The late Rosie Vivas (née Ruiz), who died of cancer, aged 66, on July 8, 2019, will always be best remembered as the ‘winner’ of the women’s division of Boston Marathon in 1980. On April 21, 1980, Ruiz supposedly completed the Boston course in a time of 2:31:56, breaking the course record by three minutes, and recording the third fastest by a woman in marathon history. She also improved by over 20 minutes on her previous best, supposedly achieved in the New York City Marathon the previous October.
Ruiz, 26, happily accepted a laurel wreath and medal for her ‘victory’, but suspicions soon arose that her record-breaking performance was not all it seemed. She lacked the toned, defined legs of a typical long-distance runner and, having supposedly run 26 miles, in a heavy T-shirt, in temperatures approaching 80°F, she appeared at the finish line apparently as fresh as a daisy, without a bead of sweat in sight. Commentators, including Kathrine Switzer – the first woman to run, officially in the Boston Marathon – who had followed the race throughout, were perplexed as to how Ruiz had managed to pass Canadian Jacqueline Gareau in the closing stages, and rightly so.
Subsequent analysis of race photographs and interviews revealed that Ruiz had not run the full marathon distance, but rather jumped into the race in the last mile or so. However, in so doing, she made a serious miscalculation; instead of emerging from the crowd, unnoticed, in the middle of a pack of runners, she did ahead of the other 448 woman in the field. Her friend, Steve Marek, said later, ‘Believe me, she was as shocked as anyone when she came in first.’
Ruiz was disqualified in favour of Gareau and, to add insult to injury, her time in the New York City Marathon – in which she finished eleventh behind record-breaking Norwegian Grete Waitz – was invalidated after it emerged that she rode the subway for 16 miles after turning an ankle. Ruiz never admitted any wrongdoing and never returned the medal she was presented in Boston.
According to Guinness World Records, the longest world title fight, under Queensberry Rules, which were introduced in 1867, was a lightweight contest between American Joe ‘Old Master’ Gans, the defending champion, and Oscar Mattheus ‘Battling’ Nelson, a.k.a. ‘The Durable Dane’, at the Casino Amphitheatre in Goldfield, Nevada on September 3, 1906.
Under London Prize Ring Rules, which preceded Queensberry Rules, only a knockdown brought about the end of a round, but even after the introduction of scheduled, three-minute rounds, followed by a minute of rest, 45-round title fights were still the order of the day. In the original ‘Fight of the Century’, Gans, who had to waste particularly hard to make the 133lb lightweight limit, broke a bone in his hand 33 rounds into the epic bout, but fought on, feigning a leg injury to camouflage his actual disability.
Finally, after over two hours of fighting in the oppressive 100°F heat of the Mojave Desert, as darkness fell, in the forty-second round, Nelson sensed victory and, by his own admission, ‘went after him [Gans] hammer and tongs, determined to knock him out.’ He didn’t, but instead caught Gans, not for the first time, with an illegal low blow, which resulted in his disqualfication. Nelson later insisted that his final punch was a legitimate ‘hard left half-scissors hook to the liver’.
Gans contracted tuberculosis, which would eventually kill him, at the age of just 35, shortly afterwards. Nonetheless, he fought Nelson twice more for the World Lightweight Title, at the Mission Street Arena in Colma, California in July and September, 1908. In one-sided affairs, he was knocked out by Nelson on both occasions and fought just ocne more before his death on August 10, 1910.
For readers unfamiliar with English billiards, the game is played on a regulation, 12′ by 6′ billiards or snooker table, with a set of just three balls. Traditionally, a set of balls consists of a red, a spot white, which has two or more black spots for identification, and a plain white, although the spot white may be replaced with a solid yellow ball. In any event, the spot white and white, or white and yellow, balls are cue balls, one for each player.
A player scores a ‘cannon’, worth two points, when the cue-ball makes contact with the two other balls, in either order, during a stroke. In modern billiards, a player may make a maximum of 75 consecutive cannons, but that was not always the case.
Although the possibilities of the stroke that became known as the ‘cannon’ or ‘anchor’ cannon had been demonstrated previously, it was unveiled by former English amateur billiards champion Walter Lovejoy in January, 1907. The idea behind the stroke is to gather the balls together near a corner pocket, such that repeated cannons can be played, over and over again, without changing the position of the object balls. Lovejoy made a run of 283 consecutive cannons, for a relatively modest break of 603, but nonetheless set the tone for the farcical events to follow.
The professional billiard players of the day embarked upon a competition to establish a record for the highest break in the history of English billiards, which culminated in a ‘match’ between Tom Reece and Joe Chapman at Burroughes & Watts, Soho Square, which commenced on June 3, 1907. Over the next five weeks, Reece made a break of 499,135, including 249,552 cradle cannons, but the Billiard Association subsequently refused to officially recognise his achievement, on the grounds that a portion of the break had been made behind closed doors and witnessed only by Reece and referee William Jordan. The crade cannon was banned at a special meeting of Billiard Association on September 2, 1907.
The National Football League (NFL) suspended New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady was without pay for the first four games of the 2015 season as punishment for his part in tampering with footballs during the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on January 18, 2015. On that occasion, Brady passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
However, a subsequent investigation by the NFL revealed that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots’ offence were significantly deflated, by up to two pounds per square inch (psi), below the required pressure, which should be between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. Once approved by the referee, footballs are placed in ball bags on the sidelines and, thereafter, no alteration is allowed, upon pain of a fine up to $25,000 and further disciplinary action. In this case, the New England Patriots were fined $1 million and lost two draft picks, while two equipment staff, believed to be responsible for the tampering, were suspended indefinitely.
Deflating a football could, potentially, provide a competitive advantage insofar that lower pressure changes the way in which the ball travels through the air, as well as making it easy to grip and catch. Brady, who had previously expressed a preference for the lower end of the approved pressure range, was deemed to have been ‘at least generally aware’ of the nefarious behaviour of his colleagues and was suspended accordingly. Patriots’ chairman Robert Kraft was, nonetheless, unequivocal in his support for his star quarterback, releasing a statement in which he said, ‘belief in him [Brady] has not wavered.’
Gertrude Moran, popularly known as ‘Gussie’ – although she preferred ‘Gussy’ – was an American tennis player who, alongside partner Patricia Canning Todd, reached the final of the ladies’ doubles at Wimbledon in 1949, which they lost in straight sets to compatriots Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne duPont. However, it was during that tournament that Moran was christened ‘Gorgeous Gussie’ by the press, as the result of wearing an outfit that, although unremarkable by modern standards, was considered scandalous at the time.
Seemingly unaware of the all-white dress code at Wimbledon, Moran asked renowned fashion designer Cuthbert ‘Ted’ Tinling to design a tri-coloured outfit, with sleeves of different colours and a skirt of a third colour. Tinling, instead, designed an outfit that complied with the dress code but, nevertheless, led to questions in the Houses of Parliament and led to Tinling being ostricised by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) for decades afterwards.
In those restrained postwar years, when A-line skirts reaching to, or just below, the knees were he order of the day, Tinling opted instead for a short dress, which he paired with ruffled, lace-trimmed knickers, which were clearly visible during play. Moran later recalled, ‘…Life magazine ran a picture calling me Gorgeous Gussie, and the British picked it up and did a real job with it.’
In fact, such was her embarrassment on the one and only occasion she wore the outfit, that she hid her face behind her racket. Nevertheless, Moran, who described herself as ‘ really never anything to write home about’, was accused of bringing ‘vulgarity and sin’ into the game by the AELTC and subsequently reverted to wearing shorts.