You think you know the TRUTH, but DO YOU? You say that sports aren't RIGGED, but ARE THEY?!? What if we told you this: There really is a vast right-wing CONSPIRACY out there—and it involves every right wing in the National Hockey League?!? Think we're crazy? THINK AGAIN!!!
Exhibit A: On his first trip to the plate in his last major league All-Star Game, Cal Ripken Jr. "hits" a "home run" off Chan Ho Park. Witnesses swear that Ripken was intentionally served a "fat" fastball by Park, in whose name is concealed the words nacho and Oprah. (Coincidence? You tell me.) Naturally, baseball commissioner Bud Selig claims that baseball games aren't fixed. But that's exactly what he wants you to think, isn't it?!?
Exhibit B: Three days before Cal Jr. goes deep, another Junior, Dale Earnhardt Jr., wins the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, where his father, WHO WAS ALSO NAMED DALE EARNHARDT, died in February. Again, witnesses suggest that the other drivers in the field rode their brakes to accommodate Junior, and the facts are hard to refute: On the trunk of Junior's Chevy was the Major League Baseball logo. On both doors of the car was the likeness of a baseball player circling the bases. On the hood of the car—like a secret handshake, in red-and-white paint-was the word Bud.
Is all of this pure chance? Or are we, the sports fans of America, the innocent dupes, the guileless pawns, of a secret society of sports executives—led by Allan H. (Bud) Selig—who contrive the scores and conceive the highlights weeks, sometimes months, in advance?!?
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Just because the CIA killed JFK, and the White House killed Vince Foster, and Colombian drug lords killed Nicole Simpson, and the Navy shot down TWA Flight 800, and Buckingham Palace crashed Princess Di's car, and NASA faked the Apollo moon landings, and the government created AIDS in a laboratory and the Air Force performed alien autopsies in Roswell (and stored the cadavers in Area 51) doesn't mean that everything's the result of a massive conspiracy. Or DOES it?!?
"Twelve Jewish bankers in Switzerland rule the world," former big league pitcher Steve Carlton told Philadelphia magazine in 1994. Most readers, however, knew that Lefty was nuts, and that the whole wide world is not, in fact, ruled by these "Elders of Zion." (It is ruled, as nearly everyone knows, by the Freemasons.)
The sports world, too, is a mere marionette, the tool of invisible puppet masters. "Conspiracy theories are out there," said Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl during his club's appearance against Philadelphia in the NBA Eastern Conference finals. Indeed, Karl and Bucks guard Ray Allen said that the league was conspiring, with the complicity of referees, to put the more marketable 76ers into the NBA Finals. "Given the amount of coverage that we get...[fans] begin to take those issues seriously," said commissioner David Stern. So he fined Karl $25,000 and Allen $10,000, dismissing the entire incident with a Warren Report-like wave of the pen. Weeks later the league announced that Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards just happened to draw—behind closed doors—the first selection in the NBA draft. (Sure! Right!! As IF!!!)
We know better. We know that Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and that Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and that Oakland Raiders tackle Lincoln Kennedy almost purchased, at auction, Kennedy's Lincoln. Or something like that.
We also know now, after 50 years of silence on the subject, that the Shot Heard 'Round the World was staged, not unlike Neil Armstrong's moon walk. Several New York Giants have admitted that the team stole signs at the Polo Grounds—using a telescope and an electric buzzer—during the second half of the 1951 baseball season. Virtually all of them vehemently deny doing so during the three-game playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers. One Giant, though, bullpen catcher Sal Yvars, seems to recall that they DID steal signs in the playoff, and thus Bobby Thomson would have known what was coming when he clubbed Ralph Branca's high fastball over the leftfield fence at the Polo Grounds.
It must be true, because the only other explanation is this: that Thomson really DID hit a storybook homer, that Ripken really DID rise to the occasion, that Earnhardt really DID earn a remarkable victory and that the 76ers really DID deserve to make the NBA Finals. Could it be that the endless aggrandizing of every moment in sports—no matter how minor—has left us so skeptical that we no longer even trust the truly great stories?!?