Category Archives: 20th Century Insanity

Okay so maybe we’re still working out the kinks a little bit- here are some crazy events that took place just this past century

The First Season of the NFL was Ridiculous

“You can’t both be called the Tigers.  Or you can.  Whatever.  We’re kind of making this up as we go along.”

~Jim Thorpe, the first president of the NFL

football

The NFL is part of our nation’s DNA, exhibiting everything we stand for.  Teamwork.  Perseverance.  Struggle.  Old white men punishing people when they dance too much in celebration.  A shocking inability to properly handle domestic abuse.  And, of course, Tom Brady’s cleft chin.  Imagining America without football is almost impossible.  What would we do with our winter Sundays?  Football is in the bible, you guys.  “On the seventh day, the Lord kicked back a 12 pack on his recliner and watched NFL Red Zone with a close eye on his fantasy team.”

We think.  Listen, just like most Americans, we like to use the bible to make our point, despite not having really “read it.”  But we digress.

The point is, as much as we assume that football has always been with us, there was a time when the league was brand new and very, very ridiculous.  So let’s hop in a time machine of words and go back to 1920, where the first season of a National Football League took place.  It was sloppy as hell.

The First Season of the NFL was Ridiculous

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Ray Caldwell: The Alcoholic Lightning Rod of Major League Baseball

“*gets hit by lightning*  *chugs a beer*  Don’t worry guys, I’m good.”

~Ray Caldwell

ray-caldwell

Most history curriculums are pretty bad at telling us about the crazy things that have actually happened in the world, if you think about it.  Sure, McCarthyism during the Cold War is “something we should know” but how come no one talks about the time we tried to build a military base on the moon in 1959?  Hell, even when history tries to get edgy (like, for instance, the existence of Teddy Roosevelt) it somehow manages to leave out some of the best parts (like how his daughter was a pet-snake keeping badass).  This goes double for history.  We know about Babe Ruth and his philandering, boozy ways, but we don’t know about the pure insanity that was Charlie Sweeney.  Likewise, everyone and their mother knows at least the name “Cy Young” when it comes to pitchers, but was Cy Young an alcoholic who once was struck by lightning during a game that he stayed in and finished?  We didn’t think so.

So we here at America Fun Fact of the Day have decided to do history a favor and help them spice things up a bit by telling you a little bit about Ray Caldwell, one of the most badass pitchers to ever play professional baseball, and one of the few people who can give Charlie Sweeney a run for his money.

Ray Caldwell: The Alcoholic Lightning Rod of Major League Baseball

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Project Horizon: The Time We Tried To Build A Military Base On The Moon

“A Realistic Objective.”

~An Actual Section of a 1959 Proposal To Establish A Permanent Moon Base by 1966.

project horizon

The Space Race was definitely one of the coolest and silliest parts of the entire Cold War.  Two Superpowers were tossing around ungodly sums of money to try to make the other nation look stupid due to not being as good at making really cool toys, but it was dealt with an honest-to-God level of severity that equated “Russia going to the moon before we do” as being probably an inevitable lead up to complete nuclear annihilation.  Baby Boomers get a lot of (mostly deserved) flack for constantly complaining about how Millennials, and pretty much every younger generation, had it so much easier than they did and they take things for granted, but we’ll give them this—if we spent our entire childhoods with nuclear weapons literally pointed at our homes so often that we became this numb to the destruction of society, we’d probably feel it was within our rights to complain about how much people use smartphones now, too.

Anyway, when we talk about the existentially terrifying realities of the Cold War, the space race at least feels kind of innocent and, well, awesome.  Sure, a lot of it has to do with the fact that we won (USA! USA!) but also because it was about science for the sake of invention, and not finding new, horrific ways to nuke each other into the stone age.  The two most powerful economies at the time spent decades funneling obscene amounts of money into discovering more about our universe, and even when that didn’t always end up as incredible achievements in space travel such as these bad boys, it still resulted in us exploring every planet of the galaxy while accidentally coming up with some useful technology that we use to this day like laptops, dustbusters, and whatever technologies are on the second page of the article we just linked (we were too lazy to get past the first page).

That is to say, the Space Race represented American (and, ugh, occasionally Russian) ingenuity and a passion for discovery that transcended the whole, “Holy shit, we as a species survived more than five years of Lyndon B. Johnson having the ability to nuke the entire planet” scariness of that era.  But the space race wasn’t all about peacefully sticking a middle finger in Communist Russia’s face by planting a flag on the moon and shouting, “FIRST!”  We also had some sinister, if not very realistic, plans on using space for our military advantage.  Like the time we tried to build a military base on the moon.

Project Horizon: The Time We Tried To Build A Military Base On The Moon

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5 Super Bowl Halftime Performances That Have Aged Horribly

“Oh thank God, now I can go to the bathroom.”

~Super Bowl viewers during the halftime show

black eyed peas super bowl

Hey!  The Super Bowl is just a few days away!  It’s the one time of the year where you absolutely know, unequivocally, that you’re going to be suffering at work the following Monday, and you know it’ll be absolutely worth it.  Super Bowl Sunday is a day filled with the beer and snacks and a statistically-probably-underwhelming football game, and it’s the closest to a live national spectacle as you can find in this fine nation.  Everyone watches the Super Bowl, everyone has stronger than necessary opinions about the importance or unimportance of Super Bowl commercials, and everyone wishes that the party they were at had 30 bathrooms once the Super Bowl Halftime show begins, because the only person who actually gives a shit about the Super Bowl Halftime show is your friend’s girlfriend that no one in your group of friends really likes, who is really into Katy Perry to the point that it’s kind of uncomfortable.

Otherwise, the Halftime Show is an extremely expensive spectacle that’s just a waste of fucking time.  The phenomenon of people looking for something more interesting to watch during Halftime directly contributed to the existence of both the Puppy Bowl and a women-in-lingerie football league that still exists to this day.  However, the Halftime Show does serve as an interesting indicator of our nation’s culture.  Like, in the mid 00’s we were terrified of breasts on live television, so we went with safe performances by old rockers in their 50s and 60s.  Last year, we were way into uncoordinated sharks, apparently.  There are a lot of memorable Super Bowl Halftime performances.  And there are also the Black Eyed Peas, but we managed to get drunk enough by halftime that year that we blissfully have no memory of it.

What we’re trying to say is that Super Bowl Halftime Shows are very much a product of their times.  Sometimes that can prove to be ageless, like Michael Jackson destroying the Rose Bowl at the peak of his stardom.  And sometimes…well, sometimes you get…

5 Super Bowl Halftime Performances That Have Aged Horribly

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Every Air Force One in American History

“Get off my plane.”

~Indiana Jones

air force one

Outside of children who are big fans of those Planes movies, nowhere in American society is a single aircraft more iconic than Air Force One.  When we fly our President around, we fly him in style, in a cutting-edge jet that can survive a direct blast from a nuclear bomb and is exclusively piloted by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.  Okay, neither of those things are true, but Air Force One is so mythic that a decent handful of you absolutely took us for our word there.

Air Force One is an American icon, both over and underappreciated at the same time.  So we decided to take a moment to sit you down (you are sitting, right?) and tell you about the history of our President’s super expensive charter jet.  And since we’re feeling generous, we’ll just let you know about every Air Force One plane that has ever existed, partly because we like to be as thorough as we can when it comes to discussing presidential aircraft, but mainly because we want as many excuses to post scenes from the movie Air Force One on our site.

Every Air Force One in American History

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America’s Military Dolphins and Sea Lions

“Snorky…talk…man.”

~King Snorky

johnny mnemonnic

Dolphins—nature’s cute, bubbly, highly intelligent rape monsters that we just can’t help but love who jump through hoops when attractive women in wetsuits blow a whistle.  We inherently think that dolphins are adorable because they look like they’re smiling, and they are very easy to be trained into playing with inflatable balls for your amusement.  The prevailing cultural image of the dolphin is Flipper, the loyal friend, slash, carefree frolicker.

The American military, however, had other ideas.  They looked at the dolphin and thought, possibly while just a bit drunk, “What if, like *burp* we made, like, dolphin soldiers?”  Which is why in 1960, the Navy began studying dolphins for military purposes, eventually establishing the United States Marine Mammal Program, which started its first military project in 1965.  Yes, we have an army of Navy-trained dolphins (and sea lions) at our disposal.  Yes, that is just about the coolest sentence we’ve gotten to write this week.  Fuck yeah, dolphin army.

America’s Military Dolphins and Sea Lions

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The 1959 Chicago Pan American Games: The Most Hilarious International Competition Of All Time

“What?  Is that like, a cooking show or something?”

~The Average American Response to the Pan American Games

pan am games

As roughly two of you already knew, this year saw the 17th Pan American Games take place in Toronto.  41 nations in the Americas competed, with America leading the way with 103 gold metals and 265 total metals.  Many of you might not be familiar with the Pan American games, and that is because, like most red blooded Americans, you only can muster up enthusiasm for the Olympics, which is understandable.  If you’re going to try to give a shit about track and field more often than once every four years, you’d better have just married a hot wife with a high school aged son from a previous marriage who you try to support in order to make him begrudgingly like and respect you (sorry, though, no matter how hard you try, he totally won’t).

For most American athletes, the Pan Am games are a way to clean up and snag a lot of metals when you only have to worry about going up against 2 of the 6 continents that field athletes competitively in international competitions.  And for most Cubans, the Pan Am games are a way to defect the fuck out of Cuba.  However, for a relatively inconsequential (as far as the typical American sports fan is concerned) competition, the history of the Pan Am games are both deeply interesting and kind of unintentionally hilarious.  And never in the 64 years that this sporting event has been held has there been more unintentional hilarity as the first ever Pan American games to be hosted in the United States.

Because, holy shit, Chicago had no idea what it was getting itself into when it tried to plan an entire international competition in less than two years, and as a result, history will always have the wonderful train wreck that is…

The 1959 Chicago Pan American Games: The Most Hilarious International Competition Of All Time

chicago games

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The Medal of Honor from 1871-1917: The Military Honor America Couldn’t Seem To Give Away Fast Enough

“No, seriously, you have to stop printing these like Thin Mints.  What’s it gonna take, an actual major war to make you chill?”

~Smedley Butler, trying to turn down a Medal of Honor in the early 20th century

medal of honor

We’re going to start this one off with a disclaimer—any claims we make regarding the Medal of Honor is a reflection of how politicians and military leaders handed out the honor before we really had any intense modern wars under our belt.  Our servicemen that fought in the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or the many other excursions where they have put their lives on the line for their brothers and for their country have paid dearly for our benefit, and every single recipient of the Medal of Honor can, at worst, be called a hero (at best they can be called “basically Batman, if Batman could get free beer and deserved gratitude sex whenever they want”).

Even when we make fun of the skirmishes that resulted in Medals of honor being handed out during the time period of 1869 (when we had kind of forgotten what the Civil War was like) to 1917 (when we started World War I and realized, holy shit, this shit is super intense), we’re acknowledging that the soldiers who were awarded did show valor and a love of this country.  They just happened to get an award that was handed out to pretty much anyone who asked for it up until recently.  Let’s put it this way—Congress gave out 1522 Medal of Honors in the Civil War, of which 32 were posthumous.  Now, the American Civil War was a bloody and bitterly fought war, but when you consider the fact that we awarded only 464 during the entirety of World War II (266 posthumously by the way), or that we’ve only given out 16 (7 of which were to fallen soldiers) of these awards in the Afghanistan and Iraqi War combined, you can see how we’ve increasingly made the honor harder and harder to get.  The Congressional Medal of Honor, as we know it know, is the most prestigious and rare award for those who have gone above and beyond their duty to keep freedom within these borders—for those of you with a loose idea of what military action generally means, this is the award a soldier gets when doing something so brave and so intense that, if you saw it in a movie, you’d respond, “Oh, come on, the director’s really taking some liberties with this battle to make it seem more exciting.”

So currently, yes, the Medal of Honor is given out only in the most extraordinary and harrowing cases , but during the time period between the end of the Civil War and start of World War I?  Well, at that point it was more…

The Medal of Honor from 1871-1917: The Military Honor America Couldn’t Seem To Give Away Fast Enough

 more medals of honor

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The History of the X-League Indoor Football League

“The ‘X’ is for ‘EXTREME.’  What has happened to my life?”

~Michael Mink, CEO and Commissioner of X-League Indoor Football

x-league

This week, in celebration of National Professional American Indoor Football Week, which is a fake event that we made up to justify this whole enterprise, we have been writing extremely longwinded articles about various professional indoor football leagues and their teams.  This honestly-pretty-weird idea for a themed week of articles has seen us write about the Indoor Football League and the Professional Indoor Football League, both of which pay their players about $200 a game to sacrifice their bodies while possible over 100 bloodthirsty fans cheer for their demise like the gladiators of old.

While we already know way more about semiprofessional indoor football leagues than anyone really should (technically they’re “professional” because they get paid, but when we’re dealing with salaries this low, calling these leagues anything more than semiprofessional is like claiming to be an auto parts salesman because you once traded your old station wagon to Carmax) we’re going to that well one more time to tell you about the newest and, if we’re being perfectly honest, stupidest participant in the overcrowded arena football game.

No seriously, this gets kind of dumb.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Anyway, let’s talk about…

The History of the X-League Indoor Football League

arena kickoff

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The History of the Professional Indoor Football League