I don't know why this story is treated as if it is such a bizarre statement. If you study the sport the Mayans played, it was a combination of what we call football, mixed with soccer, mixed with basketball. If you're not aware of this Mayan sport of the past, look it up. There was a field, much like a football / soccer field, and at midfield, there was a wall, and maybe twenty feet up, there was a circle to put the ball through.
At the ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, there is one of these fields that can still be observed.
For the record, in case you're not aware, in the Mayan sports championships, the winning team would be sacrificed to 'God' or the 'The Gods' after the game. What I've wondered since learning this as a child, is if this is where the original tradition came of "tanking" (intentionally losing).