This Week in History: Politicizing sports and cult suicide - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

This Week in History: Politicizing sports and cult suicide

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Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to Earth on March 22, 1997. (Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons) Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to Earth on March 22, 1997. (Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)
The USS Langley (CV-1) was commissioned March 20, 1922. (Source: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons) The USS Langley (CV-1) was commissioned March 20, 1922. (Source: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
The first playoffs for the Stanley Cup started March 22, 1894. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) The first playoffs for the Stanley Cup started March 22, 1894. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) – I have never watched Dallas – original or new – but I know J.R. getting shot was a big deal.

The episode A House Divided, when J.R. Ewing got shot by an unidentified gunman, aired March 21, 1980, and wasn't resolved until Nov. 21, in the fourth episode of the next season, aptly titled Who Done It?

That had to be awful for people who loved the show, such as The Queen Mother. It's the kind of plot twist that you can only do once … except that the new Dallas did it again. Larry Hagman – the guy who plays J.R. – died last year while the new show was still in production, so they decided to kill J.R. too.

The question of how to do this was answered easily. Well, we already shot him once, let's shoot him again. So they did. Supposedly we'll know who shot him soon. I'm sure I'll hear about it somehow because I hear tons of information on a daily basis I care nothing about.

If you've ever thought Hollywood is just recycling the same old story line over and over again, this is undeniable proof. This is also a huge reason to hate TV shows. My current biggest annoyance is How I Met Your Mother not telling me how the dude met his kids' mother. We've heard everything but that. (Technically, we know how he met her, but we don't know who she or how/why they started dating.)

The cliffhanger is the worst thing about TV shows, because after it's been on hiatus for four months, I've moved on and forgotten why I was still supposed to keep watching. If it weren't for DVR automatically recording shows I like for me, I wouldn't know when half of them come on anyway. That's my silent protest to the system. When you force me to wait nine years for something you could've said in 20 seconds, I refuse to care about when you come on or watch your commercials.

It's all J.R.'s fault. Or CBS'. CBS ran the original Dallas and runs HIMYM.

I think the FCC should require the premiere episode of every new season of a TV show to give a 3- to 5-minute recap of the show's previous season.

Just because I can, here's J.R. getting shot in all its dramatic, camera-zooming glory:

And, because I'm not a terrible person like the people at CBS here's the reveal in all its dramatic, camera-zooming glory:

Here are some of the events of note that happened between March 18-24.

Life and Death

I did a disservice to the world last week by overlooking the birthday of Ben & Jerry's founder Jerry Greenfield, which was March 14, 1951. I bring this up because the other Ben & Jerry's founder, Ben Cohen, was born March 18, 1951. Two weeks ago, I credited their enterprise as the sole reason Vermont can remain a state. Now they just need to open a store near where I live.

Discovery Channel's jack-of-all-trades Mike Rowe was born March 18, 1962. I watch enough Discovery Channel that I feel as if Rowe is the weird uncle I never had. He worked increasingly disgusting jobs on Dirty Jobs, hung out with crab fisherman on Deadliest Catch, used to be an opera singer and is always talking about how great Ford trucks are. He needs another show, but in reality there's nothing left for him to do.

R. Lee Ermey was born March 24, 1994, and is most well known as "that drill sergeant guy" from Full Metal Jacket. If you don't know the reference, go look it up. The language is too rough to include it here. He shares a birthday with Harry Houdini (1874), Clyde Barrow (1909) and WWE superstars The Undertaker (1965) and Jack Swagger (1982).

The best name in television – Wolf Blitzer – was born March 22, 1948, and Rudolf Diesel, who invented an engine that was named after him, was born March 18, 1858. Diesel originally ran his engine on peanut oil, but somewhere down the line somebody said we weren't using up the world's oil supply fast enough, so that idea was abandoned.

Sir Isaac Newton died March 20, 1726, but gravity lives on (I dropped a pen just to make sure), and Elizabeth Taylor died March 23, 2011.

Johnny Appleseed died March 18, 1845 and Calvert DeForest died March 19, 2007. DeForest made a name for himself first as Larry "Bud" Melman then under his real name appearing in ridiculous routines for David Letterman, which is to say he appeared on shows hosted by David Letterman.

Here's an example of one from when Paul Shaffer still had hair.

Overlooked Anniversaries

In Great Moments in Losing Your Rent Money, gambling was legalized in Nevada on March 19, 1931. Las Vegas is guaranteed to be busy in the coming weeks with people who think they know more than they do trying to win money by betting on college basketball. I'd probably have better luck at the roulette wheel and by "luck" I mean lose everything I have.

American Express was founded in 1850 as an express mail service, which presumably meant it used faster horses (or smaller riders) than the other companies at the time. Two years later, some of the people running the company didn't want to expand business into California, so Henry Wells and William Fargo branched out and started their own company called – what else? – Wells Fargo & Co. If having an ampersand in their name isn't enough to trust them with your money, I don't know what is.

Bob Dylan released his first album, Bob Dylan, March 19, 1962, exactly 30 years to the day after the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened. Please ignore the fact that those are not related in any way.

The Republican Party was formed March 20, 1854. Half of you will think this is the greatest date in the history of mankind, and the other will cite it as the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. I hope the truth is somewhere in between.

The gold standard was repealed March 18, 1968, the OPEC oil embargo ended March 18, 1974, Albert Einstein published the general theory of relativity March 20, 1916, and Alcatraz closed March 21, 1963.

Comet Hale-Bopp had its closest approach to Earth on March 22, 1997. A bunch of people – 39 to be exact – in the Heaven's Gate cult committed mass suicide in conjunction with the comet because they were planning to catch an alien spacecraft that was flying behind it.

The cult members ingested cyanide and arsenic to poison themselves, then took the unnecessary step of tying plastic bags around their heads. They all wore matching Nike sneakers and had $5.75 in their pockets for the space toll. Their bodies were still on Earth because space travel is not nearly that cheap, and aliens have been known to short-change Earthlings on the exchange rate.

Something About Sports

Jimmy Carter announced the United States would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics on March 21, 1980. The Soviet Union was at war with Afghanistan and the Games were held in Moscow, so 65 countries refused to participate. Russia and East Germany were most likely going to dominate the medal table and they did so, winning 195 and 126 medals, respectively. Bulgaria – yes, Bulgaria – finished third with 41.

This is one of those historical events that could never happen today. First of all, the U.S. dominates the medal table now, and we never miss out on the chance to assert our dominance on a global stage, and secondly no country that we might get into a bombing match with is scheduled to host the Games. That is, unless North Korea stops talking and starts acting and messes with the 2018 Summer Olympics set to be held in South Korea.

Lord Stanley pledged to present a silver cup for hockey teams to – literally – fight over March 18, 1893, and the Stanley Cup playoffs started March 22, 1894. The Stanley Cup is the best team trophy awarded because players get to keep the Cup for a day after they win it. This has led to some interesting stories about what players do when they get to keep the Cup.

The first international skating competition was held March 20, 1914, in New Haven, CT.

The Week in Warfare

The Tuskegee Airmen were activated in 1941. If you haven't seen Red Tails, I recommend it. It's different than any other war movie you've ever seen, but it has a really terribly ending.

The USS Langley, the Navy's first aircraft carrier, was commissioned March 20, 1922. The ship saw action in World War II, and was so badly damaged by Japanese dive bombers that it had be sunk by its own escort ships.

Some notable events that led to the Revolutionary War happened this week. The Stamp Act was passed March 22, 1765, but was repealed less than a year later March 18. It affixed a tax to colonies that didn't much other than make people mad. The British also passed the Quartering Act on March 24, 1765, that said residents of the colonies had to give British soldiers a place to live. The Third Amendment now protects citizens from this.

Patrick Henry gave his "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech March 23, 1775. Henry gained liberty long before his death in 1799.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

March 20 is World Sparrow Day. Its website encourages you to "rise for the sparrow" and "experience the power of one." It is also apparently India's most loved bird.

I helped my dad build a sparrow house when I was a kid and we painted it blue. Some birds lived in it for a while, but after several years of providing quality shelter to the urban birds of Jackson, MS, it was destroyed in a tragic backyard baseball accident. No birds were harmed or rendered homeless.

Preview of next week

Enjoy life. Refresh yourself. Life tastes good.

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