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Trivia for Your Super Bowl Party

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Writer A.J. Jacobs offers some football trivia to toss about this weekend. Did you know that a field goal was once worth five points? Or that Supreme Court Justice Byron White once led the NFL in rushing?

SCOTT SIMON, host:

You're listening to Weekend Edition from NPR News. This is the extra large Super Bowl, XL, 40 in Roman numerals. Four decades ago, there were suggestions that the NFL's championship game ought to be called the Big One or the Final Game. But Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt noticed that his daughter played with a small, intensely bouncy ball called Super Ball. And now you know the rest of the story. A.J. Jacobs joins us from New York. He's the man who's made a career out making profound and inane information all one and the same. A.J., thanks for being back with us.

Mr. A.J. JACOBS (Author, “The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”): Thank you.

SIMON: Before the Super Bowl, you had the NFL Title Game. The1940 match-up is remembered by many for being the most lopsided game in history.

JACOBS: This was the Bears versus the Redskins, and the Bears beat the Redskins by a score of 73 to zero. And it got so bad, the legend has it, that officials had to ask the Bears to stop kicking extra points because they ran out of footballs.

SIMON: We should explain. When football teams kicked an extra point it often winds up in the stands.

JACOBS: Right. This was before those nets.

SIMON: Two years earlier, 1938, the Pittsburgh Steelers made what we'll call a very judicious draft pick.

JACOBS: None other than Byron “Whizzer” White, who went on to lead the league in rushing, and then, as you know, after his football career ended, he had to settle for another job as a Supreme Court justice.

SIMON: He was a legitimately great running back, wasn't he?

JACOBS: Absolutely. In 1940, he also led the league in rushing. And this is my favorite part. In the off-season he attended Yale Law School.

SIMON: You know, a lot of people think of football as being a violent and brutal game these days, and there's a lot to suggest that. But tell us about the 1905 college season. This was beyond brutal.

JACOBS: In the 1905 college season no less than 18 players died from injuries sustained on the field. And it was so bad that Teddy Roosevelt had to call a commission, presidential commission, to investigate, and they came up with all sorts of reforms and basically saved the game.

SIMON: Like protective equipment?

JACOBS: A little of that, but they also instituted the forward pass. There was an incredibly dangerous play called the flying wedge, where players on the offense would lock arms in a wedge formation, and just run down the field and mow down anyone in their way. And that was gotten rid off.

SIMON: However, we still do it in our editorial meetings. Finally, a field goal used to be worth five points?

JACOBS: Yeah. And a touchdown was two points. So, if your team looses on Sunday maybe you can try to recalculate using the old scoring to see if the outcome might be more appealing.

SIMON: A.J., nice talking to you.

JACOBS: Great to talk to you.

SIMON: He's the author of “The-Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.” Speaking of which, you're the smartest person in the world. Who do you pick in this year's Super Bowl?

JACOBS: Well, I have family in Pittsburgh. So I better go with Pittsburgh or else I'll get in a lot of trouble.

SIMON: It's 22 minutes before the hour.

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