January 30, 2008
Myth-informationThe 10 biggest myths in sports
By STEPHEN RIPLEY -- Sun Media
Assuming they beat the New York Giants next Sunday, we can all thank the New England Patriots for helping to debunk the myth of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
By virtue of their perfect 17-0 record en route to winning the Super Bowl, the '72 Dolphins have long been hailed as the greatest team in NFL history. This despite the fact that their starting quarterback was Earl Morrall and the average record of their opponents was an abysmal 5-9.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and others have had more dominant championship seasons than the Dolphins, but they were all cursed by at least one blemish on their record. Not so the 2007-08 Patriots, whose victory in Super Bowl XLII should render the '72 Miami team nothing more than a footnote in history.
One myth down, 10 more to go:
10. The NHL is clean
With tens of millions of dollars up for grabs, what incentive does a player have for avoiding performance-enhancing drugs? Because he's a good Canadian boy? Right ... so were Eric Gagne and Ben Johnson. Until the NHL starts testing for everything -- steroids, HGH, synthetic testosterone and especially amphetamines -- you'd have to be incredibly naive to believe only one or two guys are juicing.
9. Tiger Woods has no competition
The argument goes like this: Jack Nicklaus had to play against Gary Player, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino (30 majors), while Tiger's four biggest competitors are Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen (11 majors). But the comparison isn't valid for two reasons. First, each of Tiger's competitors is still in the prime of their careers, so their totals are bound to grow. And second, the level of talent on the PGA tour is much higher than it was one or two generations ago. Any player in the field is capable of competing with Tiger these days, which makes his dominance even more impressive.
8. Steroids are ruining baseball's record books
Of the effects of performance-enhancing drugs, the least-important is their effect on baseball's hallowed record books. From the Dead Ball era, to the ban on black players, to the lowering of pitchers' mounds and the introduction of the DH, baseball statistics have never been comparable from era to era. Steroids are just one more reason to take them with several grains of salt.
7. NBA players can't shoot
This one is a favourite of curmudgeonly NBA commentators, who say the obsession with highlight reels has led players to ignore fundamental skills in favour of big dunks. And sure, shooting percentages are down over the past few decades, but that has more to do with the number of big men playing on the perimeter than it does with poor marksmanship. And if shooting was so bad, how come free-throw percentages have actually gone up over the past 40 years?
6. Derek Jeter is a great shortstop
Three of the greatest injustices in sports history are the Gold Gloves awarded to the Yankees' pretty-boy shortstop. All he has going for him are a couple of memorable plays (the Flip and the Dive), the ability to make acrobatic throws deep in the hole and the everlasting love of the New York media. Other than that, he has little or no range, a suspect glove and a scattershot arm. Good hitter, though.
5. Big hitters rule the PGA
We've all heard how Tiger Woods and the current crop of bombers has forced the PGA to lengthen courses, thereby making it virtually impossible for short hitters to compete. Not true. For the top 10 players on the money list last season, their average placing in driving distance was 94th -- smack dab in the middle of the pack. Those same players finished an average of 30th in putts per green in regulation.
4. Women's tennis is better to watch
With its stable of interesting personalities and leggy Russian beauties, it's no wonder women's tennis is more popular than the men's game. But as far as talent and competitiveness, the women aren't even close to the men. Even at the highest level, most women's matches are a comedy of unforced errors, whereas men's points are usually won when one of the players hits a winner. A male player could never win a match, let alone a major, while lugging around the excess weight Serena Williams was packing en route to the Australian Open crown last year.
3. The CFL is an offensive showcase
While it's true the CFL has higher-scoring games than the NFL -- the difference was five points per game last year -- that doesn't mean there's more offence. First, the CFL has a much shorter play clock than the NFL, which translates into 20-30 more plays, which means the ratio of scoring to action is much higher south of the border. And second, all those bonus points the CFL gives away for missed field goals and touchbacks, not to mention its extended overtime format, pretty much obliterates the scoring disparity.
2. Ultimate fighting is a bloodsport
Yes, there can be a lot of blood in the typical UFC card, but that doesn't mean the sport is particularly dangerous. The most frequent injuries, involving joints and occasionally broken bones, are commonplace in mainstream sports such as football and hockey. Boxers, meanwhile, sustain repeated head trauma, which often leads to serious impairment later in life and occasionally to death. In the history of mixed martial arts, only one fighter has died of injuries sustained in a regulated fight.
1. The lockout fixed the NHL
Yeah, right. We sacrificed an entire season so the league could institute a salary cap which now sits at $50 million per team ... $6 million more than the average pre-lockout payroll. And those rule changes that were supposed to make the game more fun to watch? Even after this week's high-scoring games, the league was averaging 5.63 goals per game, more than half a goal less than the 2005-2006 season and only a half a goal more than the pre-lockout season. OK, so what about those empty rinks in the Sun Belt? They're still empty, and apparently Detroit has been relocated to the Sun Belt.