Category Archives: Sports

A mulligan by any other name would smell as foul

Why is a Mulligan (as in golf) called a ‘Mulligan’? Is it because someone named Mulligan was particularly poor at golf?

According to Dr. Rand Jerris, United States Golf Association (USGA) Museum Curator, there are several variations of several stories on the origins of the term “mulligan.”  All of them have something to do with a poor golfer named Mulligan, yet none of them is particularly amusing. There is a far more entertaining etymology, though seldom referenced, for the term “hazard.”

Born in 1895 in Pittsburgh, Tibor “TB” Hazard was a salesman – of everything from encyclopedias to QWERTY keyboard typewriters – but longed to spend all his time on the links.  Unfortunately, TB was a horrible golfer, so bad he was something of a minor celebrity in western Pennsylvania.  He lost so many balls, in fact, that he was awarded an early endorsement deal by Goodrich, which also made golf balls in the early 1900s (they gave him all the balls he could lose).  The ball Goodrich produced at the time was a standard Haskell ball with a compressed air core, a ball that was prone to expand with heat and explode.  On one particularly hot August Saturday in 1919, TB was slicing and shanking his way around the public course in Pittsburgh, balls exploding in the roughs and sand traps and even in the water.  Other golfers, some just home from WWI, thought they were under attack by the Germans and fled the course.  When they found out who was playing behind them, the term “hazard” was coined.

Has Duke ever had a good football team?

I know it’s Basketball Central around here, but has Duke ever had a good football team? I mean, come on! I’m from Big 10 country, and even Northwestern has a good team now.

“Has Duke ever had a good football team”?!

Let me educate you, son!  While Duke hasn’t fielded a consistently great football team since Steve Spurrier coached here in the late 1980s, it was outstanding in the 1930s under Coach Wallace Wade.  In fact, the 1938 “Iron Dukes” are one of only three teams ever in college football to finish the regular season undefeated, untied, and unscored upon!  That year, the Blue Devils lost the Rose Bowl to Southern Cal 7-3, when the Trojans scored a touchdown in the final minute.  Duke Football also had great success throughout the 1950s and 1960s under Coach Bill Murray.  Unlike Northwestern, Duke Football has an overall winning percentage over .500.

“Even Northwestern has a good team now”?

Perhaps you’ve forgotten this date in Northwestern football history: September 15, 2007.  Duke ended its 22 game losing streak in Evanston, Illinois by beating Northwestern 20-14.   Sure, Northwestern had a good season this year: but it’s easy for a quarterback named Kafka to put up big numbers when he’s throwing to The Bucket Rider and Gregor Samsa, with levitating abilities and all those arms, respectively.  The future of Duke Football is looking pretty bright under the leadership of Coach David Cutcliffe.

Skinny dipping snob

Do you recommend skinny dipping in a pond in the Duke Gardens? [3574B]

[written in answer space:  No. There are frogs in that pond.  You'll get warts.]

No, Secret Scribbler, you won’t get warts from the frogs.  But what is that pond, like six inches deep?  No, I prefer larger bodies of water for my skinny dipping.  Though I’ve been accused of being a skinny dipping snob.

National anthem

When and where did the tradition of playing the national anthem before sports events begin? And why only sports events? I mean, we don’t play the anthem before theater productions or other mass gatherings. I’m going to guess it began in Europe in the fascist era before WW2 as a way of connecting the virility of sport with patriotism to the fatherland, but please enlighten us!

In a couple of reference books plus a couple of seemingly accurate web sites they mention its connection to American sporting events.  It’s mentioned that in Japan, their national anthem is not sung before baseball games, so this is perhaps a North American thing.  Anectotally, it was performed at baseball games even in the nineteenth century, but is first well documented during the patriotic ferver of WWI (apparently some thought that professional baseball players were avoiding military service, so it was sort of a public relations gimmick).  It was only performed before games on special holidays and the like until WWII, when it came to be performed regularly before games.  Other sports picked it up.  See the books The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball by J. Light or Sport in American Culture by J. Duncan.

Sports personalities

Dear Answer Person,Do you think that Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and other superstar basketball players (I’ll let you be the judge of who’s a superstar and who’s not) feel like they’re living fulfilled lives?In addition, do you think NBA bench players feel they’re living fulfilled lives? Thanks!

Studies have shown that there is remarkably little correlation between income or wealth and fulfillment. But there’s got to be some! Even the bench players are making good money (compared to librarians), so they sure better feel fulfilled. The superstars have pretty big egos, and those sorts of people are usually fulfilled whether they should be or not.

Duke table tennis

Will the Duke Table Tennis Team fare well at the National Championships in Columbus? [3346B]

Since AP is trying to catch up on a backlog of questions, I have the benefit of hindsight, but it doesn’t look like Duke went to those championships this year. Perhaps NC State did something sneaky to get by us.  Better luck next year.