It's hard to believe, but in some ways Americans were even more gullible in the 1960s and 1970s than we are now. When I was a kid, there was only one fast-food restaurant in my populous New York suburb, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, which we went to occasionally (who would have guessed that I like fast food?) until suddenly we stopped. When I asked my parents why, they got all serious and told me a neighbor had told them that someone had found a rat (probably "Original Recipe" -- I don't think "Extra Crispy" yet existed) in a bucket of chicken and thus we weren't going any more. And we didn't. It wasn't until years later that I learned the same bogus rumor was spread about KFCs from coast to coast.
Flash forward to 2010, and we have a new and improved version. Any time that (insert your local sports team here) is having an unexpected slump now, it's always for the same reason: Player A is having an affair with Player B's wife! At least that's what somebody who knows somebody who works with somebody who knows somebody with access to the locker room says. (And yes, it did really happen somewhere...England.) It's no secret that the Flyers created the American template: The conventional wisdom now is that they were always a Stanley Cup Finals team that nearly missed the playoffs because either a) "The Rumor" was true or b) "The Rumor" was false but players were tired of hearing about it and suffered on the ice.
Now, a certain Philadelphia sports franchise -- I will not disclose which -- is disappointing its growing bandwagon of amped-up fans, and so there can only be one reason: Player A is slepping with Player B's wife. (Want details? Use the Internet -- the lies are out there.) Like I said, I have no idea what happened with the Flyers but in this new case the rumor looks and sounds completely absurd -- the language in the blog post that's getting some buzz reads very much like it was copied from the Flyers' rumor, which to me practically screams "Hoax!" Nevertheless, it's getting picked up by some widely read blogs and is the source of chatter in the usual places.
There is a rat here -- just not in the bucket of fried chicken. For one thing, Player A would have to be sleeping with the wives and girlfriends of about seven or eight players in this team's lineup, since that's how many of them are underperforming. Also, Team X is losing because...it's sports. The difference between the best team and the worst teams in sports isn't really that great -- a squad that seems to be in the middle of a long dynasty can lose its mojo overnight. Sometimes they get it back, and sometimes that don't. And sometimes people get slandered by people looking for easy answers...or Web traffic.