|Sports provided two moments in the past week so extraordinary, so magical and so emotional that they produced lumps in the throat the size of Midwestern hailstones and left grown men sobbing as if they were Oksana Baiul.
On Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a race on the same Daytona track where his father died in February, taking the lead along the same stretch of asphalt
where Earnhardt Sr. crashed. Three days later, Cal Ripken Jr. hit the first pitch thrown to him in his final All-Star Game for a home run to earn game MVP honors.
Unfortunately, those cheering, sniffling fans were the victims of shamelessly calculated hoaxes designed to boost ratings and steal headlines. Or so say the conspiracy theorists clogging the Internet with claims that drivers held back to allow Earnhardt Jr. a victory and that pitcher Chan Ho Park grooved a belt-high fastball to Ripken so he could go out in a blaze of glory.
That's one of the problems with the Internet. Anyone with a computer can flood the web with ridiculous rumors that have absolutely no basis in fact -- and some of them don't even originate from Matt Drudge.
To believe these latest theories you have to be so cynical you don't even weep at the end of "Brian's Song."
All the drivers get together and agree to throw the race to a competitor they've been whipping regularly for the past four months? C'mon.
|Perhaps Cal Ripken Jr. is responsible for those concentric circles found in Iowa cornfields.|
Bud Selig being capable of orchestrating anything more involved than the Beer Barrel Polka? Please. And if Park was going to groove a fastball to Ripken, why did he throw it at a very ungroove-like speed of 92 mph?
Sadly, we live in a cynical world, where nothing beyond the routine can happen in sports without someone raising somebody's suspicion. Consider Cal's streak, which according to one outlandish rumor was supposedly kept alive by a supposed fake power outage at Camden Yards after the Iron Man supposedly was arrested for supposedly beating up Kevin Costner after supposedly catching the actor supposedly sleeping with his wife. The rumor spread enough that Costner even went on the radio to deny it.
Thank goodness he did. You would hate to have people believe such nonsense. It simply didn't happen. Cal actually beat up Costner for making "For Love of the Game."
Even more unbelievable conspiracy theories surround the two sports figures and in the interest of accuracy, Page 2's Lone Gunmen separate fact from paranoia.
Theory No. 1: Cal replaced by a clone
|Was Little E's car really running on water in the Pepsi 400?|
Ripken actually died just before the streak began in 1982, when he was hit in the head by a fastball from Seattle pitcher Matt Young. Rather than risk this blemish on the game's image, baseball covered up the death by substituting him with the first human clones, which were repeatedly replaced during the streak.
Or so say the theorists who also claim the Orioles fired Cal Ripken Sr. just six games into the 1988 season to maintain his silence. They further claim that if you play John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" backward, the lyrics really say, "Cal is dead."
Verdict: Absolutely, ridiculously false. While it is true a Seattle pitcher beaned Cal just before the streak, the pitcher was Mike Moore, not Matt
Young. And when you play "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" backward, it really says, "Syd Thrift knows what he's doing."
Theory No. 2: Little E drives gasless car
|Was Ripken's name really inscribed on the MVP trophy before the game began?|
General Motors produced a car fueled by water in 1974, but the oil companies bought all the models before they could reach showrooms, destroyed the designs and sold the engineers into slavery along the West Africa coast. Exxon periodically provided the Earnhardt family with the special Chevrolets, saving the Earnhardts innumerable pit stops.
Or so claim the conspiracy theorists who say Exxon had Dale Sr. killed when he threatened to go public by sabotaging his seat belt.
Verdict: Unbelievably, ludicrously false. C'mon. Who would buy a car that runs on H2O when bottled water is $2 a pint?
Theory No. 3: Cal's baseball card laced with acid
Angered that Ichiro left his native country to play in the United States, a Japanese Baseball Doomsday Cult has coated Ripken baseball cards with LSD.
Or so say the conspiracy theorists, who claim the cult wants to get American youth so high from touching the LSD-tainted cards that they can't play Little
League anymore and will lose their competitive edge.
Verdict: False, false, false. There is no Japanese Baseball Doomsday Cult. The Ripken LSD cards are special inserts in Upper Deck waxpacks and have no effect on American youth because collectors immediately store them in inch-thick protective sleeves.
Theory No. 4: Dale Scully-Earnhardt III
|No, this Ripken baseball card is not laced with acid.|
Although "X-Files" producer Chris Carter first led everyone to believe that Scully was impregnated by aliens and later hinted Mulder is the father, the
actual father is Earnhardt Jr. Or so claim conspiracy theorists, who say Area 51 engineers also are working on a special Earnhardt race car capable of
reaching 400 mph in second gear.
Verdict: False. Give us a break. Everyone knows Ripken is the father of Scully's baby.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories