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With Halloween upon us, and all the ghosts and goblins and bad beats floating through the air, there’s really only one question to ask: Who ya gonna call?

In the world of sports, there have been several occasions when Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd’s Ghostbusters of movie lore would have come in handy. Most recently, young New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in a Monday Night game threw four interceptions in a 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots. He was heard on an open mike as he returned to the bench, muttering, “I’m seeing ghosts.”

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The problem was those ghosts had sticky fingers and kept picking off his passes.

Former NFL quarterback and current analyst Chris Simms said following the game that what Darnold meant by that comment was that he couldn’t read the Patriots’ defensive setups and couldn’t trust what his eyes were telling him. Simms admitted he once experienced a similar sensation against the Baltimore Ravens, when the game started moving too fast for him and he had more success completing passes to his opponents than to his own team.

“When you have your rhythm as a quarterback and you’re seeing your receivers well, the game slows down for you and it’s a great feeling,” Simms said. “But when everything is out of sync and your rhythm is off and the opposing team seems to know every play you call, you start seeing ghosts.”

There are other ghost stories related to football that have lived on through the years, and probably will continue to until they are sufficiently “slimed” by the Ghostbusters.

It is thought that the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa, whose Teamsters Union pension funds helped build the Las Vegas Strip in the 1950s and 60s, haunts two different NFL stadiums: that of his favorite team, The Detroit Lions, and the New York Giants. 

Many workers at the Lions’ Ford Field have told reporters that Hoffa’s distinctive voice is frequently heard over the sound system cheering on his team. And it’s long been rumored that Hoffa, who disappeared on July 30, 1975, was buried in concrete under the end zone of the now demolished Giants Stadium. 

A television show, Mythbusters, tried but failed to find traces of Hoffa’s body before the demolition was completed.

This week, the release of the highly anticipated movie The Irishman should provide better clues as to where the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa can be found. Directed by Martin Scorsese, and with a cast including his favorite bad guys, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, the movie claims to offer the real story behind the disappearance of the Teamsters boss. Of course knowing how and why Hoffa was killed will only enhance ghostly apparitions in the coming months.

Speaking of Irishmen, another football ghost that is seen regularly around the campus of Notre Dame is that of their first All-American, George Gipp. The 1920s era running back is said to have contracted pneumonia from sleeping outdoors on the campus steps of Washington Hall. He died shortly after at age 25. Gipp achieved a level of immortality some years later when then B-movie actor and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan portrayed him in a film.

The memorable scene shows Gipp on his deathbed telling Irish Coach Knute Rockne: “Rock, sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”

Some years after Gipp’s death, there were student reports of him riding a white horse up the steps of Washington Hall. Maybe he was trying to catch up with the famous quartet who followed him to glory, the illustrious Four Horsemen immortalized by writer Grantland Rice in the most famous opening lines ever of a college game report:

“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore, they were known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice of the Polo Grounds this afternoon…”

That’s a hell of an opening for a final score of 13-7.

 Ghost stories … you’ve gotta love ’em.

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About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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