Records are a constant in sports. It’s always entertaining to see the unattainable be attained, to witness athletic greatness. But there are times where how these records are broken make you shake your head. You wonder why and how. In my opinion, here are the 5 phoniest records in sports. This list is in no particular order, just the 5 phoniest records in sports.
1: Michael Strahan sets the single-season sacks record
Michael Strahan set the NFL’s single season sack record in 2001 at 22.5 (a mark which was later tied by T.J. Watt in 2021). During a Week 17 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, it appeared that Brett Favre took a dive to allow Strahan to “sack” him, and thus get the record. It should be noted that on that play, Michael Strahan was completely unblocked, which led to a theory that the play was designed that way by the Packers to get Strahan the record. Contemporary accounts argued that Strahan shouldn’t have received the record due to the dubious nature of the play, but nonetheless, the record stood.
2: Oh, what a shame!
Sadaharu Oh is the Japanese Babe Ruth. The Samurai of Swat is the all-time home runs leader at 868 career home runs in a storied career with the Yomiyuri Giants, who are basically the Japanese New York Yankees for their decades of dominance, that lasted from 1959-1980. To put those 868 home runs in perspective, that’s 113 more than Hank Aaron and 154 more than Babe Ruth. Barry Bonds hit 713 home runs in his career, one shy of Ruth. Oh also holds numerous Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) batting records, and was the holder of the most home runs in a single season at 55 in 1964 until it was broken in 2013 by Wladimir Balentien. What makes this record is phony is the length Sadaharu Oh went to to protect his record during his time as a manager. From 1984-1988, Oh was the Yomiyuri Giants manager, and in 1985, the first attempt to protect his record occurred. American player Randy Bass of the Hanshin Tigers was on a hot streak, and was primed to break Oh’s record. Going into the last game of the season against the Oh managed Giants, he had 54 home runs on the season, and the Giants walked Bass during every one of his at-bats. Oh denied giving his pitchers orders to walk Bass, but one of his pitchers, an American named Keith Comstock, said he was threatened by a Giants coach to be fined $1,000 for each strike he threw to Bass. In 2001, American player Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes had tied Oh at 55 home runs. When Tuffy Rhodes and the Osaka Kinetsu Buffaloes faced the Sadaharu Oh managed Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, Oh had his pitchers intentionally walk Rhodes. Hawks pitcher Keisaburo Tanoue said he felt bad about the situation and wanted to throw strikes at Rhodes, and Hawks pitching coach Yoshiharu Wakana said he didn’t want a foreign player beating Oh’s record. In 2002, Venezuelan player Alex Cabrera tied Oh at 55 home runs. Guess where this is going. Eventually, Oh’s record was broken in 2013 when Wladimir Balentien hit 60 home runs.
3: Even the newspaper called this out
Geno Auriemma has had a storied career as the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut. His 11 national championships are the most all-time in women’s college basketball. But one incident in 1998 serves as a stain on his illustrious career. Nykesha Sales was about to become UConn’s all-time leading scorer, but had a season ending Achilles injury. Sales was so dominant that Auriemma would sit her on the bench to avoid accusations of running up the score. So, Auriemma contacted Villanova head coach Harry Perretta before their upcoming match. Villanova would allow an injured Sales to limp out onto the court, score an uncontested layup to get the record, then Connecticut would allow Villanova to score an uncontested layup, and then the real game would begin. Auriemma had even contacted the commissioner of the Big East Conference to ensure it wasn’t a big deal. But it was. As devastating an injury as an Achilles heel is, Sales got the record in a staged shot and a questionable manner. Even The Hartford Courant newspaper called it out, running a headline the next day that simply read “What a farce.”
4: The Florida Flop
“I guess they just wanted to humiliate us, and they did,” said Miami Hurricanes head football coach Fran Curci after their 1971 loss to the Florida Gators. Entering the 1971 matchup between the Florida Gators and the Miami Hurricanes, Florida quarterback John Reaves was aiming for Jim Plunkett’s all-time college football passing record. The game was a lopsided affair in favor of the Gators, and Reaves was going to be just 14 yards shy of the record. So the Gators defense flopped and let Miami score a meaningless touchdown late in the game to get the ball back so Reaves could get the record. On a 15 yard pass to Carlos Alvarez, he got it. At this point in time, the old Miami Orange Bowl stadium had a giant fountain for a live dolphin mascot for the Miami Dolphins NFL team, and Florida players celebrated by jumping into said fountain. Miami coach Fran Curci was so disgusted, he stormed off the field without shaking the hand of Florida coach Doug Dickey. Curci referred to it as a “bush league stunt”, and Dickey denied having any knowledge the flop would happen. The Gators defense letting Miami score to get the ball back so Reaves could achieve the record has gone down in college football lore as “The Florida Flop.”
5: Tour de Steroids
In the 2000’s, Lance Armstrong made cycling cool and put it into the American zeitgeist. His media presence was bolstered by him rattling off 7 consecutive wins in the Tour de France from 1999-2005, and did so after surviving testicular cancer. This experience with a life threatening metastatic testicular cancer led to Armstrong founding Livestrong Foundation to assist cancer survivors. However, a massive doping scandal proved to be his downfall. Despite retiring in 2011, it was revealed in 2012 through a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation that Armstrong had used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs throughout his career. The scandal was so big, it has its own Wikipedia article. Accusations of Armstrong being on steroids dates back to 1999 when he won his first Tour de France. The whistleblower on all this was former teammate Floyd Landis, whose 2006 Tour de France win was stripped for doping. Armstrong was forced to vacate his 7 Tour de France wins as a result. Despite denying using PEDs, he eventually admitted to it in a 2013 interview with Oprah.