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Brett Favre and the most infamous traitors in sport

NFL legend Brett Favre was subjected to a cathedral of catcalls and jeers when he took the field for the Minnesota Vikings against the Green Bay Packers, the team with whom he made his name. The fans at Lambeau Field had waited two years and two aborted retirements to vent their frustrations over the way Favre seemingly extricated himself from Green Bay after the 2007 season.

Favre was Green Bay’s favourite son. He bought the city a Super Bowl triumph in 1996, broke numerous NFL records as a Packer and provided more dramatic finishes and comebacks than any other NFL player. But when he retired in tears in 2007 only to unretire within weeks to play for the New York Jets, some of that goodwill was extinguished. Yesterday we found out just how much. While there were pockets of appreciation for Favre when he took the field, they were drowned out by swathes of booing each time he was involved in the action.

Always one for a flair for the dramatic, Favre got the last laugh, throwing for 244 yards and four touchdowns as the Vikings triumphed 38-26 over his former team. In honour of Favre’s return to Green Bay, the Sports Bloke takes a look at more sporting stars who turned their backs on their teams and examines what happened when they returned to their former homes.

Paul Ince
Say what you like about fans of Premier League football club West Ham United, but don’t deny they have any competition when it comes to holding grudges. Self-styled ‘Guv’nor’ Paul Ince was a product of the club’s youth academy and an England star in the making. In 1988, he decided he wanted to play for a bigger club. Rather than go the traditional route of lodging a transfer request, Ince instead chose to pose for the newspapers in a Man U shirt long before the deal had been finalised. Having forced West Ham’s hand, Ince got his big money move to Old Trafford. He probably didn’t anticipate the two decades of dogs abuse, incessant booing and Judas chants he faced whenever he played against West Ham for Manchester United, Liverpool and Wolves.
Hammers fans didn’t even let it go after Ince retired as a player. He received his now-traditional welcome as manager of Blackburn Rovers when he bought his team to Upton Park in 2008. Before this game, Ince commented that he felt, 20 years after his minor indiscretion, that the abuse was almost good-natured now. Sorry Paul, you’re wrong. You’re still hated at West Ham and here’s a measure of how much. When I was last betrayed by a good friend, I changed his name in my mobile to Ince. And it stayed that way for two years until things got sorted out.

Kevin Pietersen
Some players are reviled for turning against their clubs, cricketer Kevin Pietersen was accused of turning against his own country. Frustrated by the lack of international opportunities available to him in his native South Africa, KP moved to Nottinghamshire to play county cricket. Once he qualified to represent England, it seemed fitting his first major one day series came in his homeland. Every time Pietersen walked out to bat in the series, he received a barrage of boos, jeers and catcalls by sell out crowds of up to 50,000 angry South African fans. It was his reaction to the abuse marked him out as a special player. The caludron of hate didn’t make him quake, it merely strengthened his resolve. Pietersen reeled off scores of 108 in Bloemfontein (where the crowd turned their backs to him when he returned to the pavilion), 75 in Cape Town, 100 of 69 balls in East London and 116 at Centurion.

Sol Campbell
Sol Campbell was so revered by Tottenham Hotpsur fans that it’s probably fair to say that, faced with staying with the under-achieving North London side or moving to a more successful team playing Champions League football when his contract expired, there wouldn’t have been too many complaints if he’d chosen to leave. After all, he’d given Spurs over a decade of loyal service. He could have gone to Italy or Spain and Tottenham fans would have wished him well. They might have grumbled a bit if he’d signed with Manchester United or Liverpool. The only move that would provoke anger would be if he signed with London rivals Arsenal. But that wasn’t an issue because Sol had already said there was no way he could ever play for the Gunners given his long history with Spurs.
And then he signed for Arsenal. The reaction to Campbell when he returned to White Hart Lane as an Arsenal player was bitter and abusive. It continued whenever he went back, culminating in fan arrests over a chant directed at the England star which contained the delightful rhyming of the phrase ‘swinging from a tree’ with the insult ‘Judas C*** with HIV’. Campbell is a lying traitor to Spurs fans, but that chant is all kinds of wrong.

Roger Clemens
In 2001, Bill Simmons wrote an ESPN column explaining why, in the eyes of Boston Red Sox fans, pitcher Roger Clemens was the antichrist. After 12 seasons in Boston, Clemens slapped Red Sox in the face by moving to Toronto for money and then holding a press conference in which he failed to make a single reference to his former club. The slap in the face became a full boot to the nether-regions when he forced Toronto to trade him to New York in 1999 to play for Boston’s hated rivals the Yankees. And don’t forget, when the 2000 MLB All-Star game was played at Fenway Park, Clemens again ignored the obvious chance to pay tribute to his former fans, choosing to wear a Yankee cap instead of a Red Sox one. And so, Clemens was given the bird by Boston fans every time he stepped foot in Fenway over the next eight years. Post-retirement steroid and adultery accusations ensured they got the last laugh.
Simmons sums up the feelings to Clemens by saying “No athlete ever let me down quite like Roger Clemens did. Fortunately, we can take solace at the potential sight of Clemens standing on the field at New Fenway, maybe 40 years from now, being introduced on Old Timer’s Day 2041 … and getting showered with boos from Red Sox fans. “I can’t believe they still haven’t let this go,” he’ll mumble to himself, a thin smile spread across his face, oblivious to the bitter end, still waiting for the fans to come around. Not a chance.”

Elton Brand
It remains to be seen what kind of reaction NBA star Elton Brand will get when he eventually returns to Los Angeles to play against his former team the Clippers. It’s probably a good bet he’ll get booed out of the building. Here’s why. Brand was instrumental in convincing Baron Davis, then starring for the running and gunning Golden State Warriors, to move to LA. As soon as Davis inked his new contract, Brand announced he was off to Philadelphia to play for the 76ers after his negotiations with the Clippers broke down for vague, unspecified reasons, leaving Baron without help on one of the NBA’s most cursed and under-achieveing rosters.
Is there karma at work on this one? Maybe? After a rickety start with Philly, Brand went down injured and disappeared for the season. The 76ers played better without him. The Clippers recorded just 19 wins but won the draft lottery and picked up college phenom Blake Griffin. Of course, it being the Clippers, Griffin was injured in pre-season and is currently on the DL for the next 20 games.

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NBA season on the sofa: opening night live blog

The long wait is finally over, the 2009/10 NBA season is upon us. And if you thought the time difference and having a day job would stop the Sports Bloke from delivering his thoughts on baskteball’s opening night from his London lair, you’d be badly mistaken.

With Lebron, Shaq, KG, Jesus, Paul Pierce, Dirk, Gilbert, Brandon Roy, Boom Dizzle and Kobe and Co all on show, the NBA’s opening night promises much. The only big name absentee will be the Clippers No 1 draft pick Blake Griffin, whose fractured kneecap is likely to keep him off the court for six weeks.

With the clock ticking towards tip-off, it’s time to boot up League Pass and settle in for some high quality hoops. God, I’ve missed the NBA!

11:32pm
League Pass is showing a test card as opposed to player warm-ups. Hmmmmmm

11:36pm
Multi-coloured screen of death is no substitute for hoops. It’s 6-2 Celtics, but I can’t see it.

11:45pm
So, 130 US dollars isn’t enough to persuade the NBA to provide a service that works. Found a less legal stream that works. It’s 19-5 to the Cavs and I have no idea what these Chinese commentators are saying.

11:49pm
League Pass finally trundles into action. We have live and legal hoops but I’ve missed most of the first quarter. 26-17 Cavs. Rasheed Wallace seems to be auditioning for a part in a Kid N Play video with his new haircut.

11:51pm
Enormous block on Rondo by Lebron. That’s his third rejection of the game (as many as the Knicks managed in the whole of last season).

11:58pm
Aside from a smooth Marquis Daniels drive to the hoop, it’s been raining bricks in the final two minutes of the first quarter. Cavs lead 28-21 at the break.

12:01am
Is it me or does Milos in the South West Airlines advert look a lot like Michael Phelps?

12:02am
Woo-hoo! My favourite American advert. I haven’t seen it since the NBA finals. Stay thirsty, my friends!

12:07am
Cavs can’t buy a bucket. And yes, Lebron is on the bench. Haven’t we seen somewhere before? No field goals for five minutes.

12:15am
Sheed drains a rainbow three. 32-32.

12:31am
Humility from Shaq re: not taking LBJ’s spotlight. We’ll see how long that lasts this year. Just ask Penny, Kobe, D-Wade or Nash.

12:38am
Instant replay disallows Lebron’s last basket for a shot clock violation. Are you watching, Bud Selig?

12:41am
Half time. Celts up 51-45. 7 of 9 from three.

12:43am
Away we go in Dallas. No sound – thanks again League Pass. I’m really feeling the value for money right now. Gilbert opens the scoring with two free throws.

12:49am
Looks like Sir Charles has fallen off the diet wagon again. I know how that goes. Still no sound on Wiz vs Mavs. It’s like watching an Oakland Athletics home game.

1:04am
Shaq leathers KG with a hard foul. Lovely reverse from Rondo. 59-47 Celtics.

1:07am
Still trying to recover from Slam’s tweet comparing Kevin McHale to Herman Munster. It’s what we were all thinking.

1:13am
Sloppy play from the Celtics. Cavs get three straight stops. A big Anthony Parker three forces a Doc Rivers time out. Ten point game.

1:14am
Stay thirsty, my friends. Again.

1:19am
Ray Allen takes three and half steps before getting fouled at the rim. The new crackdown on travelling has officially lasted two and a half quarters.

1:29am
Lebron’s heating up now. Gets his fourth block, drains a three then earns an and1 taking it to the hoop. 72-65 Celtics after three quarters.

1:34am
Roadhouse Blues by The Doors. Good work, TNT.

1:42am
Cavs go to their Twin Towers line-up: Shaq and Big Z. 80-71 Celtics.

1:44am
Wizards 10 points up on the Mavs after scoring on 8 straight possessions.

1:52am
Garnett runs the floor, rises up and, erm, blows the dunk. No Boston field goals for almost four minutes. Cavs within five.

1:59am
Just as it seems neither team will ever score again, LBJ ends the collective brick-fest with a glorious three pointer to cu the lead to four. Celtics cold as the worst possible time.

2:03am
With 3:42 left in the game, Shaq gets to the line for the first time. Is this some sort of record?

2:08am
Pierce drains a jumper with 1:08 left – Celts lead by six. Seconds earlier, Rondo performed heroics on the offensive boards but failed to convert.

2:10am
Great replay of Celts GM Danny Ainge calling for the hack-a-Shaq in the final minutes. He is greyer than Desert Orchid.

2:14am
Dagger from Paul Pierce. He did nothing all second half then made two crucial shots in the final minute. Ain’t that The Truth.

2:18am
After a free throw fest in the final seconds, Celtics close out for a 95-89 win. Lebron had 38 but it wasn’t enough. Celts record their first win in Cleveland since 2004. Hold tight for the Lakers ring presentation.

2:25am
Class move from the Lakers. Bringing back legends of the past for the ring ceremony. West, Worthy, Nixon, AC Green and Magic. Big Jack seems to approve.

2.30am
Special congratulations to Marko the Lakers massage therapist. That’s worth a ring is it, mate?

2:32am
Someone should take Adam Morrison’s ring away. It’s not deserved.

2:36am
It’s very rare to see Kobe this happy. He looks in his element, almost bursting with pride.

2:41am
It must kill Charles Barkley to watch Adam Morrison pick up a championship ring.

2:44am
Will the Clippers gatecrash the Lakers’ party or just make up the numbers? I’m leaning towards the latter owing to Mike Dunleavy’s unparalleled ability to demotivate players in any given situation.

2:51am
Blake Griffin in street clothes for six weeks. Will the curse of the Clippers ever cease?

02:56am
Kobe completes an and1 and a sweet fadeaway to hear MVP chants two minutes into the season. I’m guessing that is some sort of record.

2:59am
Ron Artest is sporting a Lakers ‘L’ and other intricate designs on his head. Aside from being called for a soft offensive foul and putting up a rather desperate finger roll, it’s been a quiet start for Ron Ron.

3:06am
Wizards complete a convincing 102-91 win over the Mavericks while Portland are cruising against Houston, leading 46-32 in the second quarter. Andre Miller has stopped sulking long enough to record five assists.

3:08am
Who dresses Craig Sager? Stevie Wonder?

3:22am
Nine turnovers for the Clippers in the first quarter. Great way to start the season. Lakers lead 32-22 after one without really breaking sweat.

3:40am
I’m starting to struggle now – been awake for 22 hours, Anyway, with the Laker starters taking a breather, the Clippers cut the lead to three with an 11-1 run. Kobe’s back on the court unsurprisingly.

3:44am
Another Clippers turnover. Dunleavy squints his disapproval.

3:59am
A last second Bynum bucket makes it 59-49 Lakers at half time.

4:49am
One point game after three quarters. 76-75 Lakers.

5:15am
An 18-6 runs puts away the Clippers. Solid efforts from Kobe and Odom, Final score Lakers 99, Clippers 92. Time for bed. Goodnight all.

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An NBA season on the sofa: preview

What do you do when you live 3,500 miles away from the action in your favourite sport? You purchase the NBA’s International League Pass Broadband and steel yourself for six months of not getting enough sleep and wandering around at work looking and feeling like a zombie. I know this to be true because I did it for the whole of last season. This time around, though, I’m going to write about it.

Firstly, cards on the table. I’m a New York Knicks fan with additional rooting interest in the Golden State Warriors. While it may seem these choices are the basketball equivalent of crossing a busy road blindfolded or sticking your face your face in a fan, they represent a fundamental truth in sport. I’m from England and we like football (soccer). Over here, you’re born into supporting your team. There’s no room, at least among proper sports fans, for glory hunting. The Knicks and the Warriors are the teams I’ve been (un)lucky enough to see live multiple times on my trips to the States so they are the teams I support. I know they suck. You don’t need to tell me.

The Sports Bloke’s season on the sofa will focus primarily on the Knicks (and my own steadily increasing levels of sleep deprivation) as I stay up past 3am to watch them struggle through all 82 games. There’ll also be stuff relating to the ongoing circus of insanity that is unique to the NBA. How much damage can Ron Artest do in one season in Los Angeles? How few assists will Memphis manage thanks to their growing plethora of toxic ballhogs? Will anyone match the sheer oddness of Drew Gooden’s facial hair? If Dirk Nowitzki cuts off his brand new Samson-esque locks, will he lose all of his strength?

Don’t be taking any of my musings too seriously. There’s more than enough proper writers and stat heads closer to the action without me having to weigh in from half a world away. This is not about serious analysis, it’s about the rollercoaster ride of supporting a sub-standard team from across the Atlantic and hoping against hope that, after almost a decade in the doldrums, they give people something to cheer about.

See you tomorrow for opening night!

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