Sports Lies We Still Believe
Deep down, most of us want to believe the myths and urban legends we hear about our favorite players and teams.
But it’s time to set some things straight.
The following are some of the common myths and lies from the world of sports that are still tricking people.
And while we believed them before, we’d be remiss if we didn’t clear the air and shed some light on these misconceptions.
Michael Jordan Was Cut from His High School Basketball Team
While technically true, the ragged inspirational yarn about Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school basketball team is misleading in nature.
Don’t get me wrong, Jordan was asked to step down from the varsity basketball team.
But considering he was a sophomore at the time, and he just moved down to junior varsity—where he absolutely crushed the competition—it was clear that Jordan had the talent to play above his age but just wasn’t physically ready yet.
Soccer Balls Are Filled with Helium
Apparently some people still believe this strange myth, but no, balls used in professional soccer matches are not filled with buoyant helium instead of oxygen.
The notion behind the myth is that helium-filled soccer balls account for some of the insane curve and pace that pro soccer players can put on the ball, but the truth is, these guys are just fuggin’ good.
Batters Hit the Ball Farther with a Corked Bat
Contrary to popular belief, the illegal practice of corking a baseball bat does not allow hitters to smash the ball any deeper than a normal bat.
Corked bats do hold an unfair advantage, however, because they’re lighter and allow sluggers a faster swing, which means they have a fraction of a second longer to adjust to pitches.
But there is a distinct disadvantage of corking a bat—besides punishment from the MLB—and that is the ball comes off a lighter bat with lower velocity.
Basketball Players Must Be Planted to Take a Charge
“WHAT THE F@#$?? He was moving!! Sir! I disagree!!” -- me and every other basketball fan reacting to a seemingly bogus charge called on their team.
The common belief that a true-blue offensive charge foul only occurs when a defender is planted in place and takes a shoulder to the chest with the unflinching grit of Stonewall Jackson.
But the rules on charging fouls state that as long as a defender has established a legal guarding position—meaning he has two feet on the floor and is facing his opponent—he may have one or both feet off the ground at the point of contact with an offensive player.
So if a defender sets himself and then hops in front of an offensive player and receives a leading shoulder square in the sternum, it’s not a blocking foul.
I know, it infuriates me too.
The Truth About Getting "Wally Pipp’d"
Wally Pipp was a first baseman for the New York Yankees during the 1920s and, as the legend goes, was the player who asked off a game with a minor headache and was replaced by a young Lou Gehrig.
Getting “Wally Pipp’d” has since become synonymous in baseball with the act of leaving a game for a minor medical or personal reason and being permanently replaced by your temporary stand-in, who performs exceedingly well in your absence.
The truth of the Wally Pipp story is that he and the Yankees were struggling at the time, and many players were switched out of their starting roles during the 1925 season.
Pipp begging off for an aspirin wasn’t a pivotal moment in baseball history, and his replacement by Gehrig was inevitable.
Full Ride Scholarship Athletes Don’t Have to Drop a Dime
For most college sports fans, a “full ride” scholarship sounds like a fully paid, all-expenses-covered trip through higher education.
The reality, however, is that there’s no such thing as a free ride (or a free lunch), and most four-year, full-scholarship athletes graduate with nearly $15,000 in expenses.
I know, we should all cry a weepy, winding river for them.
Michael Jordan Was Hungover During "Flu Game"
It’s not an old misconception, but it’s gaining steam fast.
The mystique surrounding Michael Jordan and his triumph over illness in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals has recently been called into question by former NBA star Jalen Rose.
Rose was liquored up and hanging out with a gaggle of Indiana University students last month when he made the claim that the flu Jordan played with during his 38-point performance against the Utah Jazz was actually a hangover.
And while Rose’s words made for interesting gossip on the Internet, there is no evidence to suggest that a man as roaringly competitive as Michael Jordan would get slammered in the middle of the NBA Finals.
So until Rose can get some help corroborating his allegations, we’re going to have to let Jordan’s flu remain a flu.
Wilt Chamberlain Copulated with over 20K Women
Yes, my friends. ‘Tis an unfortunate and disappointing fallacy.
The tale of NBA great Wilt Chamberlain and his legendary claim to have slept with over 20,000 women is an exaggeration, according to Lakers beat writer Doug Krikorian, who spent many a weekend out with Chamberlain in Los Angeles and says Chamberlain was absolutely terrible with women.
Krikorian went on to say that Chamberlain privately regretted making his hyperbolic claim and that he only made it to sell more copies of his biography, A View From Above.
Whether or not Quentin Tarantino’s mom was one of Wilt’s made-up copulations remains unknown, however.
Gymnastics Stunts Your Growth
It’s got to be all the jumping and landing. Yeah, that definitely crunches the joints together and can’t be good for a young, growing human being.
If you took a look at every member of every Olympic gymnastic team, you’d assume there’s something in this sport that cuts off their bone development somewhere around the age of nine.
The truth, however, is that short people have a greater advantage over tall individuals in gymnastics. Their slight stature gives them a lower center of gravity, and therefore better balance—a critical component in the acrobatic movements required of gymnasts.
So there isn’t any development-slowing juice in the water at gymnastics facilities, there just happens to be a strong genetic bias toward short people in the sport.
Sliding into First Base Is Faster
This will only serve to anger the baseball gods.
Sliding into a base is faster on most occasions, but running through first is the quickest and surest way to not be called out by an official.
Ask Mark Teixeira.
Hotspur Players Were Poisoned by Rival Fans
Eyebrows rose after widespread “gastrointestinal issues” struck Tottenham Hotspur players before a pivotal 2006 match against West Ham United.
The team had eaten at a London hotel before the Premiership showdown, and the sickness that spread throughout the team was a contributing factor to the ‘Spurs losing the match 2-1.
Fans cried foul play, believing the proprietors at the hotel had poisoned the players’ meals and a police investigation was launched to sort out the matter.
The end result of the probe found no traces of food poisoning and concluded that a stomach bug had spread throughout the team.
The Modern Marathon Distance Is Based on Ancient Greek History
Nope, the marathon distance is not based on a long distance run involving a Greek soldier. It’s a common belief that the 26-mile, 385-yard race was founded by a messenger of the Greek army who ran from a town called Marathon back to Athens in order report the news of a great Grecian victory over the Persians.
A runner did indeed make the journey, but without knowing the exact path he took, it’s impossible to know the exact distance traveled. Most historians believe the runner ended up doing around 40 kilometers (24.8 miles), however.
The modern marathon itself is based on this Greek history, but the first Olympic marathons ever ran varied in distance, being anywhere from 24.85 miles in distance to 26.56.
"It’s Not About the Money" Promises
So many candidates could be thrown in for this lie that many fans love to believe.
It’s a noble thing to say—claiming that your love for the game and thirst for competition stands tall above trivial monetary concerns.
But players who make it into professional sports know good and well that while they do get to play the sport they love, their livelihoods and their family’s financial future rely on their income.
Players don’t risk mind, body and time purely for their own enjoyment or for the fans, just like your average Joe doesn’t deal with TPS reports because it gets the people going.
At the end of the day, you have to remember the motto, everyone—C.R.E.A.M.