Things You Are Wrong About in Sports
In the sports world, there is a very fine line between fact and fiction.
There are so many myths and misconceptions in sports that are eventually accepted as fact, based purely on the power of endless repetition—whether it’s an athlete peddling a false narrative to promote his own image, a member of the sports media pushing his own agenda or even a sports fan talking out of his ass.
For most of us, politics and religion are two conversation topics considered off-limits for those people we have a vested interested in not disliking. Sports come in a not-too-distant third, because there’s a similar tendency to become entrenched in a viewpoint, making it far too easy to substitute one’s own opinion for the actual truth.
That being said, nobody knows everything—not even you. Here are a few things in sports you, or some dummy you know, are probably all wrong about.
Tony Romo Is NOT a Fourth-Quarter Failure
If you know only a handful of things about the NFL and its players today, chances are you know—for an absolute fact—that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a choker. That he sucks in the clutch. That when the game is on the line, he will always fail.
While there is no question that, over the last decade, America’s Team has always found a way to snatch abject mediocrity from the jaws of potential greatness, it’s not because Romo is a choker who can’t win games.
Though he has come up short late in a number of high-profile games, the reality is that Romo has an established history of bringing his team back in the fourth quarter. And his late-game interceptions are no worse than those of guys like Tom Brady and Matt Ryan—not bad company.
Another stark reality is that only one quarterback wins a championship each season, and many of the recent winners have met with—and continue to meet with—their fair share of criticism. Russell Wilson? Joe Flacco? Eli Manning? It’s hard to imagine any of them having the same kind of success in Big D.
I know from personal experience all about wanting nothing but the worst for Dallas and the joy that comes with reveling in its failures—be they real or perceived. When it comes to the Cowboys, the failures of general manager Jerry Jones are real. The failures of quarterback Tony Romo are mostly perceived.
Maybe Romo will never win a championship, but there are a lot of greats who never did. And given Romo's pedigree compared to the likes of Dan Marino, his shortcomings should be more excusable.
The 1903 World Series Was NOT the First World Series
If either of the team names were more recognizable in the modern era—only the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals existed at the time—greater importance would likely be placed on the early championships.
The Running Game Does NOT Matter...Much
If there’s only one thing to know about stats, it’s that stats can be manipulated to say almost anything. In the NFL, stats are often used to make the case for the importance of the running game, but they’re usually manipulated to prove a specific point that someone wants to be proven.
There’s a very legitimate reason why five quarterbacks were taken ahead of the very first running back in the 2014 NFL draft. The value placed on QBs in the game has been increasing for decades, while the importance of the running back position has been being diminished.
Proponents of “smashmouth football” will say that if you have a running back who gets at least 20 carries, you win about 70 percent of the time. The problem is that statistics have always been similar because running is a luxury the winning team can usually afford.
For whatever reason, defensive and rushing stats are overvalued in the NFL, and offensive passing stats are not. Maybe it’s because QBs have a way of making their job look easy, while running backs have to physically battle for every yard gained. Say what you will about the importance of being balanced, but these days, there's only one position considered irreplaceable—and it's not running back.
A Large Number of NFL Players DO Finish College
Football players have shorter careers and less earning potential than baseball and basketball players, but they’re required to stay in college several years longer because of what’s been determined as the physical requirements of the game.
That being said, for some reason, there is a widespread notion that most NFL players never finish college. The truth is that nearly 80 percent of retired players ultimately finished their degrees, which is exceptional compared to the graduation rate of non-athletes, which wildly fluctuates nationally between 30 and 60 percent.
Even though many pro prospects leave college early to declare for the draft, a large number actually stay through their senior year, and many return after their NFL careers. Former Texas quarterback Vince Young announced his retirement in June 2014, the very same month and year he graduated from his alma mater.
Americans DO Care About Soccer
OK. The real truth here is that Americans do care about the World Cup, but they won’t necessarily care about soccer when it’s over. At least not this time.
World Cup ratings in the United States have been impressive this year, with the recent match against Portugal drawing a bigger audience than the series average for the NBA Finals series between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat—bigger by over three million.
Soccer is growing exponentially in this country every year, as is the Latino population that values “futbol” above traditional American football. You can keep pretending that Americans don’t care about soccer, but with each passing year, you will become even more wrong.
Getting Hot Down the Stretch Is What Matters MOST
You hear it all the time: Teams that get hot at the right time—NFL teams in December, NBA and NHL teams in March-April and MLB teams in September—often ride that momentum to a championship.
In reality, a team that gets hot late and wins a championship as a result is a great story, but it’s rarely that simple.
Take the NFL, for example. The New Orleans Saints finished the 2009 regular season 0-3, the Green Bay Packers went 3-3 to close out 2010, the Baltimore Ravens went 1-4 in 2012 and the Seattle Seahawks went 2-2 in their last four games in 2013. Every now and again, you’ll have a team like the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished 6-1 and seemingly willed a championship on momentum alone, but it’s the exception, not the rule.
Many will cite the 2012 Ravens as getting hot at the right time—and they did...in the playoffs. In reality, anything can happen if a team makes it to the playoffs, and often, anything does happen. The regular season means next to nothing in the postseason.
The NHL's 'Original Six' Were NOT the Original Six
Any fan of a hockey team that is not a member of the NHL’s overhyped Original Six—the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers—knows that NHL’s promotion of the Original Six is nothing more than an overhyped, and impressively clever, marketing ploy.
The NHL was founded in 1917 with four teams: the Montreal Wanderers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and the nameless Toronto club that would become the Maple Leafs. The Wanderers disbanded halfway through the season, but the Senators hung tight for almost two decades before being disbanded in 1934 and later reestablished in 1992.
The original Original Six—as marketed by the league—took almost a decade to come into existence and discounts teams like the Senators, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Eagles. They would remain the only six teams in the NHL for 25 years, providing some basis for the claims, but they weren’t the original.
Everything About the NBA Is NOT Rigged
In the U.S., there is no major sports league fans are more suspicious of than the NBA. A vested rooting interest in a given team is not required to publicly proclaim the draft is rigged, the officials are corrupt or that the league is an Orwellian nightmare where truth and free will go to die.
The thing about the draft is that, in an effort to actually make it more fair and deter teams from tanking to the point where they win less than 10 games, the league has made it seem less transparent. Imagine a world in which the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons all desperately jockeyed for losses. People would not be happier.
As for the officiating in basketball, well...it’s subjective.
During a given game, you will have three different announcers come up with three different interpretations of a given action. One says the foul is flagrant, one says it was a non-flagrant foul and the other says it wasn’t a foul at all but rather a flop. These people have the gift of continuous instant replay. Officials do not because they have to get on with the game.
The fact remains that it would be a lot harder to legitimately rig the NBA and get away with it for decades—as conspiracy theorists maintain is the case—than just move forward in the real world, ignoring the aforementioned insanity. If everything really was fixed, someone would've come forward by now with some actual proof.
Eagles Fans Did NOT Boo Poor Santa...Without Cause
As a Steelers fan born and raised in Pittsburgh, believing the worst about all things Philadelphia (and Ohio) is as much a part of my genetic code as green eyes and brown hair. Which is why the infamous 1968 Philadelphia Eagles fans booing Santa incident has always just felt right—and on one level, it was.
That year on December 15th, cantankerous fans of the 2-11 Eagles did boo Santa Claus, but not in the same way Philadelphia Flyers fans would boo an anti-cancer commercial almost 50 years later. Just kidding! The cancer bit also isn’t quite what it seems, but it too fits the Philadelphia narrative.
The truth is that Philly fans turned out on a terrible day, during a terrible season, for what turned out to be a terrible game, and Santa was supposed to be a big attraction. Apparently, the snow was a factor in his commute, and the team’s entertainment director completely lost his mind.
Per Snopes: “20-year-old Frank Olivio” was approached to fill in for the absent Santa. “Olivio, who had word a red corduroy Santa suit and a fake beard to the game, was given a large sack and tapped to weave down the field between two columns of Eaglettes.”
Although Olivio, in his corduroy best, has always maintained he was a topnotch replacement, it’s really hard to imagine that any of the goobers we see in the stands come December these days could ever pass for the bearded one in an official setting—like the mall.
Say what you will about Philly fans, but I’ve seen their passion firsthand on many occasions and believe they had a legitimate beef here. Technically they did boo Santa, but it’s not as black and white as it seems.
Player Salaries Are NOT Linked to Ticket Prices
This is something that makes sense on a very visceral human level. The idea that greedy players and their bloated salaries are directly responsible for the high prices passed on to fans certainly seems logical.
Unfortunately for the dummies in congress, economics isn’t such an obvious and exact science. In fact, according to University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson, “player salaries have virtually no impact on ticket prices. Ticket prices are set by what the market with bear. After that it’s a matter of who gets the money, [the owners or the players].”
And usually it’s the owners.
Player salaries are set by the owners, based on the value they believe a certain player (or players, as a whole) directly contributes to their profits. The idea that the players are the bad guys is simply absurd. In reality, fans and the vast majority of professional athletes have more in common, lifestyle-wise, than players and owners.
Perhaps it’s because most of us normals can more easily visualize ourselves in the role as incompetent billionaire owner than superstar athletes. But that has far more to do with us than it does with them.
'They' NEVER Said Tim Tebow Couldn't Do Anything
Quote from the spot:
They said I couldn’t be a high school quarterback. They said I couldn’t get a D-1 scholarship. ‘You can’t make it. You’re not good enough. You’re not skilled enough.’ They said I couldn’t win a Heisman. They said I couldn’t win a national championship. They said I wouldn’t be a first-round draft pick. They said I couldn’t play in the league. Appreciate that.
Poor Tim Tebow! Sounds like he had it rough.
Except he didn’t.
Nobody said he couldn’t be a high school quarterback, and if they did, they were quickly humiliated because the home-schooled superstar was an absolute legend—so good at sports in general that he was nearly drafted by the Los Angeles Angels.
Nobody said he couldn’t be a D-1 quarterback. In fact, Tebow was one of the most highly recruited players in the country in 2005. LSU, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, USC, Clemson and Notre Dame were among the schools interested in securing his services. Ultimately, Florida landed Tebow, but he almost signed with Alabama—like most underdogs!
Nobody said he couldn’t win a Heisman. Tebow was one of the top quarterbacks in the country, and Florida was one of the top football programs in the country. Literally nobody drew a line in the sand and declared Tebow forever unworthy of a Heisman Trophy. Ditto with the national championship.
As for the first-round draft pick bit, there were some people who said he would never be drafted in the first round. But for every Tebow “hater” there was a devotee like Sports Illustrated’s Kerry Byrne, who believed him to be the most underrated athlete in the history of sports. Not just football...like all sports.
And as for those who said he couldn’t play in the league? Well, the 26-year-old is currently employed by ESPN and hasn’t started an NFL game at QB since January 2012. So it seems that maybe they were right on that one.
Olympic Gold Medals Are NOT Actually Gold
Maybe this comes as a shock only to some people, but CNN’s breakdown of what exactly makes up an Olympic gold medal in July 2012 was surprisingly eye-opening. Gold medals may be first place on the outside, but on the inside, they’re 93 percent second place!
The makeup of the medals varies, but at the London Olympics, gold medals were 93 percent silver and six percent copper. Gold made up just 1.34 percent (or about six grams) of the overall weight. The silver medal, by contrast—if you can actually call it that—was comprised of 93 percent silver and seven percent copper.
Though Olympic medals can sell for thousands on the open market because of their symbolic value, the actual value of a gold medal is approximately $650. Of course, six grams of gold does make a difference—London’s silver medals were valued at $335 and the bronze at less than $5.
Michael Jordan Was NOT Cut from His High School Basketball Team
There are few things in this world people cling to more than an underdog story, which is why the myth that Michael Jordan, who is arguable the greatest player in the history of basketball, was cut from his high school basketball team is so pervasive.
It’s almost impossible to give His Airness the underdog treatment, unless we’re talking about his ill-fated foray into MLB or his skills as an NBA owner, but getting cut in high school would certainly help his case. If only it were true.
The truth is that MJ failed to make the varsity team as a sophomore. Like most sophomores, he suffered the indignity of logging some JV hours. But considering Jordan himself has embraced the myth to prop up the false underdog narrative, there will always be people eager to help him out.
Kobe Bryant Was NOT Drafted by the Lakers
Everyone knows that Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has played every season of his NBA career in Los Angeles. Everyone also knows that he was drafted straight out of high school in 1996. The natural assumption among many casual fans is that Bryant was, in fact, drafted by the Lakers.
Then again, you know what they say about the word: ASS-u-ME.
In reality, the Lakers, who made the playoffs but were easily bounced by the defending champion Houston Rockets in the first round, were not in position to acquire the Lower Merion phenom without a little draft day help from the Charlotte Hornets.
The Lakers and Hornets agreed to a pre-draft trade that sent Vlade Divac to Charlotte, to replace Alonzo Mourning, and sent Bryant to Los Angeles. Although the Hornets had their ups and downs before eventually relocating to New Orleans, it’s safe to say that the entire history of the franchise would’ve changed had they seen what Jerry Buss saw in Kobe Bryant.
Jackie Robinson Was NOT the First Black Player in MLB
The late, great Jackie Robinson is generally thought of as the first African-American player to break the infamous color barrier in MLB. Robinson was called up by the Brooklyn Dodgers and made his debut in April 1947.
He may have broken the barrier once and for all, but Robinson was not the first black player to make the move. The first was actually Moses Fleetwood Walker, a former slave, who replaced an injured player for the Providence Grays in June 1897.
The second was his brother, Welday Walker, a pitcher whose brief time in the majors was cut short due to the hateful racism of his rivals. A half-century later, Robinson became the first black player to sign a formal contract with MLB.
The Super Bowl Is NOT a Harbinger of Doom
There are two, maybe even three, pervasive—not to mention very unfortunate and destructive—myths about the Super Bowl that seem to gain at least a little traction most years.
The first is that every working girl in a three-state radius flocks to the city hosting the big game. There’s also the assertion that sex trafficking spikes too, but in reality, neither is a problem disproportional to the size of the event—or any other major urban event.
Then there’s the claims that domestic violence reports skyrocket during the big game. Although evidence proves that visits to the local hospital emergency room increase during the Super Bowl, they aren’t necessarily associated with game-induced rage or physical assaults.
On Super Bowl Sunday, there’s usually a spike in traffic accidents, people injuring themselves in trip-and-fall incidents and other people being nabbed for drunk and disorderly behavior in public. The key word there is drunk. There are a million ways to die during the Super Bowl, but at the hand of an irate spouse is actually quite low in the risk concerns.
The third Super Bowl myth, which has nothing to do with being the harbinger of doom, is the ridiculous assertion that a billion people worldwide watch the game. Sorry—not even close. While the big game may find some sort of audience outside the U.S., it's just a small fraction of the 100-plus million who watch it here.
In fact, the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France drew a global audience of just over 600 million at its peak, making it the most-watched sporting event in the history of the world.