How Did An Injured Rookie Nearly Destroy the NFL Draft?

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: A lawsuit by an injured rookie very nearly eliminated the NFL draft!

James McCoy Smith (born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, which led to him getting the nickname “Yazoo”) was drafted in the first round by the Washington Redskins as the twelfth overall pick.

The defensive back signed for $50,000 and proceeded to suffer a neck injury in his first season in the NFL, ending his career as soon as it began.

Sounds familiar enough – plenty of sad stories like that in the NFL.

However, Smith decided to DO something about it.
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Did the Steelers Really Choose Mike Tomlin As Their Coach Over Ken Whisenhunt?

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 Pittsburgh Steelers chose Mike Tomlin for their head coaching job over Ken Whisenhunt.

This story really got a lot of play during the 2009 Super Bowl, as the Arizona Cardinals were pitted against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Whisenhunt had been a longtime assistant under legendary Steeler coach Bill Cowher, so when Mike Tomlin had gotten the job replacing Cowher, it was seen as though Tomlin was chosen for the position over Whisenhunt.

However, that’s not how the situation really unfolded.
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Did a Condom Company Come Out With a Series of Sports-Themed Condoms With Ted Williams’ Image On Them?

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 condom company used a drawing of Ted Williams’ picture to promote a sports-themed brand of condoms.

It’s a cool thing if your picture is used on the front of a box of Wheaties.

On a condom wrapper, not so much.

ESPECIALLY when you are not even reimbursed for the use!!!
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Was Ernie Banks the First Human to Appear in a TV Broadcast From the United States to Europe?

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: Ernie Banks was the first TV image broadcast from the United States to Europe.

Sadly, Ernie Banks, one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, passed away Friday night at the age of 83. Known as “Mr. Cub,” Banks played 19 seasons for the Chicago Cubs, winning two MVPs (he’s part of one of my favorite baseball trivia questions ever – “There is a back-to-back MVP at every position on the diamond. Can you name them all?” Banks, of course, won his two at shortstop) and making fourteen All-Star teams (Banks played during the four-year period where there were two All-Star seasons per season, so Banks’ 14 All-Star appearances came in 11 different seasons). Reader Joshua P. wanted to know about an interesting legend involving Banks – was he really the first human to appear in a TV broadcast across the Atlantic from the United States to Europe?

Read on to find out!
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Did India Withdraw From the 1950 World Cup Because They Were Not Allowed to Play Barefoot?

SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: India withdrew from the 1950 World Cup because they were not allowed to play barefoot.

India surprised the world with their performance in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. The Indian national football team, with every player playing without footwear (some players played in socks while most played barefoot), lost to France in the first round by the razor thin margin of 2-1 (and actually were tied with France at 1 all 70 minutes into the match) . This match already drew a great deal of attention as the 1948 Summer Olympics was the first time that India was performing in an international tournament as an independent nation (after gaining their independence from Great Britain). However, the fact that the Indian team did all of this in bare feet drew the most attention.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) made it clear to India that they would not be allowed to play in the 1950 FIFA World Cup without footwear. Then a curious thing happened. You see, when determining the make-up of the 1950 World Cup, FIFA determined that obviously the two defending finalists, Brazil and Italy, would be guaranteed spots. That left fourteen spots that needed to be filled. FIFA decided that seven of those spots would come from Europe, six would come from the Americas and one would come from Asia. The problem was that of the four Asian teams that were invited to the World Cup, three of them (the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma) withdrew from the tournament before the qualification round. Therefore, India earned an automatic spot within the World Cup. It would be India’s first time appearing in the World Cup (and, indeed, as of 2011 they still have never appeared in the World Cup), but India, too, withdrew from the tournament.

For years, the story has been that India withdrew from the World Cup because FIFA would not allow them to compete barefoot. Is that true? Let us find out!
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Was Pele Paid to Tie His Shoelaces at the 1970 World Cup?

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Pele was paid to tie his shoelaces in the 1970 World Cup Final.

Nowadays, the idea of athletes endorsing sneakers is well ingrained in the public consciousness. Seemingly every draft class in the NBA has at least one player sign an endorsement deal with one of the major sneaker companies in the United States. Heck, Al Harrington of the Washington Wizards even had a shoe deal a few years ago when he was on the New York Knicks! However, in the early days of the so-called “sneaker wars” between rival shoe companies Adidas and Puma, athlete endorsements were seen as a much bigger risk. As sneakers became a bigger part of the world of athletics in the years following World War II, which athletes wore Adidas and which wore Puma became a major part of the advertising arm of each of the two companies (which were formed by estranged brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, respectively. I wrote about the origins of Adidas awhile back here) but as time went by, athletes were beginning to play the two companies against each other and the results were financially damaging. In addition, the companies began to spend too much time trying to one up each other. This was especially evident during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City where Adidas actually had Puma sneakers confiscated by custom officials! Things had gotten so crazy that in the lead up to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the two companies (now run by the sons of the original founders) actually decided to come to a sort of “peace treaty” and to avoid the dealings that had marked their relationship for most of the 1960s. The most notable result of their interactions was the so-called “Pele Pact,” where both companies agreed NOT to sign a deal with Pele, the greatest football player in the world at the time. Their feeling was that they would both end up spending so much money on a bidding war that it would not be worth it in the end.

Led by Pele, Brazil’s 1970 national team was one of the greatest World Cup teams in the history of the tournament. They played Italy in the final match of the tournament. It was one of the most highly anticipated football matches in years. Right before the opening whistle, Pele asked the referee for a moment to tie his sneakers. All eyes were on Pele as he bent over to tie his sneakers….Puma sneakers.

What happened to the “Pele Pact”? Read on to find out…

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Did the Queen of England Give a Golden Whistle to a Linesman Who Made a Controversial Call in Favor of England in a World Cup Final?

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 soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: A linesman who made a controversial call on a goal in the World Cup final of England’s only World Cup victory was presented with a golden whistle by the Queen of England.

Tofik Bakhramov is one of the most notable figures in Azerbaijan sports history. Originally a football player himself, injuries led him to a career in refereeing, ultimately becoming one of the most notable referees FIFA had.

His strong reputation led to him being a linesman under head referee Gottfried Dienst in the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany.

Late in the match, with the score tied 2-2, Geoff Hurst of England had a shot on goal that bounced off of the crossbar sharply downwards and then bounced away from the goal back into the field. Dienst did not see the play well and hesitated at first, but when Bakhramov signaled goal, Dienst ultimately agreed.

England would score one more goal for the victory and the World Cup title.

Naturally, English people loved Bakhramov and Germans hated him. As Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union at the time, Bakhramov began known as the “Russian judge.”

In any event, over the years, the story goes that Queen Elizabeth II presented Bakhramov with a golden whistle in honor of “services performed for England.”

Is it true?
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Did British World Cup Fever in 1966 Lead to the Election of a British Prime Minister?

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 soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: British World Cup fever in 1966 led to a Prime Minister being elected.

You can see this is a number of places, but specifically I’m citing the British social research group, SIRC (Social Issues Research Centre)…

Sport’s impact goes beyond the day-to-day social environment of the workplace. Famously, Harold Wilson, following England’s win in the 1966 World Cup, claimed his subsequent election victory was in no small part due to the team’s performance and the wave of euphoria and goodwill emanating as a consequence.

I don’t know if Wilson ever CLAIMED that, but it certainly has gone into British lore as happening that way.

Is it true?
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Did Johan Cruyff Really Sit Out the 1978 FIFA World Cup as a Political Protest?

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 soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Johan Cruyff sat out the 1978 FIFA World Cup as a political protest.

There is a long history of countries using international athletic competitions as political tools. Just during a four year stretch during the 1930s, you had Japan trying to send a delegation from their puppet nation, Manchukuo, to solidify that country’s status as a “real” country in the 1932 Olympics, then Benito Mussolini using the 1934 FIFA World Cup to show Italian superiority and Adolf Hitler using the 1936 Olympics to do the same for Germany.

More recently, the United States and the Soviet Union used the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, respectively, to make political points through boycotts.

So when Argentina was named as the site for the 1978 FIFA World Cup tournament, it was a major political coup for the new military leadership of the country, who had taken over Argentina in a Coup d’état in 1976. Jorge Rafael Videla was the nominal president of a military junta (or council) that ran the country and made several human rights violations between 1976 and 1983.

In 1978, while people likely did not know the extent of the problems in Argentina (thousands of dissenters went “missing” in those years), they did know that there were some serious human rights problems going on. So a number of countries made noise when Argentina was named as the host country of the World Cup. However much bluster there was, no country ended up actually boycotting the event, not even Netherlands, which was one of the more vocal countries about the Argentine leadership.

There WAS one notable absence, though – Netherlands’ star player, Johann Cruyff, perhaps the best European football player of the 1970s, and the leader of the Netherlands team.

Cruyff helped lead Netherlands to the finals of the 1974 FIFA World Cup (where they lost to host West Germany) and was thought by many to have been the best player in that particular tournament, even though his team ultimately did not win it all. Cruyff retired from international play in October of 1977 at the age of 31. The presumption for decades was that Cruyff was protesting the military dictatorship and human rights abuses in Argentina – we now know that this almost certainly not the case.
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Did 40,000 Prostitutes Enter South Africa and Germany for the Last Two World Cups?

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 soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: 40,000 prostitutes enter the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2006 and 2010.

The World Cup this year is unique in that it is the first time in years that we haven’t seen a pile of stories about how there are tens of thousands of prostitutes coming into Brazil for the World Cup. That, though, is only because of Brazil’s laws about prostitution – in other words, no one would believe that you’d need to have 40,000 prostitutes come into Brazil because of the high amount of prostitutes already there. However, there ARE numerous articles about how prostitutes ARE coming to Brazil and in all of them, they cite the “fact” that 40,000 prostitutes came into South Africa for the World Cup in 2010.

Is that true?
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