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The 5 wackiest sporting myths, hoodoos and conspiracy theories

Ian Gould reversing a dodgy decision during the 2011 World Cup semifinal in Mohali
Debjit Lahiri
Modified 25 Dec 2015
Top 5 / Top 10

So here I was the other day, browsing through a host of Youtube videos when I precariously stumbled upon a documentary revolving around a group of conspiracy theorists deciphering the so-called “secret code” of Egyptian civilization.  The ridiculously long video (a couple of hours, excluding the agonizing buffering time!) claimed how the Egyptians had access to alien help, performed supernatural stuff, used their pyramids as ‘giant capacitors’, and a whole bunch of other theatrics, which in short, made them far more technologically superior than us, modern humans.

Well for starters, they didn’t have the iPhone then, so I wasn’t buying that anyway. But the fact of the matter is as they twitched every bit of  the details; allowed their suspicious minds to analyse every minute chink, a sudden realisation dawned upon me.

A realization that I tonight, bring forward for the world to behold!

Alright alright, I was just fooling around, but what I wanted to say is, it does pave the way for some incredibly hilarious outcomes – weird, mysterious and at times rather ugly. You see, paranoia is not really appreciated, but had it not been for it, we wouldn’t have been here reading this article in the first place.

So, with a querulant brain of my ex-girlfriend and the most skeptical of outlooks, I put on my paranodal boots (doesn’t really make sense, this phrase, but keeps the flow alright!) and ventured into a world of sporting hoodoos, myths, allegations, counter-allegations and conspiracy theories…Sounds fun eh? Indeed. Here we go…

The Curse Of Arubinha’s frog

The Arubinha Frog

One rainy day in 1937, Vasco de Gama were due to play Andarai, a relatively weaker team. On their way, their convoy crashed into a refuse truck. Instead of claiming all three points, the generous men from Andarai decided to wait, as the players stood on the pitch, wet and sodden until Vasco eventually showed up. In return, Andarai asked a tiny bit of favour – in a similar spirit of sportsmanship, Vasco would not abuse their goodwill.

But as the match commenced, the Vasco players thumped in 12 goals, yes 12!, past the hapless Andarai team, much to the disgust of the home contingent.


After the final whistle, Arubinha on the Vasco bench, knelt down, looked to the sky and said: “If there is God in heaven, Vasco must go without a Championship for 12 years; one year for every goal.”

It was said that Arubinha had apparently executed the curse by burying a frog under the Sao Januario turf. Frogs were seen as a way of transmitting spells those days in Brazil..

It’s a toad thing!

And so the curse played it’s part as despite a series of incredible teams in the following years (in fact, two of their greatest ever teams in 1943 and 44), Vasco couldn’t win the title. The officials of the club tried virtually everything, even getting themselves a tractor to dig up the entire pitch, but nothing was to be found. The directors, desperate and hopeless, went begging to Arubinha to tell them where the frog remnants were.

The sly old man simply replied -
“I never buried one!”

Well, talk about epic trolls, you wouldn’t find any better.


Incidentally, Vasco won the title in 1945, approximately 12 years after their last title!


The Mystery Of  Jimmy Hoffa Disappearance

An article carrying the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance news

Well, this might not have it’s roots in sports, but as fate has it, the myth eventually unfolds into one of its most iconic centres. Jimmy Riddle Hoffa – leader, convicted criminal and the face of International Brotherhood of Teamsters, garnered up an increasingly controversial image, as he rose from rank to rank between 1932 to 1975, eventually playing a major role in turning the Teamsters into the largest single union in the United States.


Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975, outside the Machus Red Fox, a suburban Detroit restaurant, as he mysteriously disappeared, following what was believed to be a “meeting” with two mafia leaders.

The police found Hoffa’s car, but no sign of Hoffa himself or any indication of what happened to him and his body was never found. Extensive investigations into the disappearance began immediately and continued over the next several years by several law enforcement groups, including the FBI.

So, what has this got to do?

Several theories sprung up during this period; one of which has been widely written and talked about. Donald Frankos, a Greek-Italian contract killer and later a government witness, claimed to have taken part in the murder of Hoffa under the orders of Genovese crime family boss Anthony Salerno. According to him, the body was left in a meat locker for a lengthy period of time, until it was eventually buried underneath the home of the New York  Giants – The Giants stadium.

Well, to spice it up, he even had a location - Section 107, in the corner of the west end zone!

No evidence has ever been found to substantiate this claim however, and an investigation by television show MythBusters yielded no result.


Sex, Dhoka and Basketball

LeBron James wasn't in the news for all the right reasons in 2010

In the 2010 NBA Playoffs, LeBron James was accused of “throwing in the towel” against Celtics. While detractors hinted at “match fixing”, and the possible lack of motivation for playing for the Cavaliers, the “conspiracy theories” just saw no end.

A “different” kind of story surfaced, as some claimed LeBron’s mother Gloria James had allegedly slept with his teammate Delonte West and this bizarre theory was used to explain his poor play and unexpected collapse in the Eastern Conference Semifinals!

To add fuel to the fire, Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy reported to Houston Radio that the rumours were “absolutely true.”


“Relieving” the Gypsy Curse

St.Andrews, home of Birmingham City 

In 1906, Birmingham City moved to their new home of St. Andrews, but as the legend goes, they were subjected to a 100-year curse by the suffering gypsies who had to move away.  Years of rotten luck, despair and even a failed attempt (by hanging crucifixes from each floodlight pylon) to nullify the curse by a manager – Ron Saunders – followed but to no avail; until boss Barry Fry came up with an idea, or err, whatever you may call it!

Diverting from the Derby County policy, who had a similar problem and had lifted the curse by paying off the descendants, Barry attempted to do the same by urinating in all four corners of the pitch! Did it work? Hell NO!


Stung Like a Bee, or perhaps not?

One of the iconic lines from Muhammad Ali’s theme song 

The story goes that in the 1965 rematch between Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali, Liston fell in the first round to Ali, intentionally perhaps, under threat and pressure from Black Muslims to throw the fight, and feared for his life if he didn’t. Years later Liston’s widow Geraldine was quoted on ESPN Classic’s series.

“I think Sonny gave that second fight away. I swear. He said, ‘No, you win and you lose.’ I said, ‘In the first round?’ “

Did that REALLY Sting?


Ironically, Liston was boxing’s ultimate mystery man. No one is sure when he was born, or quite fittingly, no one would ever know how he died. Officially, Liston died of heart failure and lung congestion, but needle marks found in his arm suggest he may have died of a heroin overdose. Some believe mobsters murdered him; with him being allegedly part of a loan sharking ring!


And those who didn’t make it...

Well, there is no particular reason why a hoodoo, myth or a conspiracy theory won’t make it to the countdown list, but if we had to set a bar, perhaps on lines of the “drama”, “rage”, “spice” and “intensity”, these could be separated from the rest.

The Hawk-Eye Trouble –  Sachin Tendulkar‘s Hawk Eye referral report was claimed to have been tampered, after it looked that Saeed Ajmal had apparently caught the Master-Blaster plum in front on real time, during the 2011 WC semi-finals. Sachin was adjudged not out after the referral, and he went on to play a crucial knock to lead India to the finals.


Defying odds, or did he? – The death of Earnhardt Sr. at the conclusion of the Daytona 500 in 2001 was one of NASCAR‘s biggest tragedies. Yet just five months later, when NASCAR returned to the very site of Earnhardt’s death, his son Earnhardt Jr defied all odds and emotions to win the race, conjuring up one of the most ironic and heartfelt stories in world sport. However, soon theories emerged that certain drivers allowed him to win the race; while some claimed the car used might have been illegal to force such an “idealistic” result.

Red Card but Worth it!  During the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final between co-hosts Nigeria and Senegal, in the Lagos’ National Stadium, Nigeria technical director Kashimawo Laloko noticed that the Senegalese had performed some seeming rituals on their end before the commencement of the match. He dashed on to remove it, but he was soon sent off.

Nigeria went on to win the match, but rumours say that the country still believes had Laloko not interfered,  the result might well have been different.

Published 12 Oct 2012, 09:01 IST
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