Bill Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 88, was a towering figure in American life. Standing, he went 6 feet, 10 inches. In history, he seemed to stride the continent like Paul Bunyan, like John Henry: mythical, impossible, huge.
He won basketball titles everywhere he went — high school, college, the pros, the Olympics — and won them over and over again. His coach, Red Auerbach, summed up his career of 11 NBA titles by describing him as “the single most devastating force in the history of the game.” He was among the first Black superstars in professional sports, encountered racism at a brutish level and, strikingly for the mid-century era, made no attempt to be liked by problematic fans. Woe betide anyone who might have thought of telling William Felton Russell to “shut up and dribble.”
His high-profile civil rights work included, but by no means was limited to, going to Mississippi to work for integration in the wake of the assassination of Medgar Evers and participating in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, who noted that he “stood up for the rights and dignity” of all people.
The first Wimbledon Championships were held on 9 June 1877 and were advertised as a ‘lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs’ and played at Worple Road in Wimbledon, not far from the current home of Wimbledon Tennis.
Wimbledon Tennis: no women allowed
Women were not allowed to play in this initial meeting, but 22 men turned up and paid the £1 1 shilling fee to take part. A modest crowd of 200 people watched the first matches that were played with wooden rackets and hand-sewn flannel balls.
It wasn’t until 1884 that the All England Club agreed to open the Championships up to both sexes and Lottie Dodd, from Cheshire, made her mark on Wimbledon a few years later as the (still unbeaten) youngest woman to win the title at the age of 15. She went on to win the Championships over the next four years, proving that women deserved a place in the game.
As lopsided NFL trades go, well, forget about Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff. In 2006—in what was largely a face-saving PR stunt—ABC allowed its lead pro football play-by-play voice, Al Michaels, to decamp to NBC in exchange for the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a precursor to Mickey Mouse created by Walt Disney in the 1920s.
Since the swap, Oswald has sat on the intellectual property equivalent of the injured list. Michaels, on the other hand, became the centerpiece for Sunday Night Football, a ratings juggernaut for NBC that, most weeks, outdraws every other show on TV.
As with any sports franchise, success has plenty of parents. The show’s director (Drew Esocoff) and executive producer (Fred Gaudelli) take back seats to no one. Same for sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, who just finished her final season. The original SNF analyst, the late John Madden, may be the GOAT, but when he was replaced in 2009 by former All-Pro receiver Cris Collinsworth, ratings remained astronomical.
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