39. Baseball vs Soccer and the Cuban Missile Crisis
After the humiliating failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, the Kennedy administration became leery of further entanglements in Cuba. Then in September of 1962, a CIA analyst spotted numerous soccer fields along the Cuban coast, and grew concerned. Cubans did not commonly play soccer, but do you know who did? Russians. The presence of soccer fields allowed American analysts to figure out that there were Soviets around.
The CIA deduced that the soccer fields indicated the presence of Soviet military camps nearby, and between that and other intelligence, Kennedy authorized U2 spy planes to overfly Cuba and see what was going on. Aerial photography revealed not only a significant presence of Soviets in Cuba, but even more significantly, the presence of Soviet missiles that could reach much of the continental US, including Washington, DC, within a few minutes. The result was the Cuban Missile Crisis.