By Doug LaCerte @DLaC67 on July 25, 2014
The wide world of sports is a perfect theater for all types of conspiracy theorists, from the raving madman to the convincing sleuth. Regardless of the field of play, strange mysteries and deep controversies spring up naturally and often, which only adds to the richness of the unpredictable entertainment we've all come to love. The following are 25 of history's most intriguing, insane or otherwise newsworthy sports conspiracy theories.
This one is really strange, and really convoluted. Allegedly, rampant smoking of synthetic herbs, or “spice," led to several serious offenses by Auburn Tigers football players. Some sports sites call it total BS, while other seem to give it credence. Since the alleged activities took place in 2011, we're far from knowing for sure either way.
The widely well-respected Curt Schilling gained some unexpected negative attention in 2007, when Baltimore Orioles play-by-play man Gary Thorne relayed to his listeners an odd tale. Thorne told fans that Doug Mirabelli confessed to him that the blood on Schilling's sock in that infamous moment was fake, and was only there for PR reasons.
Here, we have more “good old-timey sports legend” than “evidence-driven controversy”, but fans in the Big Apple have talked about it for generations nonetheless. The story goes that Jimmy Hoffa's final resting place is no other than Giants Stadium, predecessor to the current MetLife Stadium, perhaps even in one of the Giants' end zones.
The shocking result of Pacquiao/Bradley I inspired several conspiracy theories immediately. Some boxing fans even went as far as to call this apparently blatant conspiracy the death of boxing.
YouTube videos and internet sleuths alike seem to indicate that the Toronto Blue Jays were stealing signs with the help of some creative fans in the 2011 season. What many may not know is that the New York Giants' "shot heard 'round the world" allegedly came through the assistance of a similar sign-stealing tactic.
Could it be? Could "the greatest game ever played" truly have been fixed? According to many old-school sports conspiracy theory experts, which is a thing: yes.
Following the terrorist attacks of the same year, patriotism was obviously high here in the U.S. Some theorists calculate that the NFL tried to capitalize on this by nudging the 2001 New England Patriots towards that season's Lombardi Trophy.
No, we aren't talking about Michael Phelps and his infamous bong rip. Some swimming fanatics have video evidence indicating that Phelps actually lost to Milorad Cavic in his notorious “comeback” in the 2008 Beijing Games. These theorists think a super-touchy touch pad was rigged to give the American an unfair advantage.
After popular Chinese hurdler Lui Xiang mysteriously withdrew from a 2012 race, many theories emerged from the public that the Chinese government ordered all the media in the country to produce only positive tales about Xiang from then on.
Theories still continue about Bobby Riggs throwing his Battle of the Sexes match against Billie Jean King, possibly in order to pay off his debt to the mob. Perhaps these theories have some validity, or perhaps their creators don't want to admit that Riggs was beaten fair and square.
Many believe that the refs in the 1980 World Cup final allowed a clear handball by Argentina to go without punishment, helping the club to win the cup over West Germany.
Collusion between MLB teams is perhaps as well known and obvious as corruption among international soccer referees. This one is basically undeniable at this point, as big-league clubs speak freely with one another without regard to old rules that would prohibit such activity.
Some think the Baltimore Orioles actually faked a power outage to keep the Iron Man streak alive for their beloved Cal Ripken Jr. As someone who has named his own kin after the man (not kidding), I can only say “no comment.”
Since the Los Angeles Lakers have a slightly bigger fanbase than the Sacramento Kings, some NBA fans think the league handed L.A. the '02 championship through the help of some friendly calls.
The discussion about NBA teams tanking the ends of their seasons to get a better chance in the upcoming draft lotto has probably never been more prevalent. Adam Silver had to publicly deny it in March of this year, to which many responded with shouts of "Shenanigans!" and "Malarkey!" Mark Cuban even told USA Today that the truth behind teams tanking games was now "an absolute."
LeBron returned to Cleveland to become a hero, but do you know why he really left in the first place? According to some, James took his talents to South Beach because then-teammate Delonte West had a little too much fun with LeBron's mom one night in Cleveland.
Among many shady rumors involving hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is the tale of his wife Janet's alleged involvement in a 2006 gambling ring. Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, many believed he was also somehow involved.
Hockey lovers are still split about what it was that caused the Edmonton Oilers to trade The Great One to the Los Angeles Kings. Many theorists think the league simply couldn't afford to keep their best player north of the American border.
Since the Venn diagram of “people who believe wacky conspiracy theories” and “people who just want to ruin the fun for everyone” has some rather some significant overlap, some theorists still think the Soviets threw the classic 1980 Olympic hockey match between the U.S. and the USSR.
Let's move now from nearly a century back to just seven years ago, when news of the New England Patriots' illegal filming of other teams' practices took over the sports news world. Many are still loudly, angrily asking some worthwhile questions -- most notably, why did commissioner Roger Goodell so quickly destroy the tapes?
The Chicago White Sox are struggling this season, but things have been much, much worse for Pale Hose fans. The conspiracy behind the 1919 Sox intentionally losing that season's championship is 100 percent true, and is actually one of the most well-documented in sports history.
Many rumors followed Michael Jordan's incredible “Flu Game,” including a frightening-yet-entertaining tale about a late-night pizza delivery from a small group of intimidating gentlemen.
A vocal portion of NBA fans in the '90s claim that MJ didn't switch sports for any uplifting, family-driven reasons, but instead was asked to temporarily leave by the NBA itself.
The infamous “Phantom Punch” came in 1964 when then-Cassius Clay and now-Muhammad Ali earned a TKO victory over Sonny Liston. Sonny's grim background lent to this conspiracy a sense of realism. Many still believe that, for whatever reason, Liston took a dive that night. Either way, it made for a fantastic sports moment.
The '85 draft with the New York Knicks and Patrick Ewing is only one of the drafts in which theorists believe the league altered the result. I don't have enough room to document them all, but YouTube is full of videos explaining how the uploader's team got duped.
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