#2. The Leonard Cohen Song That Saved Roger Ebert
[Updated to acknowledge Ebert's passing in 2013. RIP Roger. - ed.]
Roger Ebert was the most prominent movie critic ... ever, we think. Being the best at it helped. (He also read Cracked, and tended to say kind things about us. But it's that first one that earned him a spot here.)
Even a less than enamored/obsessed fan of Ebert is probably aware that he battled cancer for many years, bouncing back for a period before the end to do some of the most powerful writing of his career.
He probably wouldn't have been around to do any of that, if not for one song.
"You're welcome -- ain't no thing."
The Tiny Thing That Saved the Day:
According to this must-read Esquire piece, it was a Leonard Cohen song that did it (specifically, "I'm Your Man.")
In 2006 Ebert's cancer resurfaced, this time in the jaw, part of which needed to be removed to keep the nastiness from spreading. After a few weeks of recovery time, he was finally declared ready to return home from the hospital. He got his stuff packed up and let his doctors and nurses pay one last visit before he hit the road. The car was practically running at the hospital entrance, but Roger lingered for a few minutes to listen to Leonard Cohen.
"Shhhh ... the gangsta rap break is coming up."
An artery in his neck burst, as in broke, as in exploded. Blood spewed from his mouth and pooled at his feet, and everyone looked around for Hugh Laurie and a hidden camera. Once it was confirmed that, no, this was not a surprise taping of House, the nurses and doctors got to work stopping the disaster bleeding. Now imagine if, instead of happening right there in the hospital room, the blood vessel had burst while he was sitting in city traffic.
Instead, the doctors were right there and, after even more surgery, more therapy and more hospital time, Ebert was finally declared well enough to get home and start living his life again.
A life saved by the one radio station that didn't spend 2006 playing "How to Save a Life" on repeat.
Now, think about if you were the one in that hospital room and you'd just been given the OK to go home. You would have bolted, right? Most of us can't stand hospital rooms longer than it takes to get our face moles removed, let alone long enough to sit through a whole song when we could be on our way home to our Xbox.
Such is the power of Leonard Cohen, we guess.
"I'd love to stay and chat, but my songs have an asteroid to deflect."
#1. The Pile of Manure That Caused Wars
If you're reading Cracked, or have any sense of history whatsoever, you already know that people from different religions tend to, uh, not always get along.
So it's probably no surprise that in 1600 Europe, a Catholic king named Ferdinand started shutting down Protestant churches like they were head lice and he was a fine-toothed comb. The Protestants called shenanigans (as usual) and said they could build chapels wherever they wanted. Things were so bad that a little get-together was set up at Prague Castle. And, as you can imagine, things quickly spiraled into ridiculous violence.
Even attempted murder seems jovial when your hats are that hilarious.
The Protestants, led by the ominously named Count Thurn, argued with the Catholics so much that many just started walking out of the meeting. After several hours, only three Catholics remained, including two nobles, Count Slavata and Count Martinitz. While everyone else thought they were to be arrested, Thurn instead pushed them out a window. From 70 feet up. Bada-bing, problem solved, Sopranos style!
Eh, not quite.
The Tiny Thing That Saved the Day:
Maybe we shouldn't call it minor, considering it saved two prominent lives, but a huge pile of shit just happened to be sitting right outside that window. Thurn had forgotten that this was the 1600s, and that the horse was the main method of transportation. And horses poop, like, all the time. You might as well assume that every window in the 1600s had a lifesaving man-high pile of manure under it.
We're pretty sure if they had been shot at, a horse would have farted Kevlar vests onto them.
Because the counts survived, they went on to inform their superiors of all that had happened (still covered in shit, remember), which would pretty much kick off the Bohemian Revolt AND the Thirty Years War. Had the manure not been there to cushion their fall, the two counts would have most likely died, which would have delayed both the revolt and the war for several months. This would have given both sides more time to prepare for war. This might have changed the outcome of the war (which was a victory for the Protestants) and started a chain reaction of events that could have radically changed history.
So if modern Europe has anyone to thank for the way things are today, they should start with a huge pile of shit.
For more tiny details that changed the world, check out 6 Tiny Things That Have Mind-Blowing Global Impacts and 6 Random Coincidences That Created The Modern World.