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Sports Conspiracies with Cole: The Flu Game

Sports Conspiracies: Flu Game

Welcome to Sports Conspiracies with Cole! This will be a series investigating some of the most famous conspiracies in sports history. But the investigation doesn’t have to stop here. You (the reader) can go and vote on Twitter! The vote depends on if you think the conspiracy is fact or fiction based on the case I make for each side of the argument. So without further ado, Sports Conspiracies with Cole!

Hope you all enjoy!

The first conspiracy we will look at is Michael Jordan’s famous ‘Flu Game’ in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Jordan was told he shouldn’t play by doctors, but he mustered enough strength to put on a 38 point performance to put the Bulls up 3-2 in the series. But how did he get sick? There are two sides to this question. Some say he was hungover (*cough* Jalen Rose *cough*). But the most common argument is food poisoning from a pizza ordered the night before.

The Case FOR Each Argument

“The Hangover Game”

If Michael Jordan truly did have the flu like many people believed at the time, why would the Bulls play him? The flu is very contagious and the symptoms were showing, so why risk getting some of the other Bulls’ players sick? But like I said, it’s been disproved that it was just the flu, and the argument is between being hungover and having food poisoning.

Many basketball fans know of Jordan’s love for gambling and partying. M.J. was known to be out partying before games throughout his career. Jordan even would drink the day of games. Former Chicago Blackhawk, Jeremy Roenick, told a story from the early 90’s about Jordan drinking 10 Bud Lights on the golf course and then dropping 52 on the Cleveland Cavaliers that night. Clearly Jordan had drank before games in the past.

There were stories that Jordan had stayed out until 4 AM the night before Conference Finals games in New York, so staying out late drinking before the Finals is not out of the realm of possibility for his airness. Former NBA player now analyst, Jalen Rose claimed on the Bill Simmons Podcast, that MJ may have been sick in the famous game, but he believes that he was hungover.

Like I previously stated, Jordan had a history of drinking the day of games, and partying the nights before playoff games. On top of that, Jalen Rose has made accusations that Jordan was hungover in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals. Considering all that, it is tough to rule out that “The Flu Game” wasn’t actually “The Hangover Game”.

“The Food Poisoning Game”

What if I told you that a piece of Pizza almost ended the Bulls dynasty in the 1990’s. (Espn.com)

“So we order a pizza, they come to deliver it, five guys come to deliver this pizza. And I’m just … I take the pizza, and I tell them, I said, ‘I got a bad feeling about this.’ I said, ‘I just got a bad feeling about this.’ Out of everybody in the room, he was the only one that ate. Nobody else … then 2 o’clock in the morning, I get a call to my room. I come to the room, he’s curled up, he’s curled up in the fetal position. We’re looking at him. We’re finding the team physician at that time. And immediately I said, ‘It’s food poisoning.’ Guaranteed. Not the flu.”

-Tim Grover, Chicago Sun Times April 18, 2013

Tim Grover was Michael Jordan’s trainer at the time. That is the case for food poisoning.

The Case AGAINST Each Argument

“The Hangover Game”

A hangover and food poisoning both leave you with possible nausea, an upset stomach, and dehydration. Michael Jordan looked as if he had experienced all 3 of those symptoms throughout the game. But for those of you have experienced hangovers, Jordan looked like he was battling through a lot more than just a hangover. Unless he was milking a bad hangover, Jordan looked like he was on the verge of collapsing multiple times.

I know I talked about instances where Jordan went out before games. But this game had too many championship implications to do such a thing. It was tied 2-2 in Utah. Quick side-note, don’t know how many good places there are to go out in Utah. Sorry Utah. But the Bulls needed to take home a victory to sure up their shot at another championship. Sure he liked to drink and party the nights before games, but Jordan is one of the best of all time and had to of recognize that going out the night before that game would be a huge mistake.

“The Food Poisoning Game”

Surely no human can go through what MJ went through that night in Utah. Food poisoning is brutal, and if not taken care of properly, the affected could faint from dehydration. People who experience food poisoning go through many episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. And from what we saw in Game 5, Jordan didn’t do either. Maybe at half time Jordan got some treatment, but I mean come on, playing 44 minutes on food poisoning? It’s possible, but plausibility? Different story.

Combine all that with the vigor and fatigue that one experiences in an NBA basketball game. All the sweat and loss of fluids paired with dehydration, how did Jordan not pass out?

In Conclusion…

Both sides certainly have an intriguing case with points for and against them. What do you all think? Vote on Twitter! Was he hungover? Or did some bad pizza do MJ in?


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Cole Raines
I'm a student, college athlete, and a sports junkie. I will be covering the NBA and the MLB.
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/raines-radio/id1487373873?uo=4
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