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6 Sports Myths That People Really Believe

Updated on April 10, 2017

Sports and myth go together like peanut butter and jelly but which ones are based in fact or are more urban legend are not always so easy to figure out. Here are six myths that have been accepted as truth and whether they have any fact to them or if they are purely fiction.

Most myths have some basis in fact, a nugget of truth that got repeated and embellished so many times that it became bigger with each telling and then events would occur that could be used to prop up the original myth. There were so many sports stores, rumors and legend and myths to choose from that this is just a small sample of the sports myths that have been accepted as true.

1. Athletes Are Good Role Models

This is probably the worst and perhaps most ridiculous of the sports myths that are accepted as truth. Athletes are not heroes or role models they are just people who are good at a sport, plain and simple. The media and advertisers have perpetuated and built this idea that kids should look up to athletes and that they are to be admired. When an athlete then makes mistakes in their life people are surprised and add the extra expectation that they, the athlete, should have done better since they are a role model.

Role models should be at home, or the church or school. The role models children should have need to be real people that they can learn from and be motivated by to be their own best person. An athlete is not a role model you don't know them as people, good or bad, and their life choices should not be influencing children.

This myth of athletes as role models is a ridiculous myth that really has no basis in fact. When these athletes do good things they can recognized and when they screw up in their lives they need to be held accountable. But the basic truth is they play for themselves or their teams and are expected to meet those expectations not trying to live up to the role model status people want to place on them.

2. Babe Ruth Was Fat & Ate Hotdogs During Games

This has always been one of my favorite myths that people believe because it is really funny. Babe Ruth was actually one of the first athletes who made enough money from playing sports that he did not have to work a job the rest of the year. As a result, he actually lifted weights and trained year round, which was unheard of at that time since it was commonly believed to be unnecessary.

Ruth may not have been svelte or lean but he was actually in good shape however those baggy uniforms were no help in showing off either muscle or fat. As Ruth got older he gained some weight, don't we all fight that battle, and his mystique of not being the nicest of guys made it easy for this myth to grow substantially.

As to the myth that he ate hotdogs during games there has been no evidence to show that was true. It is factual that he smoked cigarettes during games, but he wasn't alone in that activity and it was well before people knew that they were cancer sticks.

Babe Ruth may or may not have been the nicest guy in the world and while he wasn't lean he was not fat and didn't eat hotdogs during games, he just smoked!

3. Gladiators Fought To The Death

This is a myth that has been created through movies, television and video games and is simply not true. Gladiators were the entertainment kings of their times and while they competed violently and injuries occurred these competitors were just too valuable to have them killing each other.

These battling gladiators are like the football players, boxers and mma fighters of today. The gladiators were treated and fed well as their stardom rose and no one wanted to see these men killed in combat anymore than you would want to see that happen today.

Movies and television have always played a little loose with historical fact over the years and this is an example of that Hollywood magic becoming accepted as fact instead of creative license with history fact.

4. Rudy and Notre Dame

This is a myth that is swirled together between fact and fiction. Don't get me wrong here I love this movie and the positive motivational story it tells but movies are not always fact. Rudy did play at Notre Dame, he was not gifted with a big football body and his persistence is a positive story.

But, the author of the book, Rudy himself, and the movie script played a little loose with the facts to give the movie and story a more dramatic effect. In the movie, Notre Dame coach Dan DeVine was portrayed as a villain who was forced to let Rudy play when the truth was that having him play had always been the plan and in fact Rudy played in 3 games his senior year. While the story of Notre Dame and Rudy are great for myth and mystique the truth is a little less dramatic.

5. Jimmy Hoffa Is Buried Under Giants Stadium

This is another great myth that has repeated as fact for a lot of people for a long time. When Jimmy Hoffa was last seen in 1975 there has been nothing but legend after legend of what actually happened to him. The only facts really known are that the last time Hoffa was seen alive in 1975 he was meeting with known mafia members and he has never been seen again, dead or alive.

There have been many rumors and suggestions as to what happened to Hoffa or where his body is buried but one of the most fun is that he was buried under Giants Stadium. This myth was so popular and well known that the television show Mythbusters actually did a show on this myth. They used ground penetrating radar on the field and did not find any remains but the myth persists today.

6. Sports Illustrated & Madden Cover Curse

This is another great myth that has existed in some form since 1953. The idea of a cover curse started when one of the first players to make the cover then broke his hand and missed the season. This cover curse also became a Campbell's Chunky Soup curse and the most popular superstition myth, the Madden cover curse.

The reality is that sports and their outcomes are fickle and unpredictable and as such we like to use curses and jinxes as explanations when things don't go the way we hope. Whether that is lucky shirts or socks, pre-game rituals, sophomore jinxes, and many more we would rather have something to blame than accept an outcome.

There will always been an element of truth to these curses and ideas since how can you even prove them all wrong. In the case of the Madden curse think about it as most of the time a player is selected for the cover because they are at the pinnacle of their career so after that honor it is reasonable that they will begin the back half of their career. Is this simply because that is the nature of sports or is it a curse?

Sports myths, urban legends and mystiques are as much a part of sports as the actual players and while some myths are just a little crazy others are fun to debate. No matter which you believe are real is there will be sports myths that grow for as long as there are sports to discuss.


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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      19 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Interesting article. I had heard about Ruth actually working out but never see much about it. But I do think athletes can be role models (maybe as a last resort...).



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