As a website targeted towards males that makes some mention of sports, we are legally obligated to publish articles about Jim Thorpe. However, due to excessive dudefest, all articles concerning Jim Thorpe have a strict maximum of 2,000 words. In order to meet the "extended piece" requirement, I had to cut down the article from its original length of about 250,000 words (it was more of a multi-volume biography than an article—God bless Smigoversen for reading the whole thing) to the length you see right now, because apparently the powers that be do not take the word "extended" as seriously as Dudefest.com does.
Jim Thorpe was most likely born on May 28, 1888, in Indian Territory near the town of Prague, Oklahoma. Native Americans weren't into the whole "written records" thing back then, hence the uncertain date and place. Based on how chiseled his jaw line was and how masculine of a face he had as an adult (see above photo), my thought is that he was born with that exact adult face and his baby body took a couple dozen years to grow into it. And since a simple Google image search didn't turn up any pictures of Thorpe as a child, I think it's safe to assume I'm correct.
Thorpe's childhood was relatively uneventful athletically, but was certainly difficult. Thorpe's twin brother died when they were nine (imagine if his brother had been more athletic than him—they would have won four man relays with each of them running two legs), his mother died when he was young (probably due to vaginal trauma—see above adult face theory), and his father died when he was sixteen. After his father passed away, Thorpe left the school he had been attending, Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He worked on farms for a few years before returning to Carlisle in 1907.
Thorpe's athletic career began when he was walking past the track team's practice, decided that everyone was high jumping incorrectly, and promptly launched into a 5'9" high jump while still in street clothes. Which bested all of the present high jumpers. For those of you unfamiliar with high jumping in the early 1900s, that's the equivalent of a dude scoring a touchdown the first time he picked up a football. Oh, Thorpe did that too. When legendary football coach Pop Warner (you probably remember hearing about him in middle school) finally allowed his best track athlete to play the dangerous game of football, Thorpe hopped in at running back and scored a couple of easy touchdowns on the Carlisle defense. Thorpe then walked over to Warner, dropped the line "Nobody is going to tackle Jim", and flipped the ball to Warner. Rumor has it that Thorpe's balls grew three sizes that day.
Highlights of Thorpe's college football career (Carlisle seems to have been a K through 16 type of school) include:
- 1911: Thorpe scores every point—four field goals and a touchdown—for Carlisle in an 18-15 upset of Harvard, one of the best NCAA teams at the time.
- 1912: Thorpe rushes a 92-yard touchdown, only to see it nullified by a teammate's penalty. On the next play, Thorpe rushes a 97-yard touchdown.
- 1912: Carlisle wins the collegiate national championship thanks mostly to Thorpe, who finished the season with 25 touchdowns and 198 points and was awarded All-American honors for the second straight season.
- 1961: President Dwight Eisenhower says of Thorpe, "He never practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw."
In early 1912, Thorpe began training for the 1912 Olympics, which would be held in Stockholm, Sweden. Since he was essentially Carlisle's one-man team in most meets, the pentathlon (long jump, javelin, 200m, discus, and 1500m) and the newly introduced decathlon (100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m, discus, 110 m hurdles, pole vault, javelin, 1500m) seemed like perfect fits for the absurdly versatile Thorpe. For good measure, and to give himself an actual challenge, he decided to compete in the long jump and high jump as well. Obviously, qualifying for these events was no issue -- this is Jim Thorpe we're talking about.
Thorpe brought home gold medals in both the pentathlon and decathlon. However, he only finished fourth in the high jump and seventh in the long jump, probably due to the fact that someone stole his shoes before he started competition, so he found two random shoes and wore those instead. Wait, that happened before his pentathlon and decathlon wins too. In that case, he probably just let other people win. Anyway, legend has it that King Gustav V of Sweden, upon presenting Thorpe the challenge prize he committed to donate to the winner of the decathlon, said, "You sir are the greatest athlete in world", and Thorpe responded, "Thanks, King". While this story has contributed to the assignment of the title of "World's Greatest Athlete" to the most recent winner of the Olympic decathlon, the story has been largely discredited. Even if it were true, the Swedish king is not qualified to give out the title of "World's Greatest Athlete". Maybe "World's Most Beautiful Person" or "World's Blondest Person" or "World's Greatest Winter Athlete", but even that last one is a stretch. That said, Thorpe was undoubtedly the World's Greatest Athlete at that point in his life, and as a writer for Dudefest.com, I am more than qualified to assign that title.
After the Olympics, Thorpe began looking for more things to win. He decided to try his hand at professional baseball. He went barnstorming (traveling to different cities and playing exhibition games) with the New York Giants—before their switch to football—across the world as the celebrity of the tour, selling out stadiums, meeting Popes and Kings, and wrestling on the floor on the Colosseum (because why not?). He was a bit of a journeyman in terms of the MLB though, playing on four different teams from 1913 to 1919, but he managed a .252 career batting average. In truth, it was probably his preference for football that prevented him from putting a full effort in.
Thorpe played football in the late 1910s for the Canton Bulldogs, winning titles in 1916, 1917, and 1919. In the 1919 championship, he managed to kick a 95-yard punt (wind-assisted, but still) to seal the game for the Bulldogs. The next year, the Bulldogs and 13 other teams formed the American Professional Football Association (APFA), which would become the NFL two years later, serving as the leagues first president while not only continuing to play for the Bulldogs, but also coaching them. Was it a conflict of interest? Probably, but the Bulldogs didn't win the championship that year, and Thorpe left the Bulldogs after the season to form and play for an all-Native American team. The aptly named Oorang Indians didn't do so hot, but in 1923 Thorpe was named to the first All-NFL team anyways. He retired from the NFL in 1928.
Thorpe's retirement from the NFL marked the career end of his storied six sport career. If you're able to count, you've realized that I've only mentioned three sports. Well here goes.
- At Carlisle, Thorpe not only excelled at track and field and football, he also starred at lacrosse, which was most likely invented by a time traveling Thorpe anyway.
- In addition to both winning a college football national championship and two Olympic Gold Medals in 1912, Thorpe won an intercollegiate ballroom dance national championship, which is why Dudefest.com usually refers to 1912 as "Year Of The Thorpe".
- Starting in 1926, Thorpe headlined a traveling football, baseball, and basketball crew with the no longer politically correct name of "Jim Thorpe and His World Famous Indians", meaning Thorpe was probably dunking in addition to scoring touchdowns and hitting homers.
Since his death in 1953, Thorpe has had a town named after him, a postage stamp with his face made, and is a member of the Oklahoma Sports, Professional Football, College Football, United States Olympic, and United States Track and Field Halls of Fame. As possibly the greatest athlete to have ever lived, he holds a special place in Dudefest dudes' right biceps—where dudes keep special things—and we pray to him every morning. Thank you Jim Thorpe, for your contributions to dudefest history.
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