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The lamest excuses in sport

After turning in one of their worst performances of the season, the New York Knicks offered up a bizarre excuse for their 106-88 loss to the blossoming Oklahoma City Thunder.

Why did they succumb to the 30 points poured in by superstar-in-waiting Kevin Durant and the athleticism of rising tyros Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green? It was the coaching schemes or dodgy rims. No, the Knicks players blamed the loss on the fact that their game preparation had been disturbed by staying in a haunted hotel.

There might even be a shred of merit to their claim. For years, guests at Oklahoma’s Skirvin Hilton have reported ghost sightings and strange noises. Legend has it that sometime in the 1930s, a woman jumped to her death while holding her baby in her hands.

It was all too much for 7ft, 300-pound center Eddy Curry. The seldom-used big man fled his 10th floor room in terror, seeking sanctuary in guard Nate Robinson’s quarters. Another Knicks player, Jared Jeffries, described the hotel as scary and said he definitely believed in the ghostly legend.

Odd excuses have been a staple of defending poor performances for many years. So much so, that the Sports Bloke decided to list his own particular favourites.

1996 – Manchester United’s grey shirt problem
Managers in the English Premier League are never shy when it comes to making excuses for poor showings by their teams. Inevitably, it’s never their fault. In his 23 years in charge at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson has become a past master of explaining away defeat. His most famous excuse came in 1996 when, trailing 3-0 at half-time to Southampton, Ferguson ordered his players to change from the grey strip  they had been wearing to an alternate blue kit. Ferguson later explained the grey kits had ruined his team’s passing game because they were having trouble seeing each other on the pitch. As bizarre as this sounds, statistics suggest Fergie may have had a point. United lost four of the five games they played wearing the grey kit before it was retired from use.

2001 – Tight slacks and shirts ruin Sri Lanka’s big day
When Sri Lanka lost the ICC Champions Trophy final to Pakistan they didn’t blame the defeat on their batting, bowling or fielding. No, their loss was due to their tight-fitting clothing. According to captain Sanath Jayasuria, their kit was too small and restricted their movement and mobility in the field. He described the team’s shirts as tight-fitting women’s blouses. The team’s tailor was subsequently instructed to make their kits one size larger but it was too late to avert defeat in the showpiece final.

2007 – Stephen Ireland’s “dead” grandmother
Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland pulled out of a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier for the Republic of Ireland after claiming his maternal grandmother had died. Unfortunately, the media discovered Ireland’s nan was alive and well. Ireland then changed his story, claiming it was in fact his paternal grandmother who had shaken off this mortal coil. It was then revealed that this nan was also very much alive. Eventually, Ireland came clean and admitted he simply missed his girlfriend and wanted to go home.

1992 – Lighton Ndefwayl goes on the offensive
Zambian tennis player Lighton Ndefwayl could have easily reacted to defeat in a local tournament in a mature, considered way. Luckily for this particular article, he singularly failed to do so. After falling to defeat against compatriot Musumba Bwayla, Ndefwayl described his opponent as a stupid man and a hopeless player who sported a big nose and cross-eyes. He added for good measure “Girls hate him. He beat me because my jock strap was too tight and because he farts when he serves. This made me lose my concentration, for which I am famous throughout Zambia”. ‘Nuff said!

2003 – Mervyn King and the air conditioning
Darts stars Mervyn “The King” King and Raymond “Barney” van Barneveld faced off in the semi-final of the 2003 BDO World Darts Championships. When Barney prevailed, King blamed the loss on the air conditioning in the areana. King said he has asked for it to be turned off once he had taken the stage. Surely the pumped-in breeze would affect both players ability to punish the 60 and hit their doubles. Not so, claimed King. He explained that “the air conditioning doesn’t affect Raymond because he throws a heavier dart and a very flat dart”. For the record, the tournament organisers confirmed that the air conditioning had been switched off for the entire match.

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Filed under Basketball, Cricket, darts, Football, lame excuses in sport, nba, New York Knicks, Tennis

Why the Sports Bloke could never root for Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend got me thinking about my opinions on the former Chicago Bulls star for the first time since he completed his second “three-peat” (© Pat Riley) of NBA championships some 11 years ago.

See, while the world swooned at the clutch shooting, acrobatic dunks, smothering defence and unmatchable will to win of Number 23 through the nineties, I continually struggled to warm to the man who can quite rightfully claim to be among the greatest basketball player in the history of the game.

Watching Jordan give his acceptance speech in Springfield and take time to throw in a few (justified) barbs at Jerry Krause and jokingly chide the ticket prices for the ceremony, I couldn’t help but think there was a better time and place to settle scores and bitch about money. This was supposed to be a celebration, a career-encapsulating honour, yet Jordan still felt compelled to take petty pot-shots. And it reminded me why I could never root for the man, even at the peak of his playing powers.

From my perspective, Jordan was a typically American icon. A born winner, an alpha male, the ultimate competitor. Mike’s presence in the NBA finals guaranteed record-breaking TV ratings and massive revenue from advertisers. America loves a winner so it tuned in again and again to watch the  Bulls demolish the Lakers, the Blazers, the Sonics and the Jazz from 1991 until 1998.

Jordan and the Bulls became the ultimate team for the glory hunters. The team you could support knowing you’d be satisfied at the end of the season. These days you only have to look at the way Red Sox fans outnumber home fans in baseball’s smaller markets like Kansas City and Oakland to see this trend is alive and well in the States.

But while America loves a winner, Britain loves an underdog. Rather than cheer for the predictable outcome of a Bulls victory, I wanted to see their opponents do the impossible and defeat Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and coach Phil Jackson. Surely Payton and Kemp or Stockton and Malone overcoming Jordan’s brilliance and dominance would linger longer in the mind than watching another Bulls triumph? Was there any real victory in a team led by one of the greatest ever players asserting their superiority over an eminently conquerable foe?

Let me say again, Jordan was a superb player accurately rated as one of the best of all time.

But he was so much better than his rivals that, for me, there was precious little entertainment  in watching him achieve what he did. He was born to win, he trained to win, he was supposed to win, he did win. Six times in eight years. And then he was gone.

So, I said it. And remember, it’s on me. As a Brit, I’ve been bought up to love the underdog and  dream of the unthinkable upset. For this reason, Jordan has to join Michael Schumacher, Roger Federer and Sir Alex Ferguson on my Mount Rushmore of sporting greats whose utter dominance meant I could never truly love them.

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Filed under Basketball, michael jordan, nba, Sport