Did FIFA Change the Rules of a Contest When Diego Maradona Was Voted Player of the Century?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about soccer/football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: FIFA changed the rules of a contest when Diego Maradona was voted Player of the Century in 2000.

In 2000, FIFA decided to let fans vote on who would be given the title of the “Player of the Century.” The voting was done online, and in overwhelming fashion, the winner was Argentine star Diego Maradona.

Maradona certainly had a case for the honor. Most historians agree he’s at least among the five best players of the 20th Century.

However, he is also not Pelé.

The Brazilian star is perhaps the most famous soccer/football player of the 20th Century, and when the fans voted for Maradona, FIFA panicked and hilarity ensued.
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Why Were Two Little League Teams Each Trying to Lose in the Final Inning of a Playoff Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Two teams playing in the Little League World Series were both trying to intentionally fail in the last inning of their match-up so that they could advance to the final of their region.

The idea of strategically losing is a well ingrained concept in the world of sports. In most leagues, the team with the worst record in the regular season will have the first pick of the next season’s draft (or in the NBA, the team with the worst record will have the best odds of getting the first pick in a lottery drawing held after the season). Therefore, if there is a particularly heralded prospect available in the upcoming draft, it actually makes a certain amount of sense for a mediocre team to try to become as bad as they can to give themselves the best chance to snare the number one pick. It is such a well known strategy that there is even a phrase for it – “tanking the season.” We have seen it work well for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Pittsburgh Penguins (who netted themselves Lebron James and Mario Lemeiux, respectively), but we have also seen it backfire horribly, as it did for the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Boston Celtics when they had the worst two records in the NBA in 1996-97, but saw the 3rd worst team, the San Antonio Spurs, end up with Tim Duncan in the 1997 NBA Draft.

Beyond losing to get a good draft pick, teams also often intentionally lose to affect where they are seeded in the playoffs. I have written in the past about an amusing incident where the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks both tried to lose their final meeting of the 1999 NBA season because the Heat wanted the Knicks to be the #7 team and face the #2 seeded Pacers while the Knicks wanted to be the #8 team so that they could face the #1 seeded Heat.

So the idea of stragetically losing is normal. However, what is abnormal is seeing two teams that were playing in the final inning of the game that decided who would go to the finals of their region in the Little League World Series (where the winning team would advance to the Little League World Series) where one team was trying to let the other team score and the other team was trying intentionally to make outs!
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Were the Cleveland Browns Named After Boxing Legend Joe Louis?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: he Cleveland Browns were named after boxer Jou “The Brown Bomber” Louis.

The Cleveland Browns opened shop in 1946 as one of the inaugural teams in a new professional football league designed to compete with the National Football League (NFL), the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). They were led by coach (and part-owner) Paul Brown, who was one of the most famous sporting figures in the state of Ohio at the time, having coached Ohio State to a shared national championship earlier in the decade (following years of dominance in Ohio High School football). So it would seem logical that the team was named after Coach Brown, right?

Well, from a 1995 Washington Post article when the announcement was made that Browns owner Art Modell was moving the team to Baltimore (where they became the Baltimore Ravens):

Contrary to popular belief, the Browns were not named for their famous coach Paul Brown. Rather, they were called the Brown Bombers, after the nickname of the revered boxer of that era, Joe Louis. The name later was shortened to the Browns.

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So, is the popular belief true?
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Did a Hall of Famer Really Leave a Letter to be Opened After His Death Revealing Whether He ACTUALLY Made a Famous Catch?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A Hall of Famer revealed the truth behind a famous catch in a letter only to be read after his death.

On October 13, 1974, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Sam Rice passed away at the age of 84. His death came almost exactly 49 years after Game Three of the 1925 World Series (October 10, 1925). In that game, Rice made one of the most famous catches in World Series history.

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It was also one of the most controversial catches. The controversy surrounded whether Rice ACTUALLY made the catch. Since the play involved Rice being out of everyone’s field of vision for at least ten seconds, only Rice knew the answer for sure. Rice always actively avoided telling people the truth (not even his own wife and children), and legend had it that Rice had written a letter for the Baseball Hall of Fame containing the truth that was not to be opened until his death.

Well, two weeks after Rice died, there was no such letter. Cliff Kachline, the official historian of the Baseball Hall of Fame, said “That Sam Rice letter has been a rumor for a long time, but we never had any solid evidence there was one.”

Was there a letter?
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Did Andre the Giant Really Try Out for the Washington Redskins?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Andre the Giant once tried out for the Washington Redskins.

The late André René Roussimoff was best known as the stage name he worked under as a professional wrestler – Andre the Giant.

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The French-born legend was one of the early stars of the World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation (WWWF/WWF) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, preceding Hulk Hogan as the main “babyface” wrestler (wrestling term for the “good guy” wrestlers) for the WWF. He gained even more fame when he appeared in the 1987 classic hit film The Princess Bride as the gentle giant, Fezzik. At seven feet four inches and nearly five hundred pounds (a result of gigantism), Roussimoff was an imposing and surprisingly athletic figure who marveled fans for years before his untimely death in 1993 at the age of 46 due to congestive heart failure.

His athleticism (and size) has led to a persistent legend that Roussmoff tried out for the Washington Redskins and their coach, George Allen, offered him a contract to play in the National Football League (NFL) in 1975. As the story goes, after the tryout, Roussimoff ultimately decided to pass on the deal, changing not only his professional legacy but perhaps NFL history, as well.

Is that true, though?
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Which NBA Hall of Famer Was Ejected From an MLB Game Despite Never Actually Appearing in an MLB Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Bill Sharman was ejected from a game in the Majors but never actually played a game in the Majors.

The late, great Bill Sharman is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (as a longtime star for the Boston Celtics) and as a coach (as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers when they set a then-record for the most wins in a single season with 69 wins – since surpassed by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls). I actually featured a basketball legend about Sharman’s early experiences coaching Wilt Chamberlain awhile back (you can read it here).

However, in his early years as a Celtic, Sharman also split time playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league team. He was in the Dodger system from 1950 through 1955 (he was a Celtic from 1951-1961).

Sharman actually got called up to the Majors on September 27, 1951. That might have been the beginning of a new era in his life, except for a close play at the plate.
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Did Manute Bol Coin the Term “My Bad”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Manute Bol coined the term “my bad.”

When Manute Bol passed away in 2010 at the far too young age of 47, he left behind an impressive legacy. Besides a ten-year career in the National Basketball Association (NBA), where the seven foot seven center (one of the very the first African-born players to be drafted in the NBA) was a dominant shot blocker (he is currently second all-time in career blocks per game)…

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Bol had an even larger impact off of the court as a charity worker. Bol ended up effectively donating all the money he made during his NBA career to charity organizations, specifically those involving his home country Sudan. Bol was a tireless advocate for Sudanese refugees, choosing to do pretty much anything to raise money for his Ring True Foundation (which was a fund-raising organization to bring relief to Christians within Sudan), even competing in Fox’s Celebrity Boxing in 2002 in exchange for publicity for the Ring True Foundation.

Bol was a great man and when he passed away in 2010 due to acute kidney failure, he was honored all over the world, by both the basketball world and the world of international charity. He even received a salute on the floor of the United States Senate.

As noted above, Bol was second all-time in career blocks per game. However, on a per minute basis, Bol was even better. On a per minute basis, he was by far the most prolific shot-blocker in the history of the NBA. The problem was that Bol, who never played basketball until he was 16, was not particularly skilled in the other areas of basketball. He was an awful shooter, a mediocre rebounder for hie height (average overall) and he turned the ball over at a prodigious rate. Therefore, he never played a lot of minutes in the NBA, only averaging over 20 minutes a game twice (not surprisingly, the only two years he led the NBA in blocks per game). In addition to not playing basketball until he was 16, Bol did not start learning English until he was 21, when he was invited to Cleveland by the coach of Cleveland State University (Bol could not actually play for Cleveland State, as their basketball program was put on probation for giving improper financial assistance to Bol and a couple other African players). When you combine his rough basketball skills, his rough grasp on the English language and his general good natured attitude, you possibly get the creation of a new phrase.

The great Bill Plaschke had this to say on ESPN’s Around the Horn following Bol’s death in 2010:

Also, you might not know this, he coined the phrase ‘my bad’ back in the late 1980s. Language experts have pretty much proven this. When he made a pass, instead of saying ‘my fault,’ he would say ‘my bad,’ because he didn’t understand the language. That is the absolute truth.

Is it? Let’s find out!
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Did the Florida Gators Once Have a Crocodile on the Cover of Their Media Guide?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The 2003 Florida Gators media guide featured a crocodile by mistake.

In 2003, the Florida Gators put out their Media Guide.

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All well and good except, of course, that was a crocodile on the cover, not an alligator!
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Did a MLB Pitcher Once Injure Himself With the Tack He was Using to Cheat in a Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Rick Honeycutt cut himself on the tack he was using to cheat in a game.

Rick Honeycutt spent twenty-one years in the Major Leagues pitching for eight different baseball teams between 1977 and 1997.

Here he is when he was on the Texas Rangers…

In 1980, while pitching for the last-place Seattle Mariners against the first-place Kansas City Royals, in one of the last games of the season, Honeycutt decided he would try SOMEthing different. He took a tack off of a Royals bulletin board and taped it to one his fingers hidden in his glove. Then things got weird…
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Did an NBA Player Once Miss Three Games Due to Infected Hair Follicles?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Drew Gooden missed three games due to infected hair follicles.

It is plainly (if sometimes even painfully) evident that we live in a world of sound bites – information parceled into easy-to-understand descriptions. The problem, though, is when these easy-to-understand descriptions are inaccurate, or at the very least, lacking important pieces of information. That problem becomes exacerbated when news is created based on other people reacting to these incomplete sound bites. This is especially troublesome nowadays with the proliferation of social media like Twitter, where ill-informed people can spout off reactions to incomplete information. A sports-related example of this was during the 2011 National Football League playoffs. In the National Football Conference championship game, the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler, left the game due to a knee injury and his team lost a close game with their third-string quarterback taking the snaps (as Cutler’s back-up was also injured in the game). Whatever the severity of Cutler’s knee injury, there were people who wished to react to the sight of Cutler standing on the sidelines later in the game. A number of players from other teams tweeted derisive comments about Cutler’s ability to play through pain. Clearly, they knew no more about his injury than anyone else watching the game on television, and yet they felt like they could pass judgment upon Cutler’s drive and willingness to play through pain. Heck, maybe they were even correct and Cutler’s injury was something most NFL players would have played through in such a big game, but whatever the situation, they clearly did not know the full facts before choosing to put Cutler down.

This brings us to the time that NBA forward Drew Gooden, then playing for the Orlando Magic in 2004, missed three games due to what was then termed “infected hair follicles.”

Even today, eleven years later, Drew Gooden’s injury routinely appears in articles with titles like “Top 10 Embarrassing Sports Injuries” and “10 Really Bizarre Sports Injuries” (as well as some more offensive message board discussions, which I’ll just say include a number of homophobic declarations about Gooden’s injury). At the time, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel discussed the injury with former NFL-great Jack Youngblood (who once played in a game with a broken leg), and the discussion was mostly mocking Gooden’s fragility, with Youngblood exclaiming, “I’m sorry, but that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. That may be the all-timer. Lie if you have to and call it a hamstring, but don’t admit that you’re sitting out with a hair follicle” and Bianchi referring to Gooden’s injury as “the wimpiest injury in Magic history.”

Naturally, Gooden’s injury was a good deal more severe than anyone could understand at the time, to the point where its continued inclusion in “wacky sports injuries” lists is a great disservice to what Gooden went through. Read on to see what actually happened to Gooden…
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