#2. Rollen Stewart Started the "John 3:16" Signs at Football Games
Once upon a time, when you watched a football game on TV, you would see at least one person in the stands waving a sign that said simply, "John 3:16." It was the only Bible verse you would ever see at the game, and it never said anything else.
Usually you'd see it after a field goal -- the sign holder was always planted in a spot where the TV cameras had to capture it after a scoring play. It was so prevalent that it has turned up on Saturday Night Live, in football video games and on an episode of The Simpsons.
Most of the times when you saw that sign, it was held by the same guy. And he was a little, uh, unbalanced. OK, maybe more than a little.
That is not the beard of a reasonable man.
In 1977, Rollen Stewart was eager to achieve celebrity status but hadn't landed on a particular skill to get him there. He hadn't come up with the "John 3:16" sign concept yet, but in what we assume was a burst of inspiration, he realized, "Well, I'm pretty good at wearing this rainbow wig. Maybe there's something there."
So, he started wearing the wig to every televised sporting event he could attend, hoping to be plastered on the Jumbotron, and more importantly, across television sets around the country. And it worked. He bought up choice seats in stadiums where cameras wouldn't be able to avoid him, and he developed a series of convulsions that could be mistaken for a dance if you weren't paying attention.
Oh yeah. His story has to end well.
That is, until Super Bowl XIV in 1980. Like all non-famous people who think they are famous, Stewart started to wonder if he shouldn't be doing something more constructive with his nonexistent fame. Sitting in a motel room after the Super Bowl, he watched a televangelist warn everyone about the impending apocalypse and immediately knew his true calling: He had to spread the word of God at sporting events.
And thus he became known among sports fans everywhere as the John 3:16 guy or "Rainbow man." He, his wig and his sign became a fixture at All-Star games, championships, races, the Olympics and even Princess Diana's wedding. Networks hated him; they did everything they could to avoid catching him on camera and even altered their game coverage just to cut him out of frame, but, as we mentioned, he was persistent when it came to getting seats in places the cameras couldn't avoid.
He didn't limit himself to fun sports, either.
If showing up at all of those events sounds like a full-time job, you don't know the half of it. Throughout the '80s, Stewart was driving more than 50,000 miles to appear at more than 100 games a year.
If you're wondering why you haven't seen Rollen Stewart in stadiums lately, that's because he's busy serving three consecutive life sentences in prison.
Yeah, his absurd but benign pilgrimages across the country took a turn for the menacing in 1992 when he took a maid hostage in a hotel and outlined his plan to kill George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Bet you didn't call that.
It was a pretty big jump from dancing in crowds to taking hostages. It proved that perhaps he didn't have the direct line to God he had previously endorsed. Yet despite his incarceration and verified insanity, fans have still taken up the mission of carrying the signs to stadiums, which you probably know if you've ever been stuck behind one for an entire game.
The Bible Demystified
"GOD WANTS ME TO BLOCK YOUR VIEW OF THIS PLAY."
#1. Freddie "Saddam" Maake Invented the Vuvuzela
Unlike the other items on this list, there was no honeymoon period for the vuvuzela. It was immediately despised by millions of people after its inception.
Above: Mankind's greatest shame.
Popularized during the 2010 World Cup, the vuvuzela is a yard-long plastic horn that produces a sound like swarm of angry wasps built a hive inside your skull. The sound is deafening and monotonous, and the vuvuzelas themselves are notorious for spreading communicable diseases across stadiums jam-packed with people, thanks to the fine mist of spit flying from the other end.
Stadiums in the United States did what they could to ban them even before the first miserable squeal from the upper decks. But we really ought to consider ourselves fortunate because before 2010, these instruments had already existed in obscurity for over 40 years.
How anyone with a vuvuzela survived that long is a mystery.
In 1965, at age 9, South African soccer fan Freddie Maake created the first vuvuzela by ripping the rubber ball off the end of his bike horn and blowing into the metal tube. The sound was so loud and obtrusive he decided it would be perfect for sporting events. He played it for local soccer matches, and gradually it took off among other people eager to be as loud as possible and with as little self-awareness. Maake started selling them and finally developed the huge plastic version with the help of a manufacturing company, primarily so that they could pump more of these nightmare sticks into the world quicker and more cheaply.
We bet this guy is fun at parties for about 12 seconds.
Maake didn't just relegate his vuvuzela use to sports, either. He began taking the vuvuzela everywhere, even getting detained by airport security for trying to blow it on his first ever plane ride. He originally called it the Boogieblast but changed the name in 1992 in honor of Nelson Mandela's release (the name means "welcome", "unite" and "celebration").
While the intent is nice, Maake couldn't have intentionally picked a product more incongruous with any of those words. Honoring Mandela with a vuvuzela is a little like honoring your hero by stabbing him in his eardrums and then sneezing in his mouth. But for now the small percentage of people out there who love making noise like a 2-year-old hitting a pan are enough to keep stadiums filled with the noise pollution from these plastic hunks of "celebration."
For better or for worse.
For more folks to add to your hit list, check out 7 Inventors You Didn't Know You Wanted to Punch In the Face and The 5 Biggest Assholes Who Ever Turned Out to Be Right.