Coincidences and unordinary events are no strangers to the sports world. While there are many more I could list, such as ghost sightings and team “curses,” I wanted to showcase some lesser-known ones for your entertainment.
WHO TURNED THE LIGHTS OUT?
The National Football League’s (NFL) San Francisco 49ers formerly played in Candlestick Park, calling it home from 1971 until 2013. Candlestick, which opened in 1960, gained a reputation for being a tough stadium to play in, with extremely cold winds coming off of the neighboring San Francisco Bay. On Dec. 19, 2011, the 49ers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers for a Monday Night Football match. Almost half an hour before kickoff, a nearby transformer blew, immediately plunging the crowd of nearly 70,000 into darkness. Kickoff started twenty minutes behind schedule as Candlestick utilized its backup generators, but that wasn’t the end of the mishaps. A few minutes into the second quarter, the power went out yet again in the ancient stadium. The second blackout wasn’t nearly as long as the first, but the fact that it even happened was odd enough. The Niners went on to win the game, their last regular season home game of the year, 20-3. Unsurprisingly, the fabled Park was demolished four years later.
IN LESS THAN A BLINK OF AN EYE
Formula 1’s 1997 European Grand Prix in the Spanish city of Jerez was the final race of the year, and Ferrari’s rising legend Michael Schumacher and Williams’ newcomer Jacques Villeneuve were neck-and-neck in the Driver’s Championship. During qualifying sessions the day before the race, whoever set the fastest time would begin first on the starting grid for the season finale. Villeneuve finished qualifying with a lap time of 1:21.072. Schumacher was next, and miraculously set an identical time of 1:21.072. Following Schumacher was Villeneuve’s teammate, Heinz-Harold Frentzen. His time? 1:21.072. Three identical laps down to a thousandth of a second was and still is unheard of in Formula 1. Since Villeneuve set the time first, his car was positioned on the highest spot on the grid, in front of Schumacher and Frentzen. Villeneuve finished third, ahead of Schumacher who crashed out of the race while defending against the surging newcomer. The Canadian Williams’ driver’s earned points won him his first and only Driver’s Championship.
A REAL-LIFE FRANKENSTEIN
Believe it or not, National Hockey League (NHL) goalies were not required to wear masks until the 1970s. For over 50 years, netminders would take speeding pucks and whacking sticks to their bare faces, often resulting in profuse bleeding that required immediate medical attention, often delaying games. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante popularized the mask after donning a custom-made fiberglass one following a puck hitting his face in a November 1959 game. Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk had a storied “mask-less” career playing for teams such as the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Time Magazine ran a feature about him in 1966 detailing the extent of his injuries. Sawchuk, at the time of the story’s publication, had over 400 stitches. Some of his more gruesome injuries included getting his eyeball stitched and losing nearly 70% of function in his right arm because of numerous bone chips removed from his elbow. With the help of a makeup artist, Sawchuk showcased the extent of his injuries by highlighting the hundreds of stitches and scars on his abused face for a picture in the Time article. The plight of NHL goalies bleeding constantly and delaying games forced the league to adopt a rule that mandated teams include a permanent backup goalie on their roster in events where the starter gets injured. By the ‘70s, masks became the standard, and the last NHL goalie to go without a mask, Andy Brown, retired in 1974.
While these aren’t exactly the most thrilling of spooky stories, they’re at least let out a mildly interested “Hm.” Sports can be thrilling, heartbreaking, tense, and even boring at times, but you rarely hear them being called suspicious or unsettling.