Like these morons.

While the people who are sitting next to you (ideally not also calling their friends and family telling them that they were on TV) have to listen to every damn one of your conversations, ’cause they paid for that seat and aren’t leaving ’cause of some jerk. And that’s not even a hugely major achievement or anything, being on TV at a sporting event. You’re not interviewed (unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld, in which case you get to do freakin’ play-by-play), you’re not really mentioned unless you catch a foul ball or something, you’re just there, a face in the crowd. Do you have to wave and call your friends if you’re on the news? (No, you post video of it on your blog.) So therefore you don’t have to at a sporting event. It makes you look like “that guy,” and frankly, I hate “that guy.”

Back with a New Podcast! Wooooo!

First of all, thanks to Liz Kussman for being made of awesome and guest-blogging for me over the past week. Next, here’s this week’s regularly-scheduled episode of the ThursTriv podcast on Canada! The bonus podcast will be up tomorrow (though it’ll be up on SoundCloud later tonight).

And what the Hell, here’s this week’s AccioNerds video.

Textual Thursday Trivia later tonight tomorrow or possibly after that (good God that’s a lot of alliteration).

Top 5: Facial Hair in Sports

It should be fairly obvious by now that I’m a pretty big supporter of facial hair. Hell, the reason I hold onto it is because it’s simply one of the few vestiges of masculinity I’ve got (but that’s another much, much longer discussion for another day). For athletes, though, it’s not for masculinity – they already have that – it’s for intimidation, or for unity. After I saw  are 5 of my favorites:

5. Carlos Valderrama

This one is often overlooked because of Valderrama’s classically ridiculous hair, but in reality it’s not exactly subtle – it’s a freakin’ caterpillar running across his face. Which in my (sort of twisted) opinion is kinda awesome.

4. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, 2004

Bit of trivia: Because of eight games in his rookie season, J.S. Giguere is one of the last two Hartford Whalers still playing in the NHL (Chris Pronger’s the other). He’s also the latest of only five Conn Smythe winners to be on the losing team of the Stanley Cup Finals, in his case due to absolutely standing on his head for the entirety of the 2003 playoffs, with the Ducks falling in a 7-game series to the Devils (more on them in a bit). And he did it with his pretty bodacious playoff beard. Now, it’s basically the same as other playoff beards, but here’s something important to note: he (and possibly more importantly, his wife) absolutely hated the beard, but he grew it anyway as a point of unity with the team. That’s always pretty awesome. Continue reading

Watch This: “History Will Be Made”

(UPDATE: I wrote this yesterday, and then this happened. Perhaps these ads are some sort of premonition.)

For the past two years, the NHL has been branding television coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (easily both one of the longest championship series in American sports and one of the most fun) with the tagline “History Will Be Made.” They’ve produced some fantastic commercials under this umbrella, each with a line of “History [does something]…History Will Be Made,” including what can only be described as real-time creations of advertisements (basically one big moment from each day of games – last night’s was Brian Boucher coming up big in goal for the Flyers, which you can see below). I guess you can say that “History Can Be Made at Any Moment.” (Sorry, these things write themselves.) Here are a few of my favorites:

As promised here’s the one from last night’s Flyers-Sabres game, as “History Answers the Call.”

Yesterday’s featured Brandon Dubinsky’s game-winner against the Caps – “History Finds A Way.”

I, for one, love the fan-made one as well from Sunday’s game – “History Can Be Ugly.”

Another great fan-made video, featuring the 2003 Ducks’ championship run:

Continue reading

Introducing Thursday Trivia: The Podcast!

Here comes the first of the weekly podcasts – this one’s on the awesome 2010 documentary The Last Play at Shea, which I saw yesterday afternoon – it’s streaming for free until tomorrow here. Thanks to James Carter of the fantastic PodQuiz for the inspiration and basic structure – which I tweaked a little here on this podcast.