Millions of people worldwide enjoy NFL football. The sport has a long and interesting history that features stories of triumph, tragedy, and even scandals. With the NFL, the entertainment isn’t limited to the games. Fans are treated to a number of sideshows like Spygate, press conferences, and the Josh Gordon saga, to name a few. It all makes for great gossip.
When football fans aren’t watching football, they’re talking football. When they are talking football, the boundaries of fact and fiction are sometimes skewed, and urban legends are born. Urban legends are interesting in that they have certain legitimacy and logic to them. They are easy to believe, but that doesn’t make them true. Even when these myths are proven false, they have a way of persisting. It is a testament to the power of repetition and misinformation.
While the NFL has brought a lot of controversy upon itself, it has also fallen victim to malicious lies and urban legends. The following list consists of the top 10 craziest NFL urban legends. While some of these are harmless misconceptions, some unjustly paint the NFL and its fans as alcohol-abusing misogynists who kick cute little puppies when their teams lose. The truth is out there. Well, most of the time.
10. The Patriots Won The 2015 AFC Championship Game Because The Balls Were Deflated
Spygate, IRgate, Headsetgate, and more recently, the infamous Deflategate are just a few cases in which the New England Patriots were accused of cheating.
Most people are familiar with the Deflategate scandal. Tom Brady used under-inflated balls in the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots won, leaving many people to believe that their victory was due to Brady’s use of the softer balls. Did using under-inflated balls really have a bearing on the outcome?
The Patriots had a 17-7 lead at the half. Even if those 17 points were taken away as punishment, they still managed to score another 28 in the second half using properly inflated balls. The deflated balls had no bearing on the offensive impotence of the Colts. Andrew Luck was terrible, LeGarrette Blount ran wild, and the Pats proved that they were great on both sides of a properly inflated ball.
9. The Cleveland Browns Were Named After Joe Louis
Despite public demand, Paul Brown was never too keen on the idea of having Cleveland’s football team named after him. When it came time to choose a name in 1945, Brown reluctantly gave into fan sentiment and the Cleveland Browns were unveiled.
It is a popular myth that the football club was named after Joe “The Brown Bomber” Lewis. How would an urban legend like this be created? Well, it seems that Paul Brown would occasionally spread the false story when asked about the name’s origin.
Years later, Brown would confirm that his alternate version was tripe, intended to deflect unwanted attention arising from being the team’s namesake.
8. Donovan McNabb Puked On The Field During Super Bowl XXXIX
The NFL has seen a lot of controversy throughout its history. Deflated balls, questionable calls, and failed drug tests are just a few topics that instigate animated discussions. Another topic that has been hotly debated is whether or not Donovan McNabb threw up during a fourth-quarter drive in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots.
There are a few examples of McNabb tossing his cookies on the field, but none that relates to that particular Super Bowl. The cameras catch all of the action from several different angles, but there is no video evidence that supports this urban legend. While a couple former players have fed the myth of McNabb’s spewfest, many more have dismissed the claim including McNabb, who vigorously denies it happened.
Until proof of McNabb vomiting is found, this will remain urban legend.
7. Super Bowl Is The Largest Human Trafficking Event In The Country
Restaurants, bars, hotels, and other businesses that are able to capitalize when their city hosts the Super Bowl can make a good chunk of money. According to some people, the Super Bowl is the largest human trafficking event in the country. Tens of thousands of sex workers, some under-aged, invade the host cities each year to meet the demands of depraved football fans. The problem is that there isn’t any substantial evidence to support this wild accusation.
In recent years, host cities have run multi-agency sting operations that have netted the usual riff-raff, but they have failed to find signs of the alleged epidemic. Rumors of sex-slavery grip nearly every city that hosts events like the World Cup and the Olympics. There are volumes of interesting articles on the subject.
6. The Stock Market Can Be Predicted By Who Wins The Super Bowl
Known as the “Super Bowl Indicator,” this urban legend would have us believe that the stock market is predicted by the result of the Super Bowl. The simple explanation is that if an AFC team wins the Super Bowl, then the market will go down, and if an NFC team wins, or a team that was in the NFL prior to the merger, the market will rise.
Now, before dismissing this claim completely, consider that this has actually held true in 40 of the 49 Super Bowls. That’s an incredible 82% accuracy rating. With the Denver Broncos winning in 2015, it might be tempting to put it all on a bear market. There is a certain confidence that is gained knowing that the “Super Bowl Indicator” has been correct for the past seven straight years.
The reality of this urban legend is that these results are merely coincidence. There is no logical relation between the two.
5. There Is A Spike In Domestic Violence On Super Bowl Sunday
This urban legend says that there is more domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year.
In the past couple of years, the NFL has been rocked by some high-profile domestic violence incidents. Anti-abuse commercials were aired during Super Bowl 50, and it is quite likely that domestic violence occurred during the game somewhere. This does not mean that this myth is true. It appears to be another case of spreading misinformation in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary. Even the group that started the rumor back-tracked as the urban legend was quickly debunked.
While the proof renders the myth as false, its perpetuation has actually had a beneficial consequence. It has helped raise awareness of domestic violence.
4. Ray Guy Filled Footballs With Helium
When discussing the all-time greats of football, it’s easy to forget about kickers and punters. Don’t dismiss Ray Guy, though. The seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl Champion deserves to be mentioned in this conversation. He was the first punter inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He even has an award named after him. His punts were so notorious for their hang-time that people started to think he was cheating. An urban legend developed that he had the balls filled with helium. An opposing coach actually had a ball tested after Guy punted a high hanger. Of course, the ball was 100% legit.
While the idea of filling a football with a lighter gas to gain hang-time seems plausible, it is actually the opposite. Aside from physics alone debunking this, the MythBusters put this myth to the test and found that using helium actually has an adverse effect.
3. Super Bowl III Was Fixed
The legitimacy of Super Bowl III is called into question more than any other football game in the Super Bowl era. There are some very convincing arguments that make this urban legend seem credible. Ex-Baltimore Colt Bubba Smith, who played in Super Bowl III, truly believes that the fix was in. In a 2004 interview, Bubba explained how only one key guy, Colts quarterback Earl Morrall, was needed to pull it off. Morrall had a brutal outing in which he ignored open receivers, and tossed three interceptions at the most inopportune times. There was also suspicious play calling according to Smith, who sensed that something didn’t feel right during the game.
There is the belief that the NFL needed the Jets to win to legitimize their merger with the seemingly inferior AFL. All of this speculation is thought provoking, but the theory lacks real evidence. Super Bowl III will remain as one of the NFL’s most hotly-contested, but unproven urban legends.
2. Home Underdogs Always Cover On Monday Night Football
This is an interesting urban legend that is widely believed for good reason. Through the 70s and early 80s, the Monday Night Football home underdog covered the spread with regularity, which caused hordes of gamblers to continually blind bet home dogs. The gambling gods were answering prayers and the bookies were giving away money.
Despite the fact that the streak is long over, this tradition carries on to this day. Many sports gamblers are still faithfully backing MNF home dogs. It’s been reported that between 1970 and 1998, the trend was profitable with a record of 150-53 (or 59%). More modern statistics show that between 1985 and 2014, the trend was 84-77, or a smidgen above 52%. That is pretty much a break-even proposition. Random streaks happen and the ride is exciting, but the house almost always wins in the end.
1. The Simultaneous Flushing Of Toilets At Half-Time
With so much beer and pizza being consumed during the Super Bowl, it makes sense that toilets would be working overtime. Every year at half-time, people scurry off to the lavatory to take care of business. A commonly repeated urban legend is that all of this flushing strains water systems and causes pipes to burst. This myth was given legs in 1984 when a water main burst in Salt Lake City on Super Bowl Sunday. These ruptures were a common occurrence in Salt Lake City at the time, and the water line’s failure was never linked to the flush myth, nor have there been any confirmed reports of similar Super Bowl related system failures. After the Giants upset the Patriots in 2012, New York’s Hillview Reservoir was impacted as water levels dropped by about 2 inches.
While there actually is a noticeable spike in water consumption during Super Bowl half-time, the systems are well prepared to handle it.