This is the seventh in a series of examinations of football-related legends and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of all the previous football legends.
This installment is a re-format edition, so these legends have already been posted on this site, just not in this format.
FOOTBALL LEGEND: Al Michaels was traded from ABC to NBC in exchange for, among other things, the rights to a cartoon character.
STATUS: A Whole Lot of True, but Technically False
Reader Jesse wrote in to suggest that I feature this one, specifically that the specifics of the Al Michaels ABC to NBC deal might not be known to everyone, so it’d be worthwhile to lay them out.
As the story goes, when broadcaster Al Michaels wanted to leave ABC in 2006 to follow Monday Night Football (where Michaels was a member of the broadcast team from 1986 until the end of the series)
to Sunday Night Football on NBC,
ABC agreed to trade Michaels to NBC for Friday coverage of the Ryder Cup on ESPN, extended Olympic highlight coverage during the Olympics and also the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an obscure early creation of Walt Disney, and one of the few (if the only) Disney cartoons that the Walt Disney company (who owns ABC and ESPN) did not own.
That’s basically exactly what happened, but what Jesse feels is worth noting, and I suppose he is correct, is that it was NOT a traditional “trade” in the sense that ABC did not trade Michaels’ contract to NBC, which is what you typically think of when you think “trade.”
This is because sports are an exception to standard contract rules, which specifically forbid the idea of forcing people to work for people that they do not want to work for. In other words, if Michaels did not want to work for ABC even though he signed a contract with them, he could. Of course, while he could refuse to work for them, he would be liable for the money he was paid, plus PERHAPS some penalties due to breaching the contract. In addition, while ABC could not force him to work for them, they WOULD be allowed to prevent him from working for rival companies.
And that is what really happened here.
Michaels was not traded, ABC was just compensated by NBC in exchange for ABC agreeing to terminating the contract extension that Michaels had just signed in 2003 (at the time, though, he did not know that ABC was going to lose the rights to televise his signature program just two years after he signed a long-term deal to stay with ABC). NBC then signed him to a completely new contract.
FOOTBALL LEGEND: Joe Theismann changed the way his name was pronounced so that it would rhyme with Heisman
Joe Theismann became the starting quarterback at the University of Notre Dame in the third-to-last game of the 1969 season, when the original starter was injured. Theismann had a fine junior season, leading Notre Dame to their first Bowl game in decades.
So going into his senior season, there was a lot of hype around Theismann.
In fact, more specifically, Theismann was getting a lot of early season support for the coveted Heisman Trophy, the award given out to the most outstanding collegiate football player of the year.
The Heisman trophy is named after legendary Georgia Tech head coach John Heisman. Heisman pronounced his name Hize-man. Theismann pronounced his name Theez-man.
However, before his senior year, to help make the rhyme work, Theismann actually CHANGED the pronunciation of his name to Thighz-man, figuring it would work for slogans, etc. such as “Theismann for the Heisman!”
Theismann ultimately came in second in the Heisman voting to fellow quarterback Jim Plunkett.
Both Plunkett and Theismann went on to win Super Bowls as quarterbacks in the NFL, Plunkett for the Oakland Raiders (twice) and Theismann for the Washington Redskins (he made a second Super Bowl).
Amusingly enough, Theismann first asked permission from his grandmother before changing the pronunciation, and she told him (in her thick German accent) that the ACTUAL pronunciation was not Theez-man to begin with! It was Tice-man, so she thought that Thighz-man was actually closer to the “right” pronunciation!
FOOTBALL LEGEND: The NCAA has a rule against Division 1 teams having turf colored anything but green, but Boise State was grandfathered in.
Yes, TWO legends about Boise State’s turf! Check here for the first one.
Boise State’s blue turf in Bronco Stadium is not just odd, it’s absolutely unique.
In all of the NCAA Division I, Bronco Stadium is the only stadium with turf a color other than green.
As is often the case, whenever something odd occurs, people try to think of a reason behind it, and the reason that has popped up to explain why only one Division I school has a turf colored anything but green is the “fact” that the NCAA has banned having turf colored anything but green, but the rule only came about after Boise State already did their turf, so rather than cause a big scene making them change it, the NCAA decided instead to let them keep their turf (grandfather them in, essentially) and say no one else can do it.
That’s not the case.
There is no NCAA rule saying what color turfs have to be, the other schools just like the color green.
Here is the NCAA rule regarding Field of Play…
1.1.1 The field of play shall be rectangular, the width of which shall not exceed the length.
1.1.2 The width shall not be more than 80 yards [73.15m] nor less than 65 yards [59.44m] and the length shall not be more than 120 yards [109.73m] nor less than 110 yards [100.58m]; however, fields of less than minimal dimensions may be used by prior written mutual consent of the competing institutions. The optimum size is 75 yards [68.58m] by 120 yards [109.73m].
New facilities shall be a minimum of 70 yards [64.01m] in width by 115 yards [105.15m] in length.
It is the responsibility of the home team to notify the visiting team, before the date of the game, of any changes in field dimensions (e.g., greater or lesser than minimal requirements), playing surface (e.g., from
grass to artificial or vice versa) or location of the playing site. Further, it is recommended that teams agree on field dimensions before confirming contests or signing game contracts
Again, no rule about what color the field has to be.
EDITED TO ADD: In 2010, Reader Colin Marble correctly points out that there IS a rule stating:
ARTICLE 9. a. No material or device shall be used to improve or degrade the playing surface or other conditions and give one player or team an advantage (Exceptions: Rules 2-15-4-b and c).
but it seems pretty clear that the NCAA does not view “blue turf” as “improving or degrading the playing surface” to give Boise State an advantage (or put their opponents at a disadvantage), so I don’t see that as changing anything. In fact, as of the 2010 season, Boise State is no longer the only school with turf colored differently from green, as Eastern Washington University now has a red field.
That rule is certainly worth noting, though, even if the NCAA does not seem to believe it applies to colors! So thanks, Colin!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org