10 Plausible Sports Conspiracy Theories


The Super Bowl 'Blackout' was Rigged

Joe Flacco, No. 5 of the Baltimore Ravens, looks on during the power outage in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans in 2013. Some Ravens players think the blackout happened on purpose. Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images
Joe Flacco, No. 5 of the Baltimore Ravens, looks on during the power outage in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans in 2013. Some Ravens players think the blackout happened on purpose. Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans was a tale of two games: before the blackout and after the blackout.

The Baltimore Ravens dominated the San Francisco 49ers in the first half, and extended their lead in the opening minutes of the second half with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, making the score 28 to6 [source: Yasinskas].

Then, to the shock of the fans in the stadium and the worldwide TV audience, the lights went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. For nearly 35 minutes, stadium officials struggled to regain power. Meanwhile, players shuffled around the field, unsure of when the game would resume.

Some Baltimore players immediately jumped to conclusions. "They're trying to take our momentum," Baltimore safety Ed Reed remembers his teammates grumbling. And that's exactly what happened. When the lights came back on, it felt like a totally new game, with the 49ers rallying for 17 points in only 4 minutes and almost stealing the 2013 Super Bowl away from the stunned Ravens [source: Yasinskas].

An investigation determined that either a malfunctioning switch or an incorrect electrical setting was to blame for the blackout, but that didn't stop the conspiracy theorists [source: Hanna]. Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis still insists that it was a ploy by NFL management to halt a potential blowout.

"I'm not gonna accuse nobody of nothing— because I don't know facts," Lewis told NFL films. "But you're a zillion-dollar company, and your lights go out? No. [Laughs] No way."

Author's Note: 10 Plausible Sports Conspiracies

I'm highly skeptical of conspiracy theories. I have a hard time believing that anyone would risk their career, their reputation or even jail time just to pull off an elaborate scam. But then I read about characters like Bobby Riggs, someone desperate enough to engineer an elaborate publicity stunt, selling himself as a chauvinist pig and a braggart — not to mention a lousy tennis player — in order to free himself from gambling debt. Or the Utah fans who may or may not have poisoned Michael Jordan to prevent him from playing in the finals. Sports tap into some deeply engrained instincts — tribalism, conquest, violence — and when combined with lots and lots of money, I guess anything is possible.

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