March 31, 2014

What’s in a name? How March Madness and others entered the lexicon

Arkansas star U.S. Reed’s buzzer beater in 1981started it all, but other athletes are forever linked to sports vocabulary.

It’s around mid-March when U.S. Reed can count on his phone ringing.

Since 1981, it hasn’t stopped. That’s what happens when your name is synonymous with March Madness.

“I laugh about it, but it’s an honor really,” he said. “I do a lot of public speaking and I hear stories every year, both good and bad. Mostly, though, it’s the emotional memories of people and remembering where they were with grandparents and family. I think that’s special.”

The NCAA Tournament will be held in Arlington this weekend at AT&T Stadium, complete with its March Madness hype.

It’s the origin of that hype where Reed, whose first name is Ulysses, will forever be linked.

On March 14, 1981, Reed and the Arkansas Razorbacks were in a tight, second-round game with defending national champion Louisville at the Erwin Center in Austin.

Louisville had taken a 73-72 lead on Derek Smith’s jumper with 5 seconds remaining when Reed took the inbound pass and dribbled left, then right to reach the mid-court line.

He launched a desperate shot, the kind coaches have historically scolded players for practicing, hitting nothing but net to beat Louisville 74-73 at the buzzer.

Before the game, and before the installation of the 3-point arc, there was Reed firing up long-range jumpers in warmups.

Teammate Tony Brown, now an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, walked up to him and asked him why he was shooting those.

“I told him you always had to assume that a long-range shot would be the chance you might have late in the game,” Reed said. “Of course, I wasn’t remotely referring to a half-court shot, not in the slightest.”

Reed, an ordained minister and realtor in Pine Bluff, Ark., is also taking on a role as an ambassador for the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

He said the stories and sharing the stage with a small fraternity that includes Rolando Blackman and Danny Ainge are what he appreciates most about the shot.

“I had one guy come up and tell me that I almost killed him with that shot,” Reed said. “He said he jumped out of his chair and hit his head on the light fixture. One lady did have a heart attack and there’s a number of those just crazy stories.”

Reed’s shot wasn’t the only game-winner that day in the tournament, which was televised by NBC.

Blackman, who played at Kansas State, hit a 16-footer at the buzzer as the Wildcats clipped No. 2 Oregon State 50-48 to advance. Also, Saint Joseph’s beat No. 1 DePaul, which featured another Mavericks great, Mark Aguirre, 49-48 on a John Smith layup with 2 seconds to go.

NBC was able to show all three game-winning plays by switching to various sites, an uncommon practice at the time.

Five days later, in the regional semifinals (aka Sweet 16), Ainge, a guard for Brigham Young, took the ball the length of the court and, with a head of steam, plowed the lane for a layup in the waning seconds to knock off Notre Dame 51-50.

In the final year of its affiliation with the tournament, NBC executives made it a point to ensure that all of the games were delivered across the country.

Thus, March Madness was born.

In sports, fame often lasts more than 15 minutes. Athletes can make their mark in a variety of ways.

Through timing, luck or just circumstance, here’s a look at some other athletes whose feats, good or bad, will forever be a part of sports and mainstream vocabulary, just like March Madness.

Fosbury flop

Most spectators wondered if Dick Fosbury had a serious medical condition when he began going over the high jump bar on his back.

The most consistent practice of clearing the high jump bar before Fosbury was using several approaches that all typically ended with a rolling frontal approach to give the athlete a face-down or stomach-down approach at the bar.

Those included the Western Roll, the Straddle and the Scissors.

Fosbury first used the Flop in 1965 and later won a gold medal at the ’68 Mexico City Olympic Games.

His approach not only became the gold standard of world high-jumping, but proved to be the most efficient way of getting the most out of an attempt.

The curved running style not only allowed for a longer chance at explosiveness from takeoff, but improved the athlete’s center of gravity at the high-jump peak.


It was aging and fight-starved Muhammad Ali who employed the technique for his 1974 fight with George Foreman.

Ali appeared to not only take a serious beating during the fight, but at one point, seemed to be near a loss.

He allowed Foreman to punch away while Ali braced himself in a protective stance against the ropes.

According to trainer Angelo Dundee’s book, My View from the Corner, Dundee claimed that the strategy was actually suggested by boxing photographer George Kalinsky.

Ali rallied in the eighth round, when Foreman had punched himself out of gas.

Marquess of Queensbury

These rules effectively ended the barroom brawl boxing matches of yesteryear.

But as the name suggests for the times, the rules were named for a royal, John Douglass, who endorsed them for the sport of boxing. Douglass didn’t actually pen the rules.

Still, they are fundamentally in use today, perhaps trickling into the MMA’s Octagon as well.

The rules were actually written by John Graham Chambers in 1865 and set the stage for three-minute rounds with one-minute breaks and the 10-second knockout.


Named for its creator, Frank Zamboni, the California entrepreneur was looking for a way to resurface the ice at his skating rink where he noticed the current process was lengthy and costly.

Zamboni spent almost six years developing a machine before finally settling on one that would scrape, wash and squeegee the ice built on an Army surplus chassis. The original version was powered by a Jeep engine and the revolution was on.

The Zamboni became a must-have at ice centers and arenas and is a staple at NHL games.

Zamboni’s company was awarded a trademark on ice resurfacers in August 2000 as the company pressed a trademark dilution case.

Tommy John surgery

Major league pitchers routinely injured their ulnar collateral ligament before 1974, signaling the end of their throwing careers.

That’s when the late Dr. Frank Jobe, the team physician for the Dodgers, pioneered a surgery that allowed lefty Tommy John to extend his career another 15 years.

Jobe reconstructed John’s UCL by harvesting a like tendon and weaving it in figure-eight form before finally anchoring it in the ulna and humerus bones.

John went on to collect 164 of his 288 wins after the surgery and retired at age 46.

Lou Gehrig’s disease

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

It is what eventually killed the Yankees legend.

Gehrig played 15 years with the Yankees, led the team to six World Series titles and set the major league mark for most consecutive games played at 2,130 before it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995.

The Hall of Famer retired in 1939 after being diagnosed with ALS. Gehrig died in 1941.

Mendoza Line

Fair or unfair, the line was created as a way to determine a hitter’s worth in the major leagues and supposedly became a tool of the media after a series of interviews with Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett.

It’s named after Mario Mendoza, a sharp-gloved shortstop who played for the Pirates, Mariners and Rangers.

Mendoza’s big league problems, though, were at the plate, where he routinely hit around .200 for his career and sometimes dropped below that average.

Mendoza said, in an interview with Dave Seminara of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that teammates Tom Paciorek and Bruce Bochte created the term to make fun of Mendoza.

Staff writer Stephen Schroats contributed to this report.

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