We like to assume professional athletes and coaches possess a certain level of knowledge of the world and, in particular, the sports they play. Then someone like Lions rookie cornerback Darius Slay comes along and says he thought that Green Bay's legendary football stadium—one of the most hallowed venues in sports—was named after Lamborghinis. But to be fair, our faith had been rattled by these footballers long before Slay's Lambeau fumble.
Gap in knowledge: The word “schism” has nothing to do with sexually transmitted diseases
In 2008, a reported rift between Vikings players over whether Tarvaris Jackson or Brett Favre should be the starting quarterback led writers to describe the situation as a locker-room “schism.” Defensive end Jared Allen took issue with the characterization: “I don’t know where this came from. I don’t think anybody on this team knows what schism is, let alone could use it in a sentence. I thought it was an STD when I first heard it. And I was like whoa, we preach abstinence around these parts.”
Gap in knowledge: The structure of the NFL
On a 2012 episode of Hard Knocks, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is revealed to have little, if any, knowledge of the NFL’s divisional organization. “I wasn’t a huge pro fan growing up; I wasn’t loyal to one team,” said Tannehill, “so I don’t really know the divisions, even conferences.”
Gap in knowledge: In the NFL, there doesn’t always need to be a winner and a loser
Following a disappointing 13-13 tie to the Cincinnati Bengals in November of 2008, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb stepped to the podium and revealed the modest limits of his book knowledge. “I’ve never been part of a tie," he said. "I never even knew that was in the rule book."
Gaps in knowledge: 1. That NFL games can end in a tie, and, evidently 2. That Donovan McNabb had already embarrassed himself in front of millions of TV viewers by not knowing the same fact
Four years after McNabb’s post-game gaffe, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola, then with the Rams, told SI’s Peter King he expected his team’s 24-24 tie against the San Francisco 49ers to go into a second overtime. At least his flub eluded the singular public humiliation of a nationally televised press conference—King merely tweeted out Amendola’s quote.
Gap in knowledge: Kindergarden-level geography
The week before a 2007 game against the New York Giants in London, Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder professed he didn’t exactly know where his team would be traveling that week. “I couldn’t find London on a map if they didn’t have the names of the countries. I swear to God.” But at least Crowder knew that Italy “looks like a boot.”
Gap in knowledge: Name-checking a theoretical physicist can backfire if you don’t know his name
Former Redskins legend Joe Theismann may be one of today’s most respected NFL studio voices, but in 1992 he biffed on one of the most commonly-known names in history when he said, “Nobody in the game of football should be called a genius. A genius is somebody like Norman Einstein." Theismann later tried to cover up by claiming he was referring to a high school classmate.
Gap in knowledge: Circumcision and NFL rules do not go hand-in-hand
Circumventing NFL rules is, in most situations, a bad thing. NFL teams don’t, or shouldn’t, do it. Certainly former Steelers coach Bill Cowher was trying to articulate something along those lines when, at training camp in 2005, he said: “We’re not attempting to circumcise rules.”
Gap in knowledge: The proper term for a Jedi in training
In the week leading up to a 2011 game against Alabama, a particularly bold reporter from the Orlando Sentinel asked Florida coach Will Muschamp, who was the defensive coordinator under Nick Saban when both were at LSU, whether he had a “master vs. Padawan”-type relationship with the Crimson Tide coach. “What’s a Padawan?” Muschamp replied. Appropriately, Florida lost the game.
Reporting by Ryan Glasspiegel