Sports conspiracies still alive and kicking
When Mike Vanderjagt shanked the game-tying field goal against the Steelers, it was certainly a tragedy.
But was it a crime?
Not long after, my mind began to wonder: "What if he did it on purpose?"
Of course, when I floated this to my radio cohorts as a mere possibility (mind you, not a probability, or even a conclusion) I was laughed and hooted down like the idiot on the corner wearing a conspiracy of the week sandwich board.
And yeah. I'm a guy who is a bit prone to imagining possible sports conspiracies. That the Patrick Ewing lottery was rigged to help the Knicks with a frozen envelope. That the 1990 UNLV team was paid to take a dive. That the 26 fourth quarter free-throws awarded the Lakers against the Kings in L.A. on that game six evening could NOT have been coincidental ...
You know... stuff like that.
But realize this. Crimes and conspiracies sometimes DO occur in sports. History is chock full of examples that blow your mind in retrospect. Things that happened, where you say to yourself: "I can't f-ing believe that really happened!"
Pete Rose betting on baseball.
Tonya Harding having her boyfriend club her rival on the knee.
Art Modell actually moving the Browns out of Cleveland.
Barry Bonds and everyone else shootin', gulpin' and rubbin' 'roids.
An Olympic figure skating judge admitting she took bribes.
Let's not be totally naïve, everybody. If you still are, then watch the HBO Real Sports special where they talk to a former felon who claims he had then Iowa running back Ronnie Harmon "in his pocket" with gambling debts during college. You watch the piece and say, "Yeah, right. You are the ex-con, why should I believe you?"
And then you watch Ronnie Harmon fumble FOUR TIMES in the first half of the Rose Bowl, when he had fumbled just once or twice all year.
Then you say, "Geez, I really am stupid to believe everything."
So all that being said, you absolutely must keep open the possibility that Mike Vanderjagt missed that kick on purpose. And perhaps he even enjoyed doing so in the process of exacting ultimate revenge on two guys he hates more than a missed field goal on his resume: Peyton Manning and Bill Polian.
Sure, it would be a sporting crime so abhorrent, you can hardly get your head around it. Sort of like Andrea Yates drowning her kids in the bathtub. When these things happen, anyone's initial and overwhelming instinct is to say, "No way!"
But let me play David Caruso for a moment on "CSI Miami," as I roll up to the scene of the incident and whip off my glasses while posing with my hand on my hip.
Horatio Czabe: "Well boys, what do we have here?"
Officer #1: "Dead football team. And a pretty one, too. 14-2, threw the ball a lot, scored points. Damn shame."
Horatio Czabe: "What's the cause of death?"
Officer #2: "Missed field goal. They always get ya. Just wrong time, wrong place for this team. Real tragedy."
Horatio Czabe: "Was there anything unusual about the missed FG?"
Officer #1: "Other than that it was a wounded duck? No."
Horatio Czabe: "Wounded duck? Like how?"
Officer #2: "Pretty ugly boss. Started right, kept going right. Never had a chance."
Horatio Czabe: "What are the chances a field goal like that, kills a team like this, this time of year?"
Officer #1: "Not likely. The kicker hadn't missed all season inside the dome. Shocked everybody. Even the kicker looked stunned."
Horatio Czabe: "Where's the kicker now?"
Officer #2: "We sent him home. Seemed very upset and all. No use having him sit around here."
Horatio Czabe: "Oh yeah. The hell it ain't. I want crime scene tape around this whole Dome, and you go find that kicker and bring him downtown. Something ain't right."
Officer #1: "You sure, chief? I mean, the bureau won't like this. You're saying the kicker might have had a role in this? Done it on purpose? Why would he do anything like that?"
Horatio Czabe: "Well, there are some things you don't know about this guy. Never liked the QB. Once called him out on a Canadian TV show. Questioned his leadership. The QB didn't like that one bit. Called him an "idiot kicker" on national TV at the Pro Bowl. Bad blood."
Officer #2: "But that wouldn't lead him to kill the entire season. I mean the guy has to come back and play with that team next year."
Horatio Czabe: "Not exactly. Free agent. Likely was gonna leave anyway. Hated the GM. Been feuding there as well. Bad blood, really bad blood."
Officer #1: "But come on, lieutenant. Gary Anderson missed his first one of the year for the Vikings in 1999 at the worst possible time. Cost them a Super Bowl, too. Nobody ever questioned him."
Horatio Czabe: "But go back to the tape. That kick had a chance. If he wanted to miss it, he damn near failed. Plus, he was a clean citizen on that team. Everybody liked him. No bad blood. This Vanderjagt. He's different. I've been watching him..."
Officer #2: "OK boss, but I think you're crazy."
Horatio Czabe: "I don't care what you think, dammit! Where's our kicker?
(SQUELCH OF POLICE RADIO) "We've got one Vanderjagt, comma, Michael. Reportedly on the set of a television show in downtown New York. OVER. Squeeeeelch. Confirm. Suspect appearing with one Letterman, comma, David. OVER."
Horatio Czabe: "Well well well. That's pretty odd for a guy you just said seemed all 'broken up' over this. Either this guy has a little Scott Peterson in him, or my hunch was right all along."
(Putting a flashing red bubble light on his unmarked cruiser)
Bay View Hopper said: Conspiracies are good for all types of businesses.
Steve I. said: Tom Meyer - glad I'm not the only one that found that entire situation "discomforting." The Packers were so dominating in both their SB victory & the following season. When it came time for the big game, it looked like someone spiked their Gatorade with a Prozac, Xanax, Paxil & Zoloft cocktail. I've never seen a SB game where one team looked so lethargic & out of it...
Adam Thomas said: Czabe, if you wrote for CSI, I might just watch. I hadnt thought about the whole Conspiracy Angle concerning Vandy's kick, but now it seems likey that it could have happened. The only thing worse would have been if he just walked up to Peytons locker and left a duece in his cleats.
Tom Meyer said: Czabe: Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life. End over end, neither left nor the right... Cold case file: Any chance you could look at the 1998 Super Bowl? Suspicion is the NFL gave one to Denver and John Elway. Holmgren is the Stool Pigeon.
Jon D. said: The issue wasn't how much Jordan was losing with regards to what he was making. It was that gambling is a big taboo in all sports and David Stern didn't want his golden child facing a lifetime banishment. So MJ was "influenced" to sit out and let the whole gambling issue "go away" by leaving the limelight for awhile.
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