Dolphin Dolls, Yoda & Boutros Boutros-Ghali
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online

Into the wild with Alexander Supertramp …

The set-up: Miller discussed the Colts' season, which has fallen well short of expectations.

The quip: "If Miami wins tonight, the Colts would have to win out for the rest of the season just to go 8-8. And trust me, that's one Indy 500 that nobody saw coming."

The read: And now, some completely pointless facts about the Indianapolis 500!

The racetrack is known as "the Brickyard" because the original track laid in 1909 was paved with 3.2 million bricks. In the years after 1936, asphalt was gradually laid over the parts of the bricks, until by 1961 only a historic 36-inch strip of bricks at the start/finish line remained.

The first Indy winner to drink milk in Victory Lane was Louis Meyer, who celebrated his 1936 win with his favorite beverage, buttermilk. The people at the Milk Foundation (the forerunner of today's American Dairy Association) knew a great marketing hook when they saw one and made sure each year after that there was always a bottle of milk on hand for the Indy winners to chug.

But the Indy champs drew the line when they were asked to get out of the car and yell, "I'm going to Dairyland!"

The set-up: Miller closed his pregame rant from Pro Player Stadium with a familiar refrain.

The quip: "Miami Beach audiences are the greatest audiences in the world!"

Jackie Gleason
The Great One, selling wolf tickets.
The read: After amassing enormous fame in the '50s with the original "Jackie Gleason Show" and its hit spin-off, "The Honeymooners" in 1964, Jackie Gleason returned to a variety show format with the second "Jackie Gleason Show." By this time the Great One was pretty much coasting on his previous successes, and Gleason chose to broadcast the show live from a theater in Miami Beach, which allowed him to play golf most of the week and phone in his performance on Saturday nights. Aware that he had a pretty cushy gig going, Gleason would end each show with the declaration that "Miami Beach audiences are the greatest audiences in the world!"

P.S. In 1978 June Taylor, leader of Gleason's trademark June Taylor Dancers, was responsible for the revamping of the Miami Dolphins cheerleader squad, changing their name from the "Dolphin Dolls" to the much more respectable "Dolphin Starbrites." The Dolphins cheerleaders have gone through several more incarnations, none of which should distract us from the salient point -- that they are paid very little to wear even less and bounce around at a football game. In front of the greatest audiences in the world, of course.


The set-up: The Dolphins' logo was onscreen during a stats rundown.

The quip: "I'm surprised the animal rights groups aren't protesting the dolphins thing, putting the helmet on the little dolphin, clogging the blowhole. Everybody knows that in nature dolphins wear a fez."

The read: The truncated conical hat, favored by Shriners, James Bond henchmen, and, apparently, aquatic mammals, actually has a very deep and intricate history. The fez's haberdashery roots are in the Mediterranean tarboosh, a centuries-old brimless hat designed so that Muslims, when praying, could bow low to the ground without impediment.

Boys will be boys.
The tarboosh is still popular in Greece and Egypt, but in the 19th century a new version took its name from the Moroccan city of Fez, where the tarboosh had originated. The fez was introduced into wide usage within the Ottoman Empire in 1826 by Sultan Mahmud II. Mahmud sought to create a new Ottoman image, partially through headwear, that would distinguish his countrymen from the rest of the turban-wearing Muslim world.

Almost 100 years later, Kemal Ataturk, the "Father of Turks," set out to further push all signs of Islam out of the new country he was forming from the remains of the Ottoman Empire. Among other things, Ataturk wanted his country to look modern and Western, and so in 1925 he reversed Mahmud's efforts and banned the wearing of fezzes in the fledgling nation of Turkey. Bowlers and fedoras were to replace them, and anyone caught wearing a fez could be sentenced to three months in jail. That year almost 20 fez-wearers were executed as examples and mass fez busts continued throughout the late '20s.

It's nice to know we live in a country where people can wear whatever hat they please -- even Packers cheesehead hats, two-can-holder beer-sippin' hard hats, and those Cat-in-the-Hat hats all the kids were wearing in the '90s. That's what freedom is all about -- the right to look really silly in public.


The set-up: Miller rethought his comment that Dolphins wide receiver Oronde Gadsden should be used to playing in tight spaces because of his Arena Football background.

The quip: "I'm sorry, I take it back, by the time it was out of my mouth I hated it. It was Seward's Folly all along."

The read: In 1867, Andrew Johnson's secretary of state, William Seward, went shopping for a piece of Arctic land, something, say, around the 378-million acre size. In fact he'd had his eye on a little spread north of Canada called Alaska that the Russians had been looking to unload for decades.

Despite opposition to the purchase in the Senate, it was finally approved by one vote. On March 30, 1887, Seward got his new territory for around $7.2 million, or about two cents an acre. Immediately the purchase of Alaska, which was roughly one-fifth the size of the United States at that time, became known as "Seward's Icebox" and "Seward's Folly." Congress pointed out that in time Seward would just get bored of the new land and end up leaving it out in the rain to get ruined, like he did all the other stuff they bought him.

But in the 1880s and '90s prospectors found gold in Alaska and the Klondike Gold Rush began. By the time a large oil and gas deposit was found in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, Alaska, which had become a state in 1959, had pretty much paid for itself and Seward's purchase seemed much less foolish.

Alaskan folly on a much smaller scale came to America's attention in 1996, upon the release of Jon Krakauer's book "Into the Wild," an existentialist examination of the case of Chris McCandless, a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp, who went to Alaska to find transcendence in the wild and froze to death in an abandoned bus.


The set-up: Referee Dick Hantak stepped up to make one of the first half's only penalty calls.

The quip: "This guy usually presides over more conferences than Boutros Boutros-Ghali."

The read: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Egyptian statesman and scholar, did not have the smoothest time as secretary general of the United Nations from 1992 to 1996. The first Arab and African to hold the position, Boutros-Ghali had to deal with the changing realities of a post-Cold-War world, as well as difficult situations in Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. His handling of the UN was especially criticized by the United States, which made sure he was shown the door after one term. Still, for some reason, unlike most other UN secretaries general, he has been a very common point of reference for comedians.


The set-up: Al Michaels conducted a half-time interview with former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson.

The quip: "He looked windswept, he looked like Ann-Margret in 'Kitten with a Whip.'"

The read: For starters, Ann-Margret does have a last name -- it's Olsson, as she was born in Valsjöbyn, Jämtland, Sweden, in 1941. She came to the United States when she was seven and eventually her family settled on the North Shore of Chicago, where they lived in the funeral home where her mother worked. After attending New Trier High School, where she was a cheerleader (didn't you just know it?), she attended one year at Northwestern University, where she continued to lead her student body in cheers.

Ann-Margaret
Ann-Margret shows off her, uh, hat.
In the early '60s, after being discovered singing in Vegas by George Burns, Ann-Margret had her breakout role in 1963's film version of the stage play "Bye Bye Birdie." A year later she showed up in the killer one-two combo of "Viva Las Vegas" (where she captured her co-star Elvis's heart on and off the screen) and "Kitten with a Whip." While "Viva" was pure spunky, shimmy-dancin' fun, "Kitten with a Whip" was a lurid noir drama, with A-M playing a juvenile delinquent femme fatale out to ruin John Forsythe's life.

From then on there were the good points ("Ann-Margrock" on "The Flintstones") and the bad (falling off a 22-foot platform during a 1972 show in Lake Tahoe, breaking her face and going into a near-death coma for three days). As for her performance in 1975's "Tommy," where she rolled around the floor covered in chocolate and baked beans, we like to think it somehow transcends Earthly distinctions of "good" and "bad."


The set-up: Al Michaels pointed out that Ann-Margret was in attendance at the game, as she was in Miami with the touring company of "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

The quip: "I was in Dallas last week and I saw 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Miami.'"

The read: Prostitution had been flourishing in La Grange, Texas, for 50 years when Miss Jessie Williams arrived in 1905 and set up shop. After moving her operations to an 11-acre site outside of the town, Williams' establishment earned the nickname "The Chicken Ranch" during the Depression due to her custom of letting impoverished patrons pay for services with poultry.

Edna Milton bought the Ranch in the '50s and, like the madams before her, struck up a mutually beneficial relationship with the local sheriff, in this case T.J. Flournoy. The Chicken Ranch soon became known statewide for its strict standards of behavior and hygiene.

But in 1973 Marvin Zindler, a consumer-affairs television reporter from Houston, aired a weeklong expose on the Ranch, which turned the heat up on Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. to shut down the establishment. The Chicken Ranch was closed in August of 1973, but when Zindler sued Flournoy two years later for pushing him down during an altercation, the little whorehouse became a cause célèbre.

The "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" opened on Broadway in 1978, grabbing Tonys and spawning a 1982 film version with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. However, it should be noted that the Broadway musical is not the only melodious byproduct of the Chicken Ranch. The classic 1973 ZZ Top song "La Grange" also pays tribute to "that home out on the range," where "they gotta lotta nice girls."

Have mercy.


The set-up: Miami wide receiver Chris Chambers snags an impressive end zone catch, sliding on his knees.

The quip: "A star is born."

The read: Maybe some of you felt the timeless story of the male entertainer who takes the woman under his wing and makes her a star, only to have his own career slide down into alcoholism and self-destruction wasn't done right by Fredric March and Janet Gaynor in the 1937 version by William Wellman.

Or by James Mason and Judy Garland in the 1954 version by George Cukor.

Or by Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand in the 1976 version by Frank Pierson.

Well, never fear -- yet another version is in the works with Jamie Foxx and whoever the hottest female singer of the moment turns out to be. (J-Lo, Mariah and Lauryn Hill have been mentioned.) Not good enough for you? How about if it's directed by that maestro of music and romance, Oliver Stone?

We really do wish we were making this up.


The set-up: Miller embarked on a long and ultimately pointless tangent comparing throwing 20 interceptions as an NFL quarterback to losing 20 games as a Major League pitcher. He later told Al he regretted the analogy.

The quip: "Why didn't you stop me, you're supposed to be my Yoda?"

Yoda
The Thinker.
The read: Like Vanilla Ice and Steven Seagal, many of the details about Yoda's background are unclear. However, the 900-year-old, 25-inch-tall, lime-green Jedi Master was an important member of the Jedi Council in the waning days of the Galactic Republic. It was Yoda who, in his final years, trained Obi-wan Kenobi, opposed the admittance of Anakin Skywalker to the Jedi, and finally, after going into hiding on Dagobah following the fall of the Republic, taught Luke Skywalker, Anakin's son.

However it's unclear why, despite all this age and wisdom, Yoda seemed unable to correctly order simple syntax or stop sounding like Grover.

Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.

Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld


 
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