15 Juiciest New Sports Fan Theories

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2016

15 Juiciest New Sports Fan Theories

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Throughout sports history, there have been plenty of conspiracy theories—fixed games, bloody socks, frozen envelopes, you name it.

    That said, fans appear to be no less creatively suspicious as time goes on. It's time to give the ol' conspiracy theory list an update—with a twist.

    Ever heard of "R+L=J" (looking at you, Game of Thrones fans)? Just as entertainment fans concoct theories about plotlines or eventual endgames, so do sports fans pontificate about questionable circumstances.

    In that spirit, here are 15 new fan theories in sports.

    Did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell turn out the lights at the Superdome on purpose? You decide.

    Note: This is, of course, not to say any of these are true or even remotely likely. In fact, some are just flat-out ridiculous. It's fun to think about though, isn't it?

Yankees Lose to Stick It to Boston

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    In 2011, the last official day of the MLB regular season was a doozy

    After a late-season collapse of epic proportions, the Boston Red Sox clung to razor-thin postseason hope. If they were to advance, they would have to beat the Baltimore Orioles in Game 162 and hope the New York Yankees bested the Tampa Bay Rays. To the delight of fans, the two games happened at roughly the same time. 

    After an 86-minute rain delay in the seventh, Boston let their lead slip away and lost, 4-3. Minutes later, the Yankees, who had once led 7-0, dropped the game to the Rays, 8-7, after 12 innings.

    Many fans wondered if the Yankees, who already had the AL East firmly locked up, squandered the lead on purpose to do in their rivals. (In all sanity, it probably had more to do with resting players in a 12-inning game that had no meaning for them.)

    Lisa Olson of Sporting News wrote:

    Surely you've heard this inane conspiracy theory by now, on a day when tens of millions of gobsmacked fans continue to scrub the varnish from their eyes. There are plenty of beauties making the rounds—Buck Showalter is a shape-shifter; Jonathan Papelbon sold his soul—but the one suggesting the New York Yankees had their dirty fingertips all over Boston's epic gag is atop the pile of fresh ludicrous.

Rousey vs. Holm Was Fixed

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    Yes, Ronda Rousey's loss to Holly Holm was shocking, particularly because of how badly she was beaten, but losing on purpose? It seems out there. (Way out there.) Still, former WWE wrestler Taz went on record to say that's exactly what he thinks happened.

    Per Bryan Altman of CBS Local Sports, Taz said on his radio show, The Taz Show, Bodyslams and Beyond:

    Why are some people not seeing this? This has been done in the wrestling industry for years. A guy or girl is going to take a break or go away, or has an injury that they have to tend to, whatever the reasons are, and they're a champion – you take the championship off of them. You do not want your champion sitting home or making a movie, 'Roadhouse 2' or whatever Rousey's going to do, or whatever Rousey's going to do, or just needs a personal break, which she's earned. This girl's earned it. But you don't want that person sitting home for five, six, seven months with that championship. IT'S BAD FOR BUSINESS! TAKE THE BELT OFF HER!

    This might be a one-person fan theory, but it's a fan theory nonetheless. 

Kyrie Irving Is Illuminati

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    That heading is not a typo. There are folks out there who actually seem to believe Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is a member of the Illuminati. 

    It started in January when Irving posted a photo of a tattoo to Instagram and captioned it with #HamsaHand. According Scott Rafferty of Rolling Stone, a Hamsa Hand is "believed to offer protection from the evil eye, and promote success and harmony for whoever affiliates themselves with it."

    If your mind is taking you to a Da Vinci Code kind of place, you're not alone. Many celebrities are rumored to be part of the secret society, and some zealous Instagram commenters seemed to feel Irving's tattoo was evidence of his membership.

    One such commenter wrote, per Extra Mustard, "Illuminati got his mind, soul and body. Secret Society trying to keep their eye on him. SAD!! Very SAD!"

NFL, Broncos 'Sabotaged' Tim Tebow

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Denver Broncos lineman Evan Mathis was teammates with former quarterback Tim Tebow for a brief stint in Philadelphia.

    Around that time, in April 2015, Mathis shared a fan letter he received detailing several Tebow-related conspiracy theories.

    The letter was out there, to say the least. Its allegations included, per John Breech of CBSSports.com:

    • The NFL attempted to get defensive end Michael Sam signed to a team and conspired to keep Tebow out.
    • Denver Broncos general manager John Elway attempted to "sabotage" Tebow during his time in Denver.
    • Denver's play-calling was also orchestrated to damage Tebow.
    • And here's the real doozy: "Tebow's time with the Jets was to get him to NYC to get him to sell out and join the Illuminati/New World Order."

    Hey, no one ever said every new fan theory would be believable—or even coherent. 

Derek Jeter's Final Home Game Was Rigged

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    JULIE JACOBSON/Associated Press

    "[Insert big game here] was rigged" is a common sports fan theory. Considering that, along with the rarity of perfect moments, it's no wonder fans speculated about the authenticity of New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter's last game.

    In the final home game of his 20-year, Hall of Fame career, Jeter hit a dramatic walk-off single to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 6-5, and rode off into the sunset. It was a perfect ending to a near-perfect career.

    Or was it? Adam Smith of Barstool Sports promptly tweeted, "That Jeter ending was the most rigged thing I've ever seen in my life."

    The idea that the game was rigged, by anyone, is a stretch, especially since the Yankees gave up three runs and the lead in the top of the ninth.

    Still, at least one fan attempted to prove the statistical improbability (and therefore, rigging) of the game's outcome. Good ol' Smitty of Barstool Sports shared the complicated mathematics here (contains some NSFW language). 

NBA Orchestrated Davis-to-Hornets Pick

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    The Anthony Davis to New Orleans fan theory is mainly an updated twist on the classic Patrick Ewing to New York "frozen envelope" tale.

    In 2012, the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) had a 13.7 percent chance of winning the NBA draft lottery, and they did. Folks began to drum up those familiar NBA lottery conspiracy vibes again for one simple reason: Back then, the NBA owned the Hornets.

    At the time, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports wrote, "The reaction of several league executives was part disgust, part resignation on Wednesday night. So many had predicted this happening, so many suspected that somehow, someway, the Hornets would walk away with Davis."

    Per Tony Manfred of Business Insider, conspiracy theorists also used an image of Davis wearing a Charlotte hat as proof of the premeditated scheme.

    And oh, by the way, some also thought sweetening up the Hornets' franchise for sale was a major reason former NBA Commissioner David Stern blocked that infamous Chris Paul trade in 2011. 

Patriots Colluded with LeGarrette Blount

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    How about the idea the New England Patriots helped orchestrate a LeGarrette Blount meltdown to get him back on the team?

    Blount played with the Patriots in 2013 before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2014 season. The running back apparently had issues with his playing time in Pittsburgh, however, issues which came to a head in November 2014 when he prematurely left the field during a game.

    After Blount's release from Pittsburgh, it took the Patriots about five minutes to pick him back up.   

    In January 2015, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports wrote, "Did Blount engineer his release from the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season because he knew the Patriots wanted him back? Did someone tell him he had a job waiting for him? Is this Super Bowl a reward for a twisted scheme?"

    According to Robinson, members of the media asked Blount about this very possibility, and his replies weren't exactly wholehearted denials.

Pete Carroll Wanted Russell Wilson to Be SB MVP

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    Football fans won't soon forget the play call heard 'round the world at Super Bowl XLIX.

    Down four with time running out and facing a 2nd-and-goal at the New England Patriots' 1-yard line, the Seattle Seahawks chose to pass instead of hand the ball off to bruising running back Marshawn Lynch. The result was an interception.  

    Anyone with an ounce of football knowledge felt it was absolute lunacy not to give No. 24 the ball. What could possibly be the explanation? One theory suggested the Seahawks, and head coach Pete Carroll, wanted to see quarterback Russell Wilson become the game's MVP over Lynch.

    This one is a fan theory supported by, and perhaps even initiated by, players. According to Mike Silver of NFL.com, an anonymous player suggested perhaps Carroll "had a vested interest in making Wilson, rather than Lynch, the hero."

    Former Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu relayed what he had heard from some players to Seattle radio host Brian Abker (via Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk):

    With the whole thing with Marshawn and interviews and not giving interviews and the MVP conversation and cars and all those things that happen on the field, the guys have expressed ideas of it being easier to handle Russell Wilson accepting those kind of things and having that kind of thrust upon him as opposed to the possibilities that are unknown with Marshawn.

MLB Did Not Want Canada in the World Series

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    The Toronto Blue Jays made the MLB postseason in 2015 for the first time since 1993. There were those, however, who felt there was some sinister intent on the part of the league to keep a Canadian team out of the running for a title.   

    The Texas Rangers defeated the Jays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series in a 14-inning marathon. Afterward, some folks pointed to a few unfavorable calls as evidence of a conspiracy.  

    Hockey broadcaster Don Cherry said, per NHL.com,"We're getting stiffed. You know why we're getting stiffed? Because they do not want a Canadian team in the final. That's my opinion."  

    Steve Keating wrote for Reuters, "Seconds after Ross Ohlendorf struck out Kevin Pillar to clinch the win, Twitter and social media was lit up by angry Canadian fans over what they viewed as a deliberate attempt to keep Blue Jays out of the Fall Classic."

Daytona 500 Pole Winners Are Rigged

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Daytona 500 is one of the biggest NASCAR races of the year. And for the past four seasons, the pole winners at the Great American Race have been suspiciously convenient.

    Jeff Owens of Sporting News outlined the details:

    • 2013: Danica Patrick in her "first full Sprint Cup season"
    • 2014: Austin Dillon, a rookie driving Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 
    • 2015: Jeff Gordon in his farewell season
    • 2016: Chase Elliott, "successor to Gordon in the famous No. 24"

    When it's put that way, the outcomes do seem a little fishy. Apparently, this conspiracy talk has become a regular thing. After Elliott won the pole, one fan, Steven Taranto, tweeted, "Looking forward to what the 'Daytona 500 pole was rigged' conspiracy theory is this year. There's always one."

    Gordon was asked about the idea in 2015. Though he laughed off an actual conspiracy, he did say the following, per Al Pearce of Autoweek:

    With social media now, that (conspiracy) voice and opinion are so instantaneous. Everybody is able to see it. People have been thinking about (conspiracies) for years, no matter what's happening on the track. But they didn't have the outlet to express it the way they can now today. That's part of the fans' avidness and their loyalty and passion in expressing it.

'Bill Belichick Double Agent Theory'

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    Because the New England Patriots are a lightning rod for conspiracy theories, here's another one. It outlines one of the more elaborate, and frankly ridiculous, plots on this list, but it's a fun one just the same.

    The "Bill Belichick Double Agent Theory" is explained in full here (contains some NSFW language) by Redditor ekjohnson9. The gist, however, is the Pats head coach has a long history of orchestrating NFL outcomes based on his own personal motivations.

    For example, one part of the theory suggests Belichick convinced his assistant, Eric Mangini, to take the New York Jets head coaching job to help "destroy the Jets ... from within."

    When the Pats beat the Denver Broncos in 2013, Eric Goldschein of SportsGrid suggested it could be because Wes Welker was secretly working for Belichick. The Pat-turned-Bronco wide receiver was involved in a horrendous muffed punt return that helped the Pats seal a comeback victory.

    Goldschein wrote, "Saying that Welker helped the Patriots win again is the prevailing headline for many sports blogs and Twitter users this morning."

NHL Forced John Scott Trade

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    There are two equal yet opposite fan theories involving John Scott's election to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

    The first is predicated on the idea that the NHL did not want Scott in the game. Not long after fans voted the 33-year-old journeyman in, the Arizona Coyotes traded him to the Montreal Canadiens, who promptly demoted him to the minors, rendering him ineligible for the All-Star Game.

    Bob McKenzie of TSN said (via Eric Macramalla of Forbes), "I can tell you that the Montreal Canadiens had no interest whatsoever in getting John Scott in this trade. The Arizona Coyotes wanted him to be included. You can draw your own conclusions from that. A lot of people have conspiracy theories."

    The second theory involves the exact opposite set of circumstances. Redditor H4L33T suggested the NHL (somehow) arranged the whole thing—fan vote and all—to drum up interest for the game.

    For what it's worth, ratings were sky-high

Roger Goodell Arranged Super Bowl Blackout

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    In February 2013, Super Bowl XLVII pitted the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers at the Superdome in New Orleans.

    The Ravens were up big in the third quarter when a stadium blackout caused a 34-minute delay in the game. Baltimore went on to win, but only after staving off a ferocious Niners comeback attempt. More than a few folks thought the timing of the power outage was fishy.

    Matt Rudnitsky of SportsGrid (via Peter Weber of the Week) suggested the 49ers could have been behind the outage, and a couple of Twitter users even pointed out an Ocean's 11-type robbery might be going down.

    Or perhaps it was the commissioner himself. Retired linebacker Ray Lewis (who played in the game) later said in an interview for NFL Films' America's Game, "I'm not gonna accuse nobody of nothing—because I don't know facts. But you're a zillion-dollar company, and your lights go out? No. (Laughs) No way," per Nate Davis of USA Today.

    Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs also said publicly he thought NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "had a hand" in the blackout, per David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun.

Cavs Got Draft Picks to Drop Tampering Charges

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    When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami in 2010, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was not pleased, to say the least.

    Right away, there was talk of tampering complaints against Miami. In December 2010, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Gilbert himself was launching an investigation into the matter.

    In 2011, Cleveland ended up with the No. 1 draft pick and took guard Kyrie Irving from Duke. The Cavs also picked first in 2013 and 2014. One Redditor and Cleveland fan, Ziberg, gave his opinion (contains some NSFW language): "I think that we where given them in return for our silence about tampering."

    Tom Ziller of SB Nation outlined the theory in 2013:

    Multiple lottery victories were included in the blood oath signed by Stern and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that led to Gilbert dropping tampering charges against the Heat. Had Gilbert continued his crusade, the Heat's 2011 Southeast Division title would have been vacated, and LeBron may have been Chris Webber'd out of history. Nerlens Noel is a small price to pay to prevent that.

Colts Framed Patriots in Deflategate

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Here's a crazy one for you. The Indianapolis Colts intentionally deflated the infamous Deflategate football, intending to frame their nemesis.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter (via Per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) responded to the idea on a Boston radio station in February 2015, just a few weeks after the incident.

    When asked about the possibility of the Colts deflating the ball after a second-quarter interception by Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, Schefter said:

    I do think there are people who believe that. I know there are people who believe that. … I'll just say, I'm not even going to specify, there are people who believe that, OK? There are people who believe that. And I think there are people who have heard that theory and who say, 'That's impossible.'

    According to a follow-up story by Matt Giles of GQ, cameras did cut away immediately after the interception in question, so it's impossible to determine what happened to the ball.