On Saturday, America will mark the 40th anniversary of one of its saddest days, the assassination of JFK. But Americans are nothing if not resilient, and out of that terrible tragedy came one of our greatest creations, a game anybody can play at any time the conspiracy theory. As with most ur-American things, the conspiracy theory can also be applied to sports, where it is best used in explaining the otherwise unexplainable, as the Writers' Bloc here demonstrates.

Eric Adelson
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Cubbie Conspiracy

Steve Bartman did not act alone.

Dan Shanoff
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Off-the-Record Conspiracy

Blind item (a la Page Six)

Which stadium's light system mysteriously went on the fritz after the home team's ferrous star was rumored to have needed the night off after finding himself on the losing end of fisticuffs with one of Hollywood's most boffo box-office bulls, after the actor was rumored to have crashed the athlete's marriage with a little cuckold-style canoodling?

Note: The above account was later debunked. Or so "they" say.

Patrick Hruby
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Loose Lips Sink Conspiracies

Conspiracies? Don't buy 'em. Never have. Yeah, it might be comforting to believe in Area 51, a rigged NBA draft, 12 Jewish bankers in Zurich controlling the world. In fact, it probably beats the alternative -- namely, the cold, hard realization that: a) those flashing lights in the sky are a byproduct of inhaling toxic jet fumes; b) your crappy team is going to bungle the No. 8 pick, anyway; c) Steve Carlton wouldn't know an Iluminanti from a Freemason.

Still, there's a big difference between palatable and plausible. Not that Oliver Stone ever noticed.

Try this: Get four of your friends together. Go to Blockbuster. Now settle on a movie (one that doesn't feature Andrew Stevens and/or a Tweed sister). Hard to agree, isn't it? So what makes you think the Trilateral Commission has it any easier?

The truth of the matter is that if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself, be it faking Tupac's death or making sure the Lakers shoot 30-plus fourth quarter free throws. Add in accomplices, co-conspirators, massive bureaucratic organizations -- in essence, other people -- and things get flubbed.

Take the CIA: They dropped the ball on 9/11, misread Iraqi WMDs and were played for suckers by the likes of Aldrich Ames, who only drove a new Jag that cost more than his annual salary ... to work! And this is the same band of masterminds that's supposedly speaking through an earpiece to Lee Harvey Oswald? Please.

Of course, I could be writing this as part of a massive cover-up. After all, those usually involve the media. Or do they? (Cue X-Files music)

Robert Lipsyte
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Absolute Power Makes Conspiracies Go 'Round

Not all conspiracies are necessarily bad. I think the Bush administration's decision to ask Chicago and Boston to tank was inspired. (By the way, only a few pitchers and hitters were involved.) This was no time to give heart to second-rate powers -- read Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea -- who might suddenly think they could go up against the "Yankees." I think it's absurd to think New York tanked as a cover-up. Look for Grady Little to start drawing consulting fees from Halliburton's Baghdad Stadium project.

Steve Wulf
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The Conspiracy Heard 'round the World

SCENE I: A coffee shop, just down the street from the Polo Grounds, 9 a.m., Oct. 3, 1951. A tall man in a dark overcoat nurses his cup of coffee with one eye on the door. The door swings open, and a fellow in a plaid jacket walks in, spots the tall man, then slides into the booth opposite him.

"Morning, Bobby."

"Morning, Ralph. Still sure you want to go through with it?"

"Not really. But I've thought it through, and I think we can make a fortune."

"Me too. If it goes the way we talked about, we'll be set up for life."

"Yeah, we'll be signing the same ball for the next 50 years, 1,000 balls a year, at least a dollar a pop."

"Don't forget about inflation. How do you think it'll play out, Ralph?"

"I'll be coming out of the bullpen in the ninth. We'll be up by two with one out when you come up. Let the first pitch go by for a strike. Then I'll throw you my change of pace."

"We've already got a system in place to steal your signs, you know."

"You think you've got a system in place to steal our signs. We caught on to that back in September."

"You know, if I do hit a big homer off you, it could be The Shot Heard Round The Five Boroughs."


SCENE II: The same coffee shop, 9 a.m. the next day. The man in the plaid jacket is seated in the booth, drinking coffee and nursing a hangover, when the door opens and the man in the dark overcoat, collar up, slips into the booth.

"Morning, Ralph."

"Morning, Bobby. Saw you on 'The Perry Como Show' last night. You looked pretty happy."

"Felt pretty guilty, too."

"Why should you? I'm the one who's guilty I crossed you. Threw you a fastball on 0-and- 1."

"I knew you would, though. I knew you couldn't go through with it."

"You did?"

"Sure. I was looking fastball all the way."

"My lawyer called this morning. A guy from 'The Ed Sullivan Show' wants us both for a musical number."

"Oh, God. I guess it's starting."

"Remember, we're in this together."

"Yeah, 'til hell freezes over."


"Bobby, can you do one thing for me?"

"What is it, Ralph?"

"Can you sign this ball for my nephew? He's a huge Giants fan."

"Be happy to."

Eric Neel
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Do You Believe In Conspiracies? YES!

I'm no conspiracy theorist -- though I do think there were dark forces at work in putting together that godawful Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts picture a few years back -- but I've got serious doubts that we ever actually pulled off this whole land-on-the-moon thing. What evidence do we have, other than some supposedly "live" video footage and some shaky audio? Kennedy makes a speech, and to keep his legacy intact, they cook up a little closed-circuit theater a few years later.

I know it can be done. I've seen it on Columbo and I've seen "Capricorn One." It makes perfect sense -- you show the people something they want to see, something to stir their hearts, make them believe in the power of the human spirit, blahdy-blah, and everybody's happy. Think about it, it has been done dozens of times since: the Miracle Mets ring a bell? Willis Reed on that bum knee? The Miracle on Ice? Lorenzo Charles? The Drive? Pats over Rams? Ohio State over Miami? We're talking good video. Too good, if you ask me.

Peter Keating
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The Charles Oakley/Smith Conspiracy

One of the most outrageous sports conspiracies of all time involves the New York Knicks and Patrick Ewing. Among buffs, it's common knowledge that when the Georgetown grad went up for grabs in the 1985 NBA lottery, David Stern rigged the results so that the college game's best player would end up in the pro game's biggest market.

And all the Knicks had to give up in return were their rights to a decent small forward for the next 20 years.

Shaun Assael
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The King Of All Conspiracy Theories

Richard Petty was two days past celebrating his 47th birthday, missing half his stomach, and nearly deaf in one ear. His historic bid for win No. 200 was clouded in controversy, too. After win No. 198 in Charlotte the prior fall, Petty's brother had refused to submit their engine to inspection until NASCAR officials made some private guarantees.

Now Ronald Reagan had come to Charlotte on July 4, 1984, to see if The King could do it again.

NASCAR's owner, Bill France, Jr., knew it was a turning point. The race was going out over national TV. And Petty, who wouldn't win another race after this day, was his most mainstream attraction.

Cale Yarborough -- fated to be Joe Frazier to Petty's Muhammad Ali -- was inches from The King's bumper on Lap 157 as the leaders spilled from Turn 1. But in a devastating twist for Yarborough, a caution flag suddenly flew, setting up a mad dash to the finish. Yarborough nailed the lead on the backstretch, but Petty got a wind boost from the lapped cars ahead to pull even from Turn 4. The pair dueled to the finish. Petty won by a foot.

"Maybe those lapped cars wouldn't have been there for him to draft if the race had gone to lap 160," a stunned Yarborough said afterward.

As the 20th anniversary of the race nears, NASCAR has the national stature that France dreamed about on that day. Funny the way these things work out, huh?

Jim Caple
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The One Size Fits All Conspiracy

This happened to a friend of a friend of mine, and he swears it's true.

He was at spring training last year and standing at the frozen margarita stand at the Giants game in Scottsdale. They asked him whether he wanted the blue margarita, which costs $7 but "doesn't have any actual alcohol," or the red margarita, which costs $5 "but really gives you a bad hangover." He picked the red one and the next thing he knew, he was strapped to a dissecting table in the Alcor cryogenic laboratory, which, as it turns out, served as the studio for the fake 1969 moon landing and the censored, never-seen 2001-02 season of "The Sopranos."

He says the lab is run by the CIA, the FBI, the DoD and ESPN Classic. He says he saw Ted Williams, Steve Bartman, Dale Earnhardt, Amelia Earhart, JFK, Elvis, Bigfoot, the Roswell alien, Yuoppi!, the real Paul McCartney, the liberal media, the New York City sewer alligators and five clones of Cal Ripken Jr. He says they're being forced to work on Barry Bonds' maple bats, baseballs that go 500 feet when hit on the commissioner's signature, special yardsticks for Al Davis that are 11 yards long, Gale Sayers throwback jerseys and a Chevrolet that runs on water, goes 300 mph, never needs new tires and can display more than 1,000 decals.

He says they're slicing up the missing Florida presidential ballots, lacing them with THG and inserting them into Upper Deck baseball cards that are sold only to Bonds, Jason Giambi and the Oakland Raiders. He says that at night the lab's Men in Blue fly all over the country in black helicopters and then sneak into stadiums so they can fluoridate the water jugs and mow those strange designs into the outfield grass and re-bury Jimmy Hoffa's body in a different endzone.

He says they're injecting ovulating Laker Girls wearing Brandi Chastain's jog bra and the NFL pants Britney Spears wore during the Super Bowl halftime show with Flo-Jo's DNA, and letting Wilt Chamberlain sleep with a different one every night and selling the babies on the black market. He says LeBron James was born this way 26 years ago, but that Danny Almonte's dad doctored the birth certificate so he could dominate high school opponents and be the first pick in the draft. He says Rush Limbaugh is laundering the profits to fund the Contras in Afghanistan and pay off David Stern and the NBA referees so they'll never call any fouls on Shaq.

He says they surgically inserted the steel plate from Don Zimmer and the brain from Grady Little into his head and that he can now pick up HBO without a dish but only wants to watch TV-Land reruns and, worse, he can't remember to turn off the TV when he goes to bed.

He says they let him go in the morning and told him to go to Vegas and put his money down on Howard Dean and the Cubs in 2004, but to avoid Celine Dion's show.

Of course, he also says they explained the plot to "The Matrix 2" and he says it now makes perfect sense to him, so I'm not sure that he's all that reliable.


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