An Indonesian toddler smokes two packs a day, but the 2-year-old’s father doesn’t seem to care.
“He looks pretty healthy to me,” he said. “I don’t see the problem.”
Only after an anti-smoking group caught wind of the chain-smoking infant and implored the Indonesian government to step in were concerns expressed. Not by the parents, or neighbors, or even alarmed passersby. Evidently, toddlers puffing away on cigarettes are the norm in Southeast Asia.
The idea is so outrageous that we have trouble wrapping our head around it. A baby who smokes almost 40 cigarettes a day? It’s so kooky that the National Enquirer couldn’t even claim that it thought of the idea first.
Though this story catches us by surprise, we’re not knocked off balance by it. After all, the sports world has its fair share of absurdities. Fans are puzzled, cope with it, and before long, it seems as normal as a 2-year-old holding a pack of Marlboros.
With that in mind, here are 10 occurrences in the world of sports that stunned us all at first, but soon just became part of everyday life.
10. The San Diego Padres are the team to beat in the NL.
Believe it or not, only the Tampa Bay Rays have a better record in all of baseball than the Pads, and no one saw this coming. The NL West leaders finished 12 games below .500 last season, good for a solid fourth in the division and 17 games back from first place. Clearly, much has changed, and a trio of unstoppable pitchers (Jon Garland, Mat Latos, and Clayton Richard) is largely to thank. As the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks can attest, pitching wins titles. Don’t be too surprised if the Padres replicate their NL West brethren’s decade-old game plan.
9. Hockey player loses seven teeth, returns a few minutes later.
Imagine a frozen hockey puck whizzing toward your face. Now imagine that puck striking you square in the mouth and knocking out seven of your teeth. Most of us would be down for the count. Not Duncan Keith. The Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman got cleaned up and returned soon after the mishap to guide his team to a Game 4, series-clinching win over San Jose. “It sounds gross, but it happens all the time to guys,” Keith said. “It could have been a lot worse.” Yeah, right.
8. Brett Favre is unsure if he wants to play football ? again.
By now, this doesn’t seem all that surprising. But remember when he first began this nonsense six years ago, sending Wisconsin into a state of emergency? And remember when he actually did retire, delivering a tearful goodbye two years ago? And then remember when he unretired to join the New York Jets, retired again, then unretired so he could latch on to the Minnesota Vikings? And remember when, after the Vikings were an interception away from the Super Bowl, Favre wasn’t sure if he was coming back to play again? It’s absurd enough that he is contemplating a 20th season, but it’s even more ridiculous that football fans still have to watch him play this waffling game.
7. Diego Maradona coaches the Argentinean national team.
He helped turn Argentina into an international force during his playing days in the 1980s and is widely considered one of the best soccer players of all time. But that hardly makes him fit to be the manager of one of the most storied franchises in World Cup history. Maradona loves the controversial spotlight, and is Terrell Owens, Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Knight all rolled into one. And let’s not forget that he was a known cocaine addict until 2005 and still owes the Italian government 37 million euros. And he is a manager for what reason, again?
6. Los Angeles has a new hero: Ron Artest.
You read that correctly. As Kobe Bryant‘s desperation jumper nipped the rim in Thursday night’s Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns, Artest made the heads-up play to snatch the rebound and chuck up a layup. The ball went through the net as the buzzer sounded, and everyone in the Staples Center chanted his name. This was just a minute after Artest launched two head-scratching jumpers, including a 3-pointer with a full shot clock and a slim three-point lead, to put everyone in the city in a foul mood. This was also six years after the Malice at the Palace. This guy was the biggest villain in the NBA. But now he is the man of the hour. How things change.
5. Al Davis is still running the Raiders.
Boy, Super Bowl XXXVII seems far away. The Oakland Raiders’ 27-point loss to Tampa Bay marked the beginning of the end for this California franchise, which ancient owner and GM Al Davis can take most of the credit for. Oakland is a morose 29-83 since that Super Bowl defeat, and after first-round flops like JaMarcus Russell, Fabian Washington, and Robert Gallery (all handpicked by Davis), it’s anyone’s guess why the maverick is still running a franchise. Perhaps the rest of Raiders’ brass are counting on him kicking the bucket soon, but how many more losing seasons can Silver and Black fanatics take? Truly, no one knows the answer to this question.
4. A team from the Horizon League makes the NCAA championship.
Butler was good. It had 20 straight wins before March Madness. But that was also against the likes of Cleveland State and Detroit. And UTEP looked pretty good as a 12-seed upset in the first round. Baby-faced Brad Stevens and his Bulldogs, however, didn’t heel. They took care of every team that stood in their way — including Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State — to bust everyone’s bracket and enter the championship game. If Gordon Hayward‘s half-court heave against Duke wasn’t long, sports fans would still be buzzing about one of the best finals in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
3. MLB outfielder hangs up his spikes for a softball league.
Eric Byrnes, no one can fault you for your love for the game — or at least a similar game. He is making $11 million this year — as a member of the Dutch Goose burger and beer pub softball team. After signing a $30 million contract extension with the Diamondbacks in 2007, Byrnes’ career tanked, and he got released by the Seattle Mariners after starting the season with a .094 batting average. Seattle cut him, and Byrnes opted to call it quits and play a little in the backyard. “This is going to be a blast,” Byrnes told MLB.com. “Playing with my buddies. I can’t wait for my first hit. I’m going to ask for the ball.” That $11 mill makes it a lot easier, I bet.
2. A century without a World Series.
Winning everything isn’t supposed to be easy. But it’s now been over a century since the Chicago Cubs have been crowned World Series champions. The glory days of 1908 seem like a long, long time ago — because they were. Since then, the Model T started production, the Titanic sank, the United States fought in two World Wars, the computer was invented, and Apple took over society with its iArmy (actually, that’s still to come.) It’s OK to complain about a down year or two, but until you can last almost four generations without a championship, you don’t know what a drought is.
1. Tedy Bruschi returns from a stroke after just eight months.
How amazing this was has not been lost, even though it’s been five years. To go from not knowing if you’ll live another day to returning to the football field in only eight months is downright miraculous, and Tedy Bruschi did it. This accomplishment is still baffling.