Football had a dark day, with news of the apparent suicide of Junior Seau breaking just a few hours after four New Orleans Saints players were suspended—including Jonathan Vilma for the entire season—for their roles in the bounty scandal. While this was a big and tragic day in sports, it’s hardly the first time multiple massive headlines have hit in the same 24-hour span. Whether random or related, they can leave us shocked and awed. With that in mind, here are six days fans, and humans in general, will never forget.
September 28, 1920
What Happened: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte confessed to a Chicago grand jury that they took part in a conspiracy to throw games in the 1919 World Series.
Why It Matters: While Babe Ruth’s hitting style bashed away the dead ball era, the Black Sox scandal marked the end of another: the era when it was actually possible to fix a World Series game. Yes, we now have doping and other forms of cheating, but you’ll see that again around the same time that a Yanks-Sawx game ends in under an hour.
October 16, 1968
What Happened: The black gloves of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City dominate one of the most iconic images in sports. After winning the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meters, the Americans climbed the podium and raised their fists to protest human rights abuses against people of color around the world.
What Else Happened: Outspoken black consciousness activist Dr. Walter Rodney was banned from re-entering Jamaica after a trip to Quebec. The government’s decision caused the Rodney Riots, during which several people were killed.
Why It Matters: The two events revealed the spectrum of black resistance in the 1960s, from visual protest to violent outburst. Decades later, Smith and Carlos would receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for their actions. Rodney would die in a car bombing while running for office.
September 5, 1972
What Happened: Several Israeli Olympic team athletes were taken hostage and ultimately killed by members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization.
What Else Happened: Swimmer Mark Spitz, the Michael Phelps of his day, left Munich the day after winning his then-record seven gold medals in one Olympics, setting world records in each event.
Why It Matters: Being Jewish, Spitz feared for his life and could not even approach the microphone during his “triumphant” press conference. It’s just one more reason the Munich Massacre remains the darkest episode in Olympic history.
June 17, 1994
What Happened: Murder suspect O.J. Simpson got his most famous post-Bills rushing yards, fleeing the LAPD in a white Ford Bronco driven by his buddy Al Cowlings.
What Else Happened: Arnold Palmer played his final round of golf at the U.S Open. The World Cup kicked off in Chicago. And New York City celebrated the Rangers’ Stanley Cup win with a ticker tape parade, then watched the Knicks battle the Rockets in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Why It Matters: Which of those things do you remember? We’re guessing it isn’t The King’s swan song.
December 13, 2007
What Happened: Congress released the Mitchell Report, indicting just about everyone in major league ball for performance-enhancing drug use.
What Else Happened: The Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, 275-million-dollar contract, the most lucrative in the history of baseball.
Why It Matters: On the same day our government condemned doping in the Big Show, A-Rod hit the jackpot. The message? Dope all you want, kids. You may get caught, but you’ll get rich first.
May 2, 2012
What Happened: Legendary linebacker Junior Seau died at age 43. Police are investigating the possibility of a suicide.
What Else Happened: Four New Orleans Saints were suspended for taking part in a bounty program designed to knock opponents out of commission. Jonathan Vilma, who plays the same position Seau did, was banned for the entire 2012 season. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi broke the record for goals in a European club year by scoring his 68th. Two over-40 sluggers (Jason Giambi and Chipper Jones) hit walkoff homers. Angels pitcher Jered Weaver no-hit the Twins. Oh, and the Rangers capped the night off with a triple-OT playoff win over the Capitals.
Why It Matters: Having made 12 Pro Bowls over a 20-year career, Seau was no slouch on the turf. The linebacker and 1994’s Walter Payton Man of the Year was known as a class act who worked with kids and advocated for closer relations between the US and his homeland of Samoa. In short, Seau represented everything great and beautiful about football. And guys who score cash payouts by deliberately injuring other players represent everything that’s wrong with it.