Some of the more surprising sporting moments of 2012
All too often, sport has an unfortunate tendency to become too deadly serious for its own good, but occasionally a touch of humour or an unlikely tale rears its head and offers a timely antidote to the run-of-the-mill diet of results and match reports.
Here are a few examples that caught the imagination this year:
Football: Oh no, Joey, what are you talking about?
Joey Barton not only swapped cliches when he switched clubs from QPR to Marseille, he seemd to pick up a new identity into the bargain. Barton, whose exploits on and off the field have become the stuff of legend, went from being the “bad boy” of English football to the “enfant terrible” of the Stade Velodrome but stunned everyone with his audacious attempts at communicating with his new fans.
At his first press conference Barton appeared to have grapsed what few around him had — that speaking English with a comic French accent, complete with theatrical pauses and Gallic shrugs, would get his message across. It didn’t, much to the amusement -and bemusement — of all those present, as well as the millions who tuned into the video of the event on YouTube.
Ice Hockey: Red Wings star in “LaLa” Land
Police were in for a surprise when they pulled over ice hockey player Riley Sheahan driving the wrong way in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not only did they find him drunk and four times over the legal limit, but he was dressed in a bright purple Tellytubbies costume. And to make matters worse for Sheahan, he was also carrying a team-mate’s identity papers. Sheahan, a 20-year-old Canadian who plays for Detroit Red Wings, failed a breathalyzer, with a blood-alcohol level of .30 — twice Michigan’s “super-drunk” limit, an offence which carries even stiffer penalties.
The purple costume on the Teletubbies’ children programme belongs to the character Tinky Winky.
Football: Give me back my boots, Swaziland player begs
Mfanzile Ndzimandze is not likely to forget Mbane Highlanders’ worst drubbing for decades in a hurry. Highlanders’ fans went berserk after the 5-1 defeat to Malanti Chiefs and among the casualties were striker Ndzimandze’s best pair of boots, which went missing from the dressing room during a near-riot.
“I really want my Nike boots back,” he told AFP at the time. He had been one of a group of players trying to protect manager Sipho Xaba from rampaging fans after the side’s worst defeat in 22 years but insisted taking his boots would not help, because they were not responsible for the team’s troubles!
Football: The goal’s this way
These days the chant from the terraces of “You don’t know what you’re doing” is a common refrain, but cheeky fans of German side FC Magdeburg went one step further and took things into their own hands to help their team end a five-match goalless streak.
Each armed with a giant flourescent arrow, they stood behind their opponents’ net to show their players the way, beside a banner proclaiming: “We’ll Show You Where The Goal Is!” And it seemd to do the trick as Magdeburg finally found the back of the net after 558 minutes without a goal when US striker Chris Wright equalised in the 78th minute of their 2-1 defeat at home to Berliner AK 07.
Golf: “Birdie” drops live shark on the fairway Things don’t always land where they’re supposed to on a fairway, but the shark that mysteriously appeared near the 12th tee of a California golf club seems to have been the result of a birdie. The two-foot (60 cm) long leopard shark is thought to have been picked up by an osprey off the nearby Pacific coast and dropped as the bird flew over the San Juan Hills Golf Club, south of Los Angeles.
“One of our on-duty marshals was making his rounds and noticed something wriggling in the grass on our number 12 tee,” Director of Club Operations Melissa McCormack said. “After going over to investigate, he realized it was a small shark. He promptly placed it in the back of his golf cart and brought it to the clubhouse.” McCormack, who snapped a picture, said the fish had what appeared to be bite marks which made them think it was dropped from a bird’s beak. They decided to rush it back to the ocean, five miles (8 km) away.
Cycling: On your bike, Pinocchio
The award for “bad timing” of the year must surely go to the organisers of the 2013 World Cycling Championships. With the sport reeling from the fall-out of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, the organisers chose as a mascot for the event — Pinocchio. The choice of the wooden, fictional character whose nose grows when he lies could be seen as more than a little unfortunate under the circumstances.
But the organisers tried to make the best of a bad job when they justified their decision by saying: “Ours is a Pinocchio connected to his origins, happy, athletic and attentive. He is looking at the horizon, expressing an optimistic attitude towards the future. The expression on his face is smiling, happy, positive and at the same time astonished.” But probably not half as astonished as many of the competitors doing their best to put the vagarises of cycling’s murky recent past behind them.
RugbyL: Porn star in coaching row
Rugby League players are a macho bunch, and as such, having a former porn actress in the dressing room is unlikely to make them bat an eyelid. Even so, Australian club Gold Coast Titans felt the need to defend its decision to hire American Kortney Olson, the 31-year-old wife of Titans chief executive David May, as a strength-and-conditioning coach for their under-20s players.
Despite her X-rated past, Olson also happens to be a qualified personal trainer and international bodybuilding competitor. “It would be nepotism if she was employed and getting paid, but she’s a volunteer. If anybody is unhappy with it, the NRL, our fans, players or sponsors, I will deal with it,” May said.
“She has battled some of the most vicious and difficult personal demons, including rape, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction and during a period which was very difficult for a young woman, Kortney did some things which perhaps in hindsight she wouldn’t have done now. Everyone does things they aren’t proud of but she has put it behind her. I am proud of Kortney.”
Youth Olympics: Swearing the athletes’ oath — literally
It is traditional for one competitor to be singled out at the start of an Olympic tournament to swear the athletes’ oath on behalf of all those taking part. But the opening ceremony at the first Winter Youth Olympics in the Austrian Alps, the 15,000-strong crowd was treated to a quite unusual version of the Olympic Oath as Austrian alpine skier Christina Ager, 16, swore, quite literally, to respect the ideals of the Olympic movement. In the live broadcast ceremony, Ager fluffed her lines just as she came to the part about “respecting and abiding by the rules” and audibly swore before eventually reading the rest of the oath from a piece of paper.