Hoax Museum Blog: Sports

The Muhammad Ali Underwater Training Hoax

Early in his career, Muhammad Ali convinced Life magazine that he regularly trained underwater. In reality, he trained underwater only once — during the photoshoot for Life. more…

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2016.   Comments (1)

Posted: Thu Jul 17, 2014.   Comments ()

High School Football Player Throws 40-yard Pass… To Himself —

Last week a Vine video of high-school football player Gary Haynes (of Manvel Texas High) throwing a 40-yard pass to himself went viral, sparking much discussion about whether the pass was real or fake.

In order to determine whether such a throw to oneself is possible some people have been performing all kinds of calculations trying to take into account vertical distance, acceleration due to gravity, weight of the ball, time from peak to ground, etc. The general consensus is that such a long self-pass would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

But I don't think such calculations are necessary, because I don't see any reason to believe that the video shows anything other than the old "throw the ball off camera" trick... and then have someone else throw another ball back onto the screen so that it appears as if an amazing pass has been made. This is one of the oldest camera tricks there is in sports.

If Haynes produces a video in which the ball doesn't immediately go off camera, then I'll be more willing to take it seriously.

And, in fact, Haynes did repeat his stunt for his high school coach, who recorded it on a cell phone camera. The coach stood further back so that more of the trajectory of the ball can be seen. Sure enough, Haynes throws the ball and then catches it. But he doesn't throw it anywhere close to 40 yards. Looks more like 5 or 10 yards, which isn't very remarkable. This second video is included in a segment about Haynes produced by a Houston news team:


It's also worth noting that throwing a ball to oneself is an old joke in football, and has been featured in previous spoofs such as a) an old scene (from the 1990s?) in which wrestler "Mr. Perfect" throws a perfect pass to himself; and b) a Puma ad from 2013 in which Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs threw a pass to himself. It was this ad, says Haynes, that inspired him to make his own video.




Posted: Wed May 14, 2014.   Comments ()

Posted: Fri Apr 18, 2014.   Comments ()


17 going on 41 — Very odd. The controversy is that this guy, if the allegations are true, is too old to be playing in a youth league. And he really doesn't look like he's 17. But wouldn't a guy in his 40s actually be at a disadvantage playing against much younger guys?


Lazio threaten legal action after claims Cameroon 17 year-old Joseph Minala is actually 41
The Telegraph

Lazio have threatened legal action against anyone who questions the age of their 17-year-old Cameroonian player Joseph Minala. The Serie A club have even been forced to release his birth certificate, which they claim is "absolutely legitimate", following a report by Senagalese media that he is in fact 41.

Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2014.   Comments (1)

Olympic Ring Malfunction Inspires Hoaxes —

During the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Feb. 7, there was a scene in which five giant snowflakes hanging in the air were supposed to expand to form the Olympic rings, followed by fireworks going off around them. However, one of the snowflakes failed to expand, and the fireworks never materialized.

It was an embarrassing screw-up, since it was seen by millions of people around the world. And it quickly proved to be a focal point for hoaxes and parody.

The Cover-Up

People watching the games in Russia never saw the screw-up at all, because the Russian broadcaster Rossiya 1 quickly substituted footage from an earlier rehearsal showing everything working perfectly. The Russian producer said this was done in order to "preserve the imagery of the Olympic symbols." [washington post]

Someone Will Pay For This!

The day after the opening ceremony, the fake-news site DailyCurrant.com posted an article claiming that Boris Avdeyev, the technical specialist responsible for the Olympic Ring mishap, had been found dead in his hotel room, stabbed multiple times. Russian police had apparently ruled his death an accident, reasoning that he probably tripped and fell on a set of knives.

The article quickly went viral, despite the fact that every detail of it was false. There is a Russian painter named Boris Avdeyev, but there was no Boris Avdeyev responsible for making sure the rings worked properly.

The Conspiracy Theory

A conspiracy theory quickly spread claiming that the non-opening of the ring was purposeful because the right-most red ring "traditionally symbolizes America," and its failure to open was therefore Russia's way of sending America a message. Though what that message was, I'm not sure.

There is an old belief associating each ring with a specific continent (Blue for Europe, Yellow for Asia, Green for Australia, Black for Africa, and Red for the Americas). However, this symbolism has never been officially sanctioned.

The creator of the Olympic symbol, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, intended for the rings to be an abstract representation of the five continents joining together. As for their colors, Wikipedia tells us that "According to Coubertin, the ring colours with the white background stand for those colors that appeared on all the national flags that competed in the Olympic games at that time [1912]."

Audi Ad

Most recently, an image has gone viral that appears to be an ad by Audi that alludes to the ring mishap with the tagline "when four rings is all you need."

Audi claims it isn't responsible for the ad. Though, of course, it could be a "sub-viral" ad (i.e. an ad that a company's pr firm creates and covertly puts into circulation, which the company denies any knowledge of it).
Posted: Wed Feb 12, 2014.   Comments (1)

Losing Big — Before the Superbowl, a rumor began to circulate alleging that boxer Floyd Mayweather, who's known to be a big gambler, had bet $10 million on the Broncos winning. If true, he would obviously have been a very unhappy man during and after the game, as the Broncos got a shellacking.


The rumor was reported by the Denver Post on Jan. 29, citing "multiple reports coming out of Las Vegas." The Post noted that the bet had not been confirmed by Mayweather himself, but seemed to feel the rumor might be true because, "it is well known that he likes to makes high-stakes wagers."

But after the game, Mayweather posted a denial on Instagram, insisting he hadn't bet on the game at all, but that he would have bet on Seattle if he had bet. I guess we'll have to take his word for it.
[link: mashable.com]


Posted: Tue Feb 04, 2014.   Comments (1)

Male vs. Female MMA hoax — Mixed martial arts organization Shooto Brazil recently announced a man vs. woman fight: Emerson Falcao would fight Juliana Velasquez in a three-round bantamweight clash.

But then Shooto revealed that the fight wasn't going to happen. It was all a hoax, designed to focus attention on the issue of violence against women and show Shooto's support of Brazil's "Lei Maria da Penha" anti-domestic-violence law.

A member of the Brazilian athletic commission explained: "There’s no way a man should fight a woman. This is being done only to show the society the importance of ‘Lei Maria da Penha.’ You can’t have a man beating a woman in a sport, so it shouldn’t happen anywhere. That’s what they want to show."

But the hoax may not have had the desired effect because some people are asking why the idea of a man and woman fighting should necessarily be considered bad if both are trained professional fighters, evenly matched in size, doing it for sport. They're even suggesting that the real reason there aren't man vs. woman mma fights is because the men don't like the idea of being beaten by a woman. [mmajunkie.com]
Posted: Mon Dec 23, 2013.   Comments ()

Starting Gate for Sprinters? — I'm not sure whether or not this was an April Fool's Day joke. I found it in the Mar 31, 1934 issue of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, which contained quite a few April Fool spoof articles, such as the "Loch Ness Monster Captured" article that I posted about recently.

But this feature about a new starting gate for sprinters... I just don't know.


I've never heard of such a thing before. But on the other hand, it sounds kinda plausible. In fact, some googling revealed that the Ancient Greeks used a starting gate for sprinters, which they called a husplex.

However, I can't find any references to this 1934 invention other than this story in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. So I'm posting it here in the hope that others might weigh in with an opinion.

Here's a transcription of the German text:
Startmaschine jetzt auch für Menschen.

Bein den Kurzstrecken entscheiden Bruchteile von Sekunden. Um eine Kontrolle über gleichmäßigen Start zu haben, hat man jetzt in Stamford Bridge in England eine Bänderstartmaschine konstruiert. Im Augenblick des Startschusses schnellen die Bänder hoch... die Bahn ist frei. Geht ein Läufer zu früh vom Start, dann fängt er sich in den Bändern.

And my rough translation (with some help from Google translate):
Starting machine now also for people.

Short sprinting races can be decided by fractions of seconds. In order to ensure an even start, there has now been created a tape-start machine in Stamford Bridge, England. At the moment of the starting shot, the tape rises high ... the path is clear. If a runner starts too early, then he catches himself in the tape.

Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2013.   Comments (3)

Soccer without a ball? — The latest episode of CBC Radio's This is That show discussed how the Midlake Youth Athletic Association in Midlake, Ontario has decided to eliminate the ball from its soccer program, in order to "further address some of the negative side of competition."


Keith Schultz, head coach (aka "Imagination Captain") of the Thundercats, the Midlake ball-less soccer team, is interviewed, and he explains that the course of the game is determined by "the kids' interpretation of what went down."

Schultz admits that he occasionally misses coaching traditional soccer (with a ball), but because "injuries are down and self-esteem is up," the Youth Association has judged its experiment with ball-less soccer to be a success — so much so that it's decided to extend the concept into the hockey program, by removing the puck.

The news report has sparked angry outbursts on message boards throughout the internet. One guy complained that it was a symptom of the "Pussification of America" (he must have meant North America).

But, of course, as Wikipedia notes, This is That is a satire program "which airs comedic news stories presented in the style of a real CBC Radio public affairs program." In another words, this is yet another case of Satire Mistaken As News.

Pat Kelly, This is That co-host, told sportsgrid.com, "I guess it struck a nerve due to the sports theme. The response is still going strong."
Posted: Sat Sep 07, 2013.   Comments (1)

Woody Hayes and the turtle —

Woody Hayes
At a recent Ohio Coaches' Convention, Urban Meyer told an interesting story about legendary Ohio State University coach Woody Hayes. The story involved an interaction between Hayes's genitals and a turtle. Here's the story, as Meyer told it:

"So I guess Ohio State had lost the bowl game, so Earl Bruce brings in Woody Hayes. I had been there just a week and I'm thinking, 'Holy, this is Coach Hayes.' I'm sitting in the back. Coach Hayes was not healthy at the time, but stands up and starts laying into the coaching staff about toughness. That we have no toughness in the program. That's why we lost the game. On and on and screaming, this old guy pounding the table. He says, 'We have no toughness, and the reason is because you're not tough. No one on this staff is tough enough, and that's a problem.'
"He reaches down and grabs this box, slides the top and there was something in the box moving around. He reaches in and he pulls out this turtle. He reaches down, this turtle's snapping and he says, 'I'm going to show you toughness.' He unzips his pants and takes out whatever he takes out. The turtle reaches up and snaps at him. You see the veins and the sweat (on Hayes). He screams at the coaches, 'That's toughness! That's f'n toughness!' He reaches down, pokes the turtle right in the eye and it falls off. He wipes the sweat off his forehead and says, 'That's the problem. We don't have anybody in this room tough enough to do that right there.
"(One assistant) raises his hand and says, 'Coach, I'd do this. Just promise not to poke me in the eye.'"

Meyer insisted repeatedly that the story was true, and apparently some people believed him, because the tale began to circulate online this week and OSU began receiving inquiries about it. Finally the OSU pr office felt compelled to send an email to the media advising them that, despite what Meyer may have claimed, the story about Hayes and the turtle was just a joke. [Deadspin, Yahoo! Sports]
Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2013.   Comments (1)

Death by Gatorade Shower — In his column on latimes.com, Brian Cronin examines the legend that Hall of Fame football coach George Allen got sick and died after being doused in gatorade by his team following a winning season.

Did a Gatorade shower kill George Allen?
latimes.com

After three straight losing seasons, Allen led the Long Beach 49ers to a season-ending victory over the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on November 17, 1990 that secured them a winning season.
Allen's team gave him a Gatorade shower (Allen noted that due to the budget issues, the team could not afford actual Gatorade, so it was just ice water). Six weeks later, Allen died. The story is most often told as "George Allen died from pneumonia that he caught from being doused with cold water and continuing to give interviews for a long time after the game."
There are a few problems with that story. First of all, as your middle school science teacher could tell you, being doused with cold water during a cold day does not cause pneumonia. Pneumonia is caused by a virus. It is an urban legend in and of itself that getting wet during a cold day causes pneumonia (or the common cold, for that matter). It does not. So Allen could not have caught pneumonia from the Gatorade shower. That's the first notable problem with that story. The second problem? George Allen did not die from pneumonia. Allen died from ventricular fibrillation, a variation of a cardiac arrest. Allen had a heart arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) and in late December 1990, Allen's heart began to quiver rather than contract properly. This led to his death. This was not caused by a Gatorade shower received more than a month earlier.
Allen himself fed the story a bit by giving an interview soon before his death where he noted that he had had not felt well since the Gatorade shower. Allen's son, former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen Jr. told Sam Borden of the New York Times, "He got a cold from it, but that was not the cause of his death. He had a heart arrhythmia. It had nothing to do with the Gatorade shower."

It's always seemed to me to be splitting hairs a bit to insist that being cold doesn't cause you to get a cold. It's certainly true that colds are caused by a virus. But being cold can stress your immune system, making you more susceptible to the cold virus. So in that sense it's true that being cold can give you a cold.
Posted: Fri May 18, 2012.   Comments ()

Tom Woottwell, Mock Strong Man — Tom Woottwell had an interesting career. He was a "mock strong man," performing to crowds during the late nineteenth century. From The Strand magazine, July 1897:


The show indicated in the photo here reproduced was screamingly comic. First, as to the costume of the mock "strong man." he is dressed in dilapidated old tights, which are supposed to be strained almost to bursting point at the arms and calves, owing solely to the abnormal muscular development of those parts. The calves are particularly funny — far less sinew than sawdust, however.

And observe the showman's leer as he strikes an attitude for the great feat of breaking a thick iron chain on the "muscles" of his arm. "Keep your eye on me, and you'll be astonished," he is saying. You would be, by the way, if you saw the next stage of the show. The man's mighty arm bends slowly but surely; his breath comes quick and short, and at the supreme moment the chain snaps asunder with an extraordinary uproar and flies right up into the wings — hauled up there, of course, by invisible wires.

Posted: Wed May 16, 2012.   Comments ()

Was Junior Seau’s death predicted on Craigslist? (of course not) — The death last week of former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau was big news here in San Diego. But then, as deadspin.com reports, a rumor began circulating that his death had been predicted on Craigslist. Specifically, on May 1, a day before Seau died, this post apparently was posted on San Diego Craigslist:



The solution to this is simple. Someone must have edited the post after the fact to turn it into an accurate prediction. Either that, or Nostradamus has come back from the grave and is lurking around Craigslist. (But then, the prediction should have been in the form of a quatrain.)
Posted: Mon May 07, 2012.   Comments ()

New Research Suggests Link Between Welsh Rugby And Papal Deaths — In December 2008, two doctors published a study in the journal BMJ investigating what they called the "urban legend" that there's a link between Welsh rugby and papal deaths. Specifically, that "every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a Pope dies, except for 1978 when Wales were really good, and two Popes died."

They found that there was indeed a "borderline significant (P=0.047) association between Welsh performance and the number of papal deaths but no significant association between papal mortality and performance of any other home nation."

But despite this weak association, they nevertheless dismissed the theory of the pope-rugby link as "nothing more than an urban myth, based largely on two Welsh grand slam wins in recent memory."


This year, Wales won a grand slam again, but the pope didn't die. Perhaps this should have put the special theory of papal rugby to rest. But a recent letter in BMJ cautions us not to dismiss the theory too quickly. If Coptic Popes are added into the mix, the pope-rugby link appears to become quite robust:

The authors have correctly stated the null hypothesis based on the saying “every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a Pope dies, except for 1978 when Wales were really good, and two Popes died.” However they have only included Roman Catholic Popes in the outcome measures thus altering the statistical analysis to create a potentially false reassurance.

This year saw the death of the Coptic Pope, Shenouda III , on the very day that Wales won the grand slam. He was pope for 41 years and succeeded Cyril VI, who died in 1971, in the same month that Wales won the grand slam again. Coptic Popes are the heads of the ancient See of Alexandria and directly follow on from Mark the evangelist, thus having a legitimate claim to the title. Since the researchers sought to test the possibillity that there was a link between Welsh grand slam rugby victories and the death of a Pope it is crucial that this new information be brought to the attention of your readership. The relationship between these deaths and the sporting events may not be fully understood, however I believe that the original research has created a false reassurance and may be putting the lives of other Popes at risk.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2012.   Comments ()

The Great Pingpong Hoax of 1974 — The Akron Beacon Journal tells the story of the Great University of Akron pingpong hoax:

Local history: Fake pingpong team pulls off hoax at University of Akron in 1970s
ohio.com

The University of Akron table-tennis team created a national sensation in the 1970s by compiling a winning record without playing a single game. Submitting articles about a pingpong team that didn't exist, UA students pulled off an outrageous hoax against the Buchtelite newspaper... The writers peppered their stories with details about flagrant fouls and trying conditions: A foe threw ice chips on a table, a player hurt his knee, a coach got kicked out after protesting a referee's call, rowdy fans interrupted a game... The Zips' crowning triumph was at the fictional Northwestern Open Table Tennis Tournament in Evanston, Ill., where UA defeated Ohio University and Notre Dame while a TV crew supposedly filmed the event for ABC's Wide World of Sports. The Buch­telite published a 41-inch article about the title — and it overshadowed March Madness... Stein, Nelson and Sekerak took a team photo with their "championship trophy" — actually a bowling trophy turned sideways to disguise its purpose. They borrowed it from ABC Trophy off Case Avenue.


Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2012.   Comments ()

The Turd in the Olympic Ring — Brian Chapman reports the start of an interesting Olympics 2012 rumor on his Legends & Rumors blog:
Enormous Olympic rings have started popping up in London. There's a set at St Pancras, another recently floated down the Thames, and a third set will be suspended at Tower Bridge.

We're told that there's something special about one of the rings. Someone involved in their construction had a bit of a downer on the whole Olympics in London thing. So he took a shit inside one of the rings. And then had it welded shut.


Posted: Sat Apr 07, 2012.   Comments (1)

A Bullfighter Repents — The following photo and caption has recently begun to circulate online. It's all over Facebook.

bullfighter

"And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence... that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer - because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth."


This photo shows the collapse of Torrero Alvaro Munera, as he realized in the middle of his last fight... the injustice to the animal. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights.

I haven't been able to figure out where the photo originally came from, but it definitely doesn't show Alvaro Munera's moment of epiphany during a bullfight. Munera is an ex-bullfighter who's become an animal-rights activist. But (as described in an article about him on open.salon.com) his career ended not from a moment of zen communion with a bull, but rather in 1984 when a bull caught him and tossed him in the air, resulting in a spinal-cord injury that left Munera paralyzed.

I've seen another version of the photo and quotation that attributes the words to "Fabian Oconitrillo Gonzalez". But I have no idea who he might be. If he's a bullfighter, I haven't been able to find out anything about him.
Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2012.   Comments (4)

Turning Yankee dirt into gold —
<# some text #>
Mark Hayward
A pile of dirt may not be worth much money. But a pile of dirt that was once beneath Yankee Stadium could potentially have more value. Especially if that dirt was packed into key chains and other corporate gift items and then sold at a big markup in sporting goods stores.

That was the pitch Mark Hayward used to convince a victim to give him $35,000 -- as an investment in this Yankee dirt scheme. As far as I can tell (the news report isn't really clear) Hayward never had the dirt in question. Eventually the victim got suspicious. And now Hayward is facing charges of first-degree larceny. Link: ctpost.com.
Posted: Tue Jan 17, 2012.   Comments ()

Did Dempsey load his gloves? — Brian Cronin has an article posted on the LA Times site discussing the question of whether Jack Dempsey "loaded" his gloves during his title fight against Jess Willard on July 4, 1919. Apparently this has been a lingering controversy in boxing ever since the fight itself, inspired by the fact that Dempsey didn't just defeat Willard, but absolutely pummeled him senseless, knocking him down seven times in the first round alone.

There are two theories of how Dempsey might have loaded his gloves. The first is that Dempsey coated his hands with plaster of paris, so that he was essentially hitting Willard with cement blocks. But as Boxing Illustrated discovered when they tested this theory, plaster of paris would have cracked the first time Dempsey hit Willard, causing huge damage to Dempsey's own hands with each successive hit. However, Dempsey's hands seemed fine after the fight. It's also hard to believe that neither Willard nor his managers would have noticed the plaster of paris when they inspected Dempsey's hands before the fight.

The second theory is that Dempsey had an iron spike hidden in his gloves. But this should have caused far more damage to Willard than was actually the case.

So Cronin concludes there's no evidence Dempsey loaded his gloves. The guy was just a really powerful fighter. (Incidentally, Cronin has an entire site devoted to analyzing sports urban legends.)
Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2011.   Comments (2)

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