How Sports Events, And Figures Can Be Referenced In Historic Letters

Sports Events

With many sports, the visuals are generally more important than the words. Certainly, athletic pursuits and accomplishments are worth discussing, sometimes with basic commentary or even longer analysis. But there’s usually no substitute for seeing photos and videos of players doing great things or even suffering defeat if done in an epic manner. That’s part of the reason we love sports highlights.

But there are sometimes exceptions, where the written works are able to convey something more serious and memorable about sports than images can.

For instance, in the 1990s, Ken Burns made a nine-part documentary called “Baseball,” which used visuals, interviews and historical letters over the last century to show the importance of what has become America’s pastime.

There are other historical letters pertaining to sports which are also useful. Some are written to or from athletes or reference their activities in different ways. Some involve sales of teams. Some older letters discuss the high points of a particular athletic performance, much like we would today at the water cooler or an online forum.

Some interesting sports-related letters include:

  • Dennis Rodman to Donald Trump. Besides playing their respective games well, many pro athletes have learned the art of diplomacy well. They know how to deal with fans, the media, other players, even political figures. This was evident in 2019 when former Chicago Bulls player Dennis Rodman wrote a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump. The eccentric player had heard that political tensions were high between the U.S. and North Korea, so he offered his services as an Ambassador of Goodwill. He had previously become friends with Chairman Kim, who has a reputation for not trusting many people, including family. They had met in 2013 when he came through for an exhibition game and to sign autographs (he and his agent initially thought it was South Korea but couldn’t back out.) He admitted being scared at first but soon enjoyed spending time with Kim. Rather than seeing the political situation deteriorate, Rodman offered to help mediate at an upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit and help negotiate the release of an American prisoner.
  • Angry equestrian fan to Emily Wilding Davison. The Epsom Derby was one of England’s favorite horse races. It began in 1780 and attracted all levels of society. In 1913, the annual race was disrupted by a noted suffragette pushing for rights for women. Historical letters said she ran onto the track toward the end of the race with the hopes of putting two flags on King George’s horse. She instead caused the horse to run into her, knock her down, and throw the jockey. She was hospitalized and died a week later, but in the process, she received hate mail from all over the world. The harsh tone of many of these missives is interestingly similar to that of the online trolls that would emerge a century later, making fun of her, her injuries, and her crusade, and not wishing her well.  

Confused kidnapper to Joseph Mears. In 1966, the World Cup was stolen. This shocked many football fans, since the actual trophy is so special and even sacred. The mystery deepened when Mears, head of Chelsea FC, received a poorly written note demanding ransom for the return of the Jules Rimet Trophy. The cup ‘napper asked for a fairly small sum of 15,000 pounds and threatened to melt it if demands weren’t met. A second letter set up a rendezvous at a car lot. While negotiations were going on, the Metropolitan Police were trying to zero in on him. Finally, a suspect was arrested, and a dog later found the buried cup on a walk.

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