10 Plausible NFL Conspiracies

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With the 2014 NFL season upon us, Enter the Razorback decided to take a different approach in covering kickoff week. The list below profiles  some of the league’s most noteworthy — and plausible — conspiracy theories.

10. Jimmy Hoffa was buried under Giants Stadium

The infamous union activist disappeared in 1975, around the same time construction was underway on Giants Stadium. Based on accounts from hitmen allegedly involved with Hoffa’s death, they dismembered his body before dropping the remains inside a concrete drum located at the construction site. Mythbusters investigated the rumors and came up empty. But if Hoffa’s body wasn’t there, how else do you explain Jerry Rice’s fumble in the ’86 playoffs?

9. Dome teams pump in crowd noise

Now that domed stadiums are ubiquitous across the NFL, accusations that teams pump in artificial noise have increased tenfold. Numerous coaches and players complain about the nuisance, which dates back to the late 1980s when the Minnesota Vikings’ Metrodome drew unwanted attention for its ear-splitting cheers.

More recently, the Indianapolis Colts, were charged with pumping in noise during the 2007 season. Despite the peculiar sounds coming through fans’ TV screens, the Colts were cleared of any wrongdoing on the dubious explanation that it was a technical glitch inside the RCA Dome.

8. Pro football is rife with Adderall abuse

nfl-conspiracies-2The Seattle Seahawks have taken the brunt of negative headlines regarding NFL players testing positive for Adderall. The drug, which is primarily used to treat attention deficit disorders and narcolepsy, can also serve as a “cognitive enhancer.” It’s become a popular supplement for players looking to gain an “edge” on game day.

Recent busts involved two of Seattle’s high-profile defensive stars, Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman. Both players took Adderall looking for the upper-hand over the competition. Trying to deflect attention, Sherman claimed that “half the league uses Adderall.” A ominous statement for sure, but there have been a significant number of suspensions tied to the use of similar amphetamines over the last five years.

7. Does the NFL “hate” the Oakland Raiders?

Talk to any Raiders fan and you’ll hear endless stories about how the NFL has a grudge against Oakland. And evidence suggests that Raider Nation has a legitimate gripe.

For starters, there was a well-known rivalry between longtime Raiders owner Al Davis and former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. There were endless stories (usually one-sided) that Rozelle did everything in his power to undermine Davis, which culminated in a heated legal battle when Oakland tried to move to LA. But Davis didn’t make things easy. The abrasive owner drew the ire of the NFL in the late 60s, when he spurred a bidding war between the rival leagues. There’s also the issue of the 1983 NFL draft, when the Raiders failed to land John Elway and Davis blamed it on meddling by league officials.

More recent accusations have been hurled thanks to the infamous “Tuck rule” and examples of questionable officiating that have hindered Oakland’s success.

6. Super Bowl III was fixed

nfl-conspiracies-3It would be a travesty if the biggest upset in NFL history was actually a well-crafted ploy to drum up support for the AFL-NFL merger. But over the last four decades, Super Bowl III has been the target of several conspiracy theories, namely that it was rigged.

Colts fans often point to the bizarre interception(s) thrown by quarterback Earl Morrall, as evidence of foul play. Morrall, who was the MVP of 1968, missed a wide-open Jimmy Orr, who was waving his hands in the end zone late in the first half. Former Colts players have chimed in as well, claiming that the New York Jets needed to win to keep the AFL afloat. Bubba Smith, Baltimore’s Pro Bowl defensive end, possibly referring to the looming merger, that there was too much money at stake for the Jets to lose.

There’s also allegations that Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom bet against his own team and that Jets quarterback Joe Namath was urged by the mafia to throw the game.

5. The NFL orchestrated the “Blackout Bowl”

The Baltimore Ravens put a stranglehold on the San Fransisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. And with the Ravens leading 28-6 early in the second half, a Baltimore victory seemed to be little more than a formality.

Then the unexpected happened.

The Louisiana Superdome suffered a power outage, resulting in a 34-minute delay. The break revitalized the 49ers, who scored 17 unanswered points. San Fransisco’s incredible comeback turned the game from a blowout into a nail-biter. This sudden shift in momentum kept the NFL from losing viewers, and thus billions in advertising dollars — or so one theory says.

While Baltimore held on for a thrilling victory, current and former Ravens players contend the NFL was plotting against them. Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis said the blackout happened to make the game more competitive; meanwhile, teammate Terrell Suggs claimed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell used “parlor tricks” because of a personal bias against Baltimore.

Other theories cast a large net of blame, citing everyone from irate New Orleans Saints and 49ers fans, to Bane and Beyonce as the true culprits.

4. LA is just a bargaining chip

When the Raiders and Rams departed Los Angeles in the mid 1990s, the possibility of SoCal recouping a pro football team has been a never-ending saga of letdowns. It seems every other season a well-established franchise is on the brink of moving to LA.

Usually, the threat is spurred by the team wanting a new stadium (with a lot of help from the taxpayers). Over the past decade, cities routinely caved and agreed to help fund new facilities. But do these stadium deals really just serve to keep teams in their original or current cities. In fact, what if moving to LA is just a threat that owners agreed could be used to hold cities (and their taxpayers) on the hook for construction expenses?

Some writers are convinced the NFL has left LA for good. Empty threats from owners (the last franchise to relocate was the Houston Oilers, which moved from Houston to Nashville in 1997 to become the Tennessee Titans), the NFL’s unapologetic plans to put a franchise in Europe and Goodell’s reticence to commit a team to the region give this theory credence.

3. Spygate was worse than we thought

nfl-conspiracies-5Not long after Goodell took over as commissioner, news broke in fall 2007 that the New England Patriots had videotaped the New York Jets’ signal calls during a recent game. Those who viewed the tapes said it gave the Patriots an unfair advantage, but the real news stemmed from complaints that the Pats had been videotaping their opponents for years, including the St. Louis Rams’ practice ahead of Super Bowl XXXVI, which New England won.

Since the NFL destroyed the notes and videotapes associated with Spygate not long after its investigation, some have charged the league with covering up rampant cheating by the Patriots. Another theory says that the scandal is more complex. Supposedly, this type of behavior is so widespread that New England coach Bill Belichick sent Goodell tapes from other teams videotaping their opponents’ practices. The commissioner, fearful to clamp down on systemic cheating, chose only to punish New England and protect the NFL’s image.

2. The ’99 Browns were “set up to fail”

In 1995, the NFL expanded to 30 teams when it added the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams quickly found success, reaching their respective conference championships the following season. Their meteoric rise — unprecedented for expansion teams — allegedly rankled owners of more established clubs. So when Cleveland regained a franchise in 1999, established NFL owners conspired to curb the Browns’ efforts to field a competitive team.

The theory, postulated by former Cleveland sports writer Terry Pluto, is one of the most well-researched entries on the list. Backed up by loads of peculiar evidence, which includes numerous examples of roadblocks the Browns faced thanks to the league’s other owners, the theory’s implications are startling. It serves as an explanation as to why the Browns have struggled mightily since rejoining the NFL. And while it doesn’t totally absolve the Browns of their failures since returning to Ohio, it certainly explains some of their early hurdles.

1. Who was New England’s “man in the trench coat”?

NFL fans would have a hard time recognizing the New England Patriots in their formative years.

Known as the Boston Patriots for the first decade of their existence, the club only made one playoff appearance between 1960-1970. The Pats wouldn’t appear in a Super Bowl until the 80s, and nearly 20 more years would pass before they became one of the dominant franchise of the modern era.

One thing those early Patriots teams did have going for them was sterling fan support. Playing inside the constricted confines of Fenway Park, fans were often right on top of the action. It wasn’t uncommon for fans to stand along the sidelines during a game or pat players on the back near the team benches. And in 1961, one fan took advantage of that unfettered access, helping the Pats pull off a much-needed victory.

The unknown fan, identified only by his trench coat, was standing directly behind the opponent’s end zone during the game’s waning minutes. With New England leading the Dallas Texans 28-21 late in the fourth quarter, the Texans were threatening at the Patriots goal line. But as Dallas’ Cotton Davidson dropped back to pass, the overzealous fan sprinted onto the field and deflected the ball. As soon as the ball hit the turf, the crowd stormed onto the field.  No one, not even the officials, realized what happened until the film was reviewed nearly a week later by coaches.

The gentleman became known in Patriots lore as the “man in the trench coat.” Rumors were rampant that the fan was actually Patriots owner Billy Sullivan, who was often spotted in a similar trench coat. Sullivan embraced the publicity, never denying the rumors.

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5 Iconic Stadiums That Didn’t Get A Proper Farewell

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Dozens of iconic American stadiums have come and gone over the last two centuries. Unfortunately, some of them weren’t spared the agony of decay and neglect. The five stadiums on this list were once sanctuaries for their teams and landmarks in the community. Sadly, their legacies were tarnished thanks to years of abandonment.

5. Metropolitan Stadium — Bloomington, Minn.

Known affectionately to Minnesotans as “the Met,” Metropolitan stadium was the original home of the Vikings and the Twins. Built on a farm in 1956 for the minor league Minneapolis Millers, the stadium eventually lured the Washington Senators to Bloomington, and later, the NFL expansion Vikings.

Minn. Star TribuneDespite its disjointed seating — the outfield bleachers weren’t even connected — the Met (1961-1981) proved to be indispensable for its tenants.

Only four years after leaving D.C., the Twins won the American League pennant by seven games before losing a hard-fought World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Earlier that summer, the Met hosted the annual MLB All-Star Game, which saw six Twins make the American League squad. And while the brutal Minnesota winters were great for the Vikings, they were anathema for their opponents. The Purple People Eaters reached four Super Bowls during their 20-year tenure at the Met, largely thanks to the decisive home-field advantage.

Even The Beatles dropped by the Met for a concert. It was the group’s lone gig in The Gopher State.

But during the 1970s, the Met fell into disrepair. The stadium was notorious for its dilapidated facilities, poorly maintained field, and considered one of the worst venues in professional sports.

By 1982, both the Twins and Vikings had moved into the Metrodome. The Met was officially abandoned, and it became a breeding ground for vandalism and urban explorers. Eventually razed in 1985, the Mall of America was erected in its place nearly a decade later.

4. Tulane Stadium — New Orleans, La.

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For almost half a century, Tulane Stadium was one of the most revered football venues in America. The home of the Sugar Bowl from its inaugural game in 1935 until 1974, Tulane Stadium holds a special place in the annals of both college and pro football.

Opened in 1926 as the third home of the Tulane Green Wave football team, Tulane Stadium (1926-1980) became a household name thanks to the prestige of the Sugar Bowl. When the NFL expanded to New Orleans in the late 1960s, the Saints used Tulane Stadium for their home field from 1967-1974. It was there in 1970 that Saints kicker Tom Demspey booted a then-record 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions.

Nola.com - Times-Picayune ArchivesThanks to its seating capacity of nearly 81,000 and ideal location in the Big Easy, Tulane Stadium was a popular choice for the Super Bowl. The stadium hosted three NFL championships in a six year span, and is one of five host stadiums no longer standing.

But in 1975, on the same day that the lavish Superdome opened, Tulane Stadium was condemned. Much of the stadium was shuttered, but thanks the outcry of university officials, it remained viable for NFL practices, high school football games, and other low profile events.

A gloomy relic in its twilight years, Tulane Stadium was completely demolished by 1980. Dorm rooms and other university facilities occupy the site today.

3. Astrodome — Houston, Tex.

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Hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World when it opened in 1965, the Houston Astrodome was the Arc de Triomphe of American stadiums. For visionary Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome wasn’t just the center of Houston’s sports universe, but its entertainment hub as well.

The world’s first indoor, multipurpose domed stadium, the Astrodome was replete with swanky restaurants, upholstered seats, and opulent luxury boxes. Everything the modern fan (and athlete) takes for granted today was pioneered by the Astrodome.

But the dome’s influence wasn’t limited to its wondrous engineering. In 1968, the Astrodome (1965-2006) inadvertently revolutionized the sports landscape when it hosted college basketball’s “Game of the Century.” The showdown pitted No. 1 UCLA against No. 2 Houston, with the Cougars edging the Bruins 71-69 in front of more than 50,000 fans. The positive response to college basketball’s first regular season game aired in prime time nationwide was unprecedented, and the NCAA picked the Astrodome to host the 1971 Final Four. Nearly four decades later, practically every Final Four is played in a football stadium.Houston Astrodome, 1965

In the fall of ’68 the Astrodome opened its doors to the NFL’s Houston Oilers. The notion that football could be  virtually weatherproof  was groundbreaking. The dome’s affect on football can still be felt today, as evidenced by the proliferation of domed stadiums — most of which keep the roof closed all season.

Despite its extravagance,  Oilers owner Bud Adams felt that the Astrodome wasn’t enough for his troubled franchise. In the mid-1990s, Adams threatened to move the team if Houston didn’t fund construction for a new stadium. The city had already buckled to his demands before, removing the stadium’s iconic, “Astrolite” scoreboard in 1988.

City officials refused to budge this time, and the Oilers departed for Tennessee in 1997. The Astros made a similar request, but stayed put when funding for Minute Maid Park was secured. Despite voters rejecting a measure to renovate the Astrodome in November 2013, the stadium has yet to be demolished as of this writing. Its fate is still uncertain.

2. Silverdome — Pontiac, Mich.

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Once a state-of-the-art domed facility built to house a multitude of events, the Pontiac Silverdome is nearly unrecognizable today.

Originally part of a larger “urban renewal” project for Pontiac, Mich. — which included plans for a dual stadium complex — the palatial Silverdome was the only building to materialize from C. Don Davidson’s vision to revitalize the sleepy suburb.

Opened in 1975, the Silverdome was declared the world’s largest inflatable domed stadium. One of the few facilities of its era built without accommodations for baseball, it paved the way for facilities like the Hoosier Dome and the Metrodome.

Due to its cavernous seating capacity — just north of 80,000 — the Silverdome was the NFL’s largest stadium for more than two decades. Despite its short lifespan (1975-2001), the Silverdome hosted a number of prestigious events, including Super Bowl XVI, the 1979 NBA All-Star Game, Wrestlemania III, a handful of World Cup matches, the 1988 NBA Finals, and several legendary musicians. It was also the site of the Lions’ last home playoff victory.

SilverdomeBut when the Lions bolted to Ford Field in 2002, the Silverdome was left without a primary tenant. Pontiac experienced a financial crisis trying to maintain the stadium, and the Silverdome quickly fell into ruin. There dome hosted a handful of events between 2003-2005, but it closed in 2006. Auctioned off in 2009, it reopened in 2010, and its parking lot was briefly used as a drive-in.

There were plans to use the Silverdome as a stadium for an MLS team. But when that fell through, the dome again was left untended, and it deteriorated rapidly. The roof collapsed in 2012, and mother nature took over from there. Most of the field is submerged, dotted with Teflon corpses. Hallways are flooded, expensive equipment languishes, and the once glitzy luxury boxes are decrepit.

The Silverdome’s most recent owner started auctioning off parts of the stadium in June 2014. Despite the Silverdome’s likely fate, the high cost of demolition has postponed its demise.

1. Tiger Stadium — Detroit, Mich.

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Opened the same week the Titanic sank, Tiger Stadium (1912-1999) was one of Major League Baseball’s most storied venues.

Tiger Stadium’s location on the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Trumble Ave. gave rise to its nickname, “The Corner.” Its compact and intimate design allowed fans to get close to the game, especially when equipped for baseball. Despite a handful of obstructed views common to parks of its era, Tiger Stadium’s upper deck was considered one of the best in the majors for watching a baseball game.

For power hitters though, it was something of an enigma. The upper deck in left field was practically two stories tall and about 340 feet from home plate. Only four players ever cleared the roof in left: Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Cecil Feilder, and Mark McGwire.

The home of the Tigers and the NFL’s Detroit Lions for more than four decades, Tiger Stadium saw an incredible run of success for its two professional sports teams. The Tigers won four World Series and eight of their 11 American League pennants at The Corner.

Tigers2The Lions, meanwhile, had their most successful tenure in team history at Tiger Stadium, winning three NFL Championships in a five year span.

The Corner also hosted other monumental sporting events through the early 1970s. Joe Louis defended his world heavyweight title in 1939, knocking out Bob Pastor in what was then called Briggs Stadium. MLB also awarded three All-Star games to The Corner. The final midsummer classic in the venerable park was in 1971, when Reggie Jackson smash the longest home run in All-Star history.

In 1989, Tiger Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places. But by the mid 1990s, the antiquated facility started to wear on management. Plans to refurbish Tiger Stadium failed to get traction, and when construction began for a new ballpark in 1997, The Corner seemed destined for demolition.

Tiger Stadium’s sendoff was bittersweet. Detroit won its final home game, but the stadium was shuttered soon after. Efforts to save or preserve it fell on deaf ears, and The Corner became little more than a backdrop for movies and TV specials.

Unlike most American sports facilities, Tiger Stadium wasn’t demolished after its successor opened, and the new millennium offered little respite to The Corner. Its continued deterioration brought comparisons to  the urban decay sweeping Detroit. But in 2008, demolition finally began. By Sept. 2009, there was nothing left but its frayed baseball diamond. Still, the community rallied around what remained, and worked tirelessly to preserve the memory of one of baseball’s sanctuaries.

Unintended Consequences

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Ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII, www.ArkansasRazorbacks.com ran a story on former Arkansas coaches and players who appeared in the NFL’s championship game. The list was meant to showcase the litany of players the Razorbacks have sent to football’s most hallowed game.

Instead, it served as a sad reminder of the shortage of decent pro players who attended the state’s flagship university.

Outside of Steve Atwater and Dan Hampton, only a handful of former Hogs have ever had any measurable impact on their team’s championship season, let alone effected the outcome of a Super Bowl.

A few Hogs have shined on Super Sunday, though. All-SWC tailback Lance Alworth caught the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl VI. Hampton anchored Chicago’s ferocious defensive line when the Bears trounced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Meanwhile, Atwater, who knocked out a Broncos teammate in Super Bowl XXXII, headlined a stingy Denver secondary.

However, to today’s fan, this all happened eons ago.

The most recent Razorback to appear in the Super Bowl? Seattle lineman Alvin Bailey. While his team did win the game, his only noteworthy play was a holding penalty which brought back a Seahawks first down.

Oh lord, it’s hard to be humble.

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Dan Hampton (99) and Lance Alworth are the only two Razorbacks to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

However, Arkansas has sent a litany of coaches to the NFL, many of whom not only found success at the pro level, but attained Super Bowl glory.

Joe Gibbs, Barry Switzer, and Jimmy Johnson all guided teams to NFL titles. Pete Carroll, despite spending only one year with the team — as a graduate assistant in 1977 — joined that hallowed fraternity on Sunday. Even more remarkable, all three joined the short list of coaches who have won an NCAA national championship and an NFL title.

Others, like Baltimore Colts legend Raymond Berry, Arkansas’ receivers coach from 1970-72, guided the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1985. Monte Kiffin, the Hogs defensive coordinator in the late 70s, was the defensive play-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2008. His innovative Tampa-2 defense helped the Bucs thrash the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Most of the aforementioned coaches emanated from one man: Frank Broyles. The legendary Arkansas coach sullied his legacy thanks to his tumultuous reign as the school’s athletic directory, but fans can’t deride his coaching career. He presided over the Hogs lone national championship and is largely responsible for the success of Razorbacks athletics.

Now that’s something to showcase.