Debunking the Top Sports Myths

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Background

Sports are something that can bond people together. Whether you are playing certain sports or just watching leagues and championships, it is something that is great to talk about with other people. With the number of sports that we have in the world, there are also lots of facts and information to learn about them. However, not all of the information that we hear or read about sports should be believed. It’s because wherever there are people, there will be myths.

Myths and urban legends are quite part of daily life. They are all around us, but most of them are not true. However, a lot of people keep on believing them. Some of these myths, particularly in sports, do hold even more interesting positions. Several myths persist in the sports industry, and sometimes, it is better to disprove some of them to stop the spread of misinformation. That’s why in this post, we have gathered some of the top myths about different sports or the sports industry itself and the truth behind them. Read on to learn more about the top sports myths.

Debunking the Top Sports Myths

Myth #1: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle played football for Portsmouth FC.

a portrait line art of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

There is a popular myth circulating that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, played football as a goalkeeper for Portsmouth FC. However, there is no truth to this claim. It’s because the truth is that he played football as a goalkeeper for Portsmouth Association Football Club, an amateur side, under the pseudonym AC Smith, during the time he was living in Southsea in England. This club disbanded in 1896, and it has no connection with present-day Portsmouth FC. In addition to that, Conan Doyle was also great at cricket, and he played 10 first-class matches for the Marylebone Cricket Club. [1]

Myth #2: India did not participate in the 1950 FIFA World Cup due to the barefoot ban.

the India Football team with some players barefooted

It has been popularly believed that India did not join the 1950 FIFA World Cup because they did not want to wear shoes. In the 1948 Olympics, India’s performance was impressive. One of the things that drew attention was that most players played barefoot, while some of them wore socks. It was India’s first international tournament since independence.

FIFA firmly informed India that they would have to wear shoes for the World Cup. With just one slot from Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Burma withdrew before the qualification round, which led to India earning a spot automatically. However, the country refused to go to the tournament. With this, there has been a myth saying India did not join the World Cup in 1950 due to the barefoot ban. But India’s Sports Illustrated magazine clarified that the All India Football Federation announced that the team would not participate in the World Cup due to disagreements over team selection and insufficient practice time. Therefore, it was not because of the barefoot ban. [2]

Myth #3: In baseball, the hands are part of the bat.

a baseball batter about to hit a pitch

Many believe that in a game of baseball, the hands are part of the bat. However, this is not true. The hands are part of the body of the batter. If a pitch hits the hands of the batter, the ball is dead. If the pitch is swung and it hits the hands or any part of the body, a strike will be called, and the ball is dead for striking the batter’s person. If the batter is avoiding the pitch, the batter is awarded first base, as long as the batter was not struck while the ball was in the strike zone. [3]

Myth #4: Sports drinks can help athletes perform better.

woman drinking a bottle of energy drink

Advertisements for sports drinks are everywhere. If you see a famous athlete drinking one, does it mean it is healthy for you? A lot of people believe that sports drinks help athletes perform better. However, this is not true. The main ingredients of most sports drinks are sugar, water, sodium, and sometimes caffeine. It can help in preventing dehydration when exercising. The main carbohydrate in most sports drinks is sugar, which will give you energy. However, it also provides empty calories that you need to burn off later. Therefore, it is not true that sports drinks can help athletes perform better.

For athletes, drinking regular water is still the best. It has no sodium, which will help fluid reach the appropriate places for hydration, like muscles and blood. Also, keep in mind that sports drinks contain caffeine, and too much of it can cause fatigue and dehydration. [4]

Myth #5: Babe Ruth was fat, and he ate hotdogs during games.

Babe Ruth pitching on a baseball game

There was a myth that says Babe Ruth suffered from a belly ache due to eating too many hotdogs and drinking too many sodas. Many are also saying that he was fat. However, none of these is true. Babe Ruth was not fat at all. He was one of the only few baseball players back then who trained year-round to play, as a lot of players worked full-time jobs during the offseason. There is also no evidence of him eating hotdogs during games.

The truth was that Ruth more likely suffered from a venereal disease. It affected his weight, and he became weak and very sick for several days in Florida. He underwent surgery to relieve the pain. After around 8 weeks, when he recovered, he rejoined his teammates, playing against the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium. The ’25 season was the worst for him as he carried 30+ extra pounds on his frame.

Later on, Babe Ruth recognized that his sorry state was self-inflicted. That’s why in the off-season, he went to a gymnasium to lose weight and add muscle. After the disaster of ’25, he would go on to have some of his best seasons, winning six home run titles through 1931. While it may be true that Babe Ruth gained weight for a while, it was not due to eating hotdogs during games. [5]

Myth #6: Gladiators fight to the death.

a gladiator fight

Movies and television shows often represent gladiatorial fights as a bloody free-for-all. This is why a lot of people believe that gladiators fight to the death. However, this is just a myth. The truth is that most gladiator fights were operated under fair and strict rules and regulations. Most contests were single combat between two men of similar size and experience.

The actions in gladiator fights were overseen by referees, and they possibly stopped the bout as soon as one of the fighters was seriously injured. In fact, a match could end in a stalemate if the crowd became bored by a long battle. Also, gladiators were expensive to house, feed, and train. With this, their promoters were unwilling to see them needlessly killed. They were only taught to wound and not kill. [6]

Myth #7: Most baseball players still use steroids.

a syringe of steroids leaning on a baseball

This myth probably came from the steroid era of baseball. It was a period of time in Major League Baseball when a number of players were believed to have used steroids. Up until today, its damage is being felt in baseball. While we can’t confirm if there are still players who use it at the present time, we can say that the myth that most baseball players use steroids is not true. There is no evidence to suggest that using steroids is somewhere near as bad as it was even a decade ago. The penalties and suspensions for it today are too big, along with the risk of not being part of the Hall of Fame because of it. [7]

Myth #8: In football, being the last man is a red card offense.

a football red card

In a game of football, when a hazardous foul is committed, a commentator will mostly ask if he’s the last man there. Also, supporters would often cry that the offender was the last man standing in a frantic bid to see the referee brandish his red card. However, it is not true that being the last man is a red card offense. [8]

A red card is given if a player prevents a clear goalscoring opportunity. Being the last man is not and has never been a red card offense in football. It just so happens that the “last man” is often the one who prevents a goal-scoring opportunity.

Myth #9: Gymnastics will stunt a child’s growth.

a gymnast performing in a stadium

A lot of people believe that gymnastics will stunt the growth of a child. This myth possibly came from the fact that most gymnasts are small or petite. Also, those who believe this often cite the intensive training that young gymnasts go through that limits their growth, particularly through puberty. However, there is no truth about the sport stunting the growth of a child.

Based on research on the Role of Intensive Training in the Growth and Maturation of Artistic Gymnasts, teenagers who pursue gymnastics to a high level are highly select individuals and, on average, are a little shorter. There was no evidence that training as a gymnast causes a reduction in the length of the upper body or legs. It just so happens that most people who are into the sport are petite. [9]

Myth #10: In basketball, a defensive player needs to be stationary to take a charge.

two men playing basketball

It is not true that a defensive player needs to be stationary to take a charge. It’s because, in reality, once the defensive player has gained a legal guarding position, he may always move to maintain that guarding position. He may even have one or both feet off the floor when contact happens with the offensive player. A legal guarding position happens when the defensive player has both of his feet on the floor and is in front and facing the opponent. This applies to a defensive player who is defending the dribble.

Myth #11: The Miracle on Ice was a gold medal game.

the Miracle on Ice rink on Lake Placid

The Miracle on Ice was among the most significant events in the sports industry, particularly in ice hockey. It was when the United States defeated the heavily favored USSR team at the 1980 Olympics held in Lake Placid. Due to its popularity, a lot of people believe that it was the gold medal game. While it was indeed historic to defeat the Soviets back then, the game was not the end of the road for the Americans. It’s because the United States won the gold medal, not in their game against the USSR but when they defeated Finland. [11]

Myth #12: Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day to train.

Michael Phelps on a press conference

Michael Phelps is among the best swimmers in the world. He would train almost six hours a day to burn off calories. For swimmers, it is very important to stick to a good diet. In 2008, even with a demanding schedule and multiple events, Phelps weighed 85kg and would always be on top of his game. With this, there was a myth that circulated that Phelps would go on to take 12,000 calories a day. However, there is no truth to it. According to Phelps, he never ate that much. It was all a myth and that he’d never eaten that many calories. [12]

Myth #13: Professional athletes are all rich and overpaid.

man holding a ball and lots of money

It is easy for a lot of people to say that professional athletes are all rich and overpaid, particularly if they are only watching popular athletes. However, in reality, the average salary for an average player is a mere fraction of what top earners are getting. And the ones who take on the most physical risk get paid the least. With salary caps, rookie wage scales, and lots of measures put into place to protect ownership profits, in reality, most athletes are not nearly as rich as most people think. [11]

Myth #14: Mascots in sports games are volunteer superfans.

Cleveland Cavaliers Moondog mascot

Many people believe that mascots in sports games are volunteer superfans. However, this is not true. At the collegiate level, a student volunteer usually takes on the mascot role during games. However, in the professional ranks, it is not a volunteer superfan that is behind the mask. The majority of mascots in sporting events are full-time employees. They have comfortable annual salaries and healthcare packages. In fact, some of them, especially those under the big and popular teams, are even earning up to $100,000 a year. [11]

Myth #15: Boxing is an aggressive sport.

a female boxer

People mostly believe that boxing is an aggressive sport as they are only focused on fighting. They think that it is only for people who are aggressive, intense, and tough. However, this is not true. In fact, boxing has very little to do with fighting.

Professional boxing does have its fair share of bruises, but it can also be recreational. Boxing does not only teach people to do random punches as it also trains your coordination, mental focus, technique, and decision-making skills. You may even box for years and choose to only hit bags and mitts. Therefore, boxing is not an aggressive sport. [13]

Myth #16: In karate, getting a black belt is a sign of mastery.

wearing a karate black belt

It is a common misconception that earning a black belt in karate is a sign of mastery. While it is true that obtaining a black belt in karate or other martial arts is a huge accomplishment, it does not mean the recipient is a master of the art. In fact, this is just the start of the journey towards mastery.

Up until you receive the black belt, you will just be learning the basics of karate. After you earn the black belt, you will then start to truly practice martial art. You can compare it to school. The colored belts are like different grade levels at school, and once you get a black belt, it is as if you have graduated from high school. Sure, you learned a lot more since the time you started, but at this level, you still only know the basics. There is still a lot to learn before you become an expert. Therefore, having a black belt in karate is not a sign of mastery. [14]

Myth #17: There is a right body type to become a swimmer.

woman swimming

Many swimming coaches often hear people saying that they are too skinny for swimming. People often blame their body type when swimming is difficult. However, when you take a look at the fastest swimmers in the world, you will notice that a lot of them have very low percentages of body fat. This is because it is not true that there is a right body type to become a good swimmer. You just need to have the right technique. Being good at swimming has nothing to do with the type of your body but instead with how you build your strength and stroke technique. [15]

Myth #18: Athletes and coaches are the most common jobs in the sports industry.

athletes with their coach

It is not true that athletes and coaches are the most common jobs in the world of sports. Professional athletes and their coaches do get a lot of airtime. That’s why many people think that these are the common professions in sports. But in reality, there are many others who are working hard behind the scenes. These include analysts, medical and physical therapy staff, personal trainers, public relations specialists, and camera crew members, to name a few. Athletes and coaches are just the most popular, but they are not the most common jobs. [16]

Myth #19: Orlando Magic got its name from Disney.

logo of Orlando Magic

It was in 1971 when the Orlando area grew exponentially with the opening of Disney World. After 18 years, in 1989, Orlando Magic hit the court as the first major American pro sports franchise in the area. Many people believe that the team got its name after the Magic Kingdom in Disneyland. However, this is not true.

The truth is that during the meeting about forming a basketball organization in Orlando, there was a contest in local media to name the team. Out of the 4,000 suggestions they received, it was narrowed down into 4 options. These were the Juice, the Tropics, the Heat, and the Magic. On the final day, one of the committee member’s daughters described her visit to Orlando as “magic.” That is why they chose the name for the team. [17]

Myth #20: Kobe Bryant was always on the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant playing basketball

The NBA league is where free agency rules everything. Teams with big money and the market can get the best players, and the players are also traded on a yearly basis. With this, it seems that nobody plays their whole career for one team anymore. The last great player that spent his whole career with the Lakers was Kobe Bryant. He was with the team from his rookie year in 1996 up to his retirement after 20 years.

Technically, Kobe Bryant played for the Lakers his entire career. However, he was not always with the Lakers. It’s because, in 1996, the Charlotte Hornets were the team that drafted him. He was a #13 pick and was soon traded to the Lakers. After that, the rest is history. [17]

Conclusion

These are some of the top sports myths that have been debunked. Since there are lots of sports out there, it is quite easy to believe every bit of information that we hear from other people or read from articles online. However, it is essential to learn how to always check the facts and ensure that we are getting the right information. This way, we can help in stopping the spread of wrong information.

References

[1] The Telegraph, W. (2015, September 23). Writers who are football fans. The Telegraph. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/authors/writers-who-are-football-fans/

[2] Adhikari, S. (2018, June 6). No, India did not withdraw from the 1950 FIFA World Cup because they did not want to wear shoes. India Times. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.indiatimes.com/sports/kick-off/why-did-india-withdraw-from-the-1950-world-cup-no-it-wasn-t-because-they-had-to-wear-shoes-258199.html

[3] Team Sideline, E. (n.d.). We Simplify League management for sports organizations. Online Sports League Management Software for Teams | TeamSideline.com. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from http://teamsideline.com/

[4] Elbling, H. (2011, February 22). Exploring myths and facts surrounding sports drinks. Tribune. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-exploring-myths-and-facts-surrounding-sports-2011feb22-story.html

[5] Holmes, D. (2021, October 28). Babe Ruth and baseball’s most famous Bellyache – Baseball Egg. Baseball Egg – Baseball Rankings and History. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://baseballegg.com/2012/11/29/babe-ruth-and-baseballs-most-famous-bellyache/

[6] Andrews, E. (2014, March 4). 10 things you may not know about roman gladiators. History.com. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-roman-gladiators

[7] Griffiths, J. (2015, December 9). Top 20 sports myths people actually believe. The Sportster. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.thesportster.com/entertainment/top-20-sports-myths-people-actually-believe/

[8] Breakfastnews, E. (2021, September). Five football myths that most people still believe. Five football myths that most people still believe. – Opera News. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://ng.opera.news/ng/en/sports/9a9257ad8ad1f3d1711555b3dfc3c52f

[9] The Katy News, E. (2021, July 5). Does gymnastics stunt your growth? The Katy News. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://thekatynews.com/2021/07/05/does-gymnastics-stunt-your-growth/

[10] ACTIVE, E. (2017, May 19). 7 basketball rules myths. ACTIVE.com. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.active.com/basketball/articles/7-basketball-rules-myths

[11] Lee, A. (2017, October 2). 15 major misconceptions in Sports. Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2421655-15-major-misconceptions-in-sports

[12] Olympic Channel, W. (2021, May 16). Michael Phelps’ 10000 calories diet: What the American swimmer ate while training for Beijing Olympics? Olympics.com. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://olympics.com/en/featured-news/michael-phelps-10000-calories-diet-what-the-american-swimmer-ate-while-training-

[13] Century, C. (2019, April 19). 3 boxing myths and truths. Gloveworx. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.gloveworx.com/blog/3-boxing-myths-and-truths/

[14] Bhat, H. (2022, January 3). Myths and misconceptions about karate. Martial Arts Dubai. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://martialartdxb.com/myths-and-misconceptions-about-karate/

[15] Blue Buoy, E. (2018, August 21). Top 6 swimming myths debunked by swimming experts. Blue Buoy. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://bluebuoy.com/top-6-swimming-myths-debunked-by-swimming-experts/

[16] Sports Management Degree Hub, E. (2014, March 15). Common myths surrounding the professional sports industry. Sports Management Degree Hub. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.sportsmanagementdegreehub.com/common-myths-surrounding-the-professional-sports-industry/

[17] Scarborough, D. N. (2022, July 26). Top 10 NBA myths and theories people believe are true. Fun daily top 10 lists you’ll love to explore. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://toptens.fun/show/top-10-nba-myths-and-theories-people-believe-are-true

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