November 18, 2000


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The heat is gone

Rohit Brijnath

Sport ages, changes, alters. It's easy to tell.

We can see that in the enormous prize-money shifts ($800,000 to the US Open winner still isn't enough!), we see that in the new technology (rowers with paddles that eletronically count their stroke rate!) we can see that in the neon uniforms which require viewing through dark glasses (hands up those who want tennis to return to white clothing. I'm first), we can see that in the private jets lined up to take sportspeople home after a tournament (Hey, I've got a waterbed, a personal masseur and a jacuzzi on board, what about you?).

But there's another way to guage that the good times have gone, that what we have here is not fun, it's business. Players don’t come out and bare their hearts anymore, they're not glib, funny, serious, outrageous, arrogant. They're simply boring. Worse, they're programmed.

You can see them before a press conference, huddling with suited advisers, being told, don't be irreverent, don't offend, don't smile, which is why we get 10 second sound bytes that leave no memory.

Ask yourself, what's the last quote, the last piece of repartee, you remember? Then ask yourself, did you hear it in the last 10 years. Answer: probably not.

The only two I remember are Mike Tyson saying he'd like to eat Lennox Lewis' kids which showed the boxer's inclination towards cannabilism (remember Holyfield's ears) was still intact, and Andre Agassi saying, "No man who looks like he's just swung from the trees should be No.1" and then immediately ruining the moment by sending a faxed apology to the tongue-hanging-out Pete Sampras.

Whatever happened to heat of the moment, boys will be boys, levity? What happened to the literature and language of sport, words to help define a generation?

So here's a solution: if today's players are to silly or shy to invent something to say, then at least steal from the past. I'll provide the ammunition.

Face it, won't you like to sit back and hear something like this……

1) Andre Agassi, sick and tired of losing to Pete Sampras, snarls into the microphone: "I'll chase that sunuvabitch across the world. Every time he turns around he'll see my shadow across him."
ORIGIN: Jimmy Connors on Bjorn Borg.

2) Steve Waugh, stony faced, when asked about the touring the West Indies: "We'll make them grovel".
ORIGIN: Tony Greig on the West Indies (so what if it backfired)

3) Gustavo Kuerten, giggling and falling off his chair when asked about Pete Sampras' chances of winning the French: "If he wins the French Open, I'll drop my pants on Centre Court."
ORIGIN: John McEnroe on Michael Chang's chances of winning Wimbledon.

4) Javagal Srinath, after the 100th question about his penchant for getting out going for big shots: "Defense is what you have in the paddock to keep the cows and the sheep in."
ORIGIN: Jeff Thomson's explanation of why he goes for it. Defense, need I say, means De Fence

5) In a time of Ferrari-driving, actress-dating, whining-about-a-$60,000-week-pay-cheque international soccer players, why can't even one say, "Football is not a question of life and death. It's more important."
ORIGIN: Bill Shankly, former Liverpool manager.

6) Maurice Greene, who if he's going to pose and preen, might as well say something too. Like, "I'm so fast, that when I turn off the switch at night I'm back in bed before the light goes out."
ORIGIN: Muhammad Ali.

7) There's nothing wrong with sledging on a cricket field. Except it doesn't always have to be mean, bloody-minded, abusive. Humour makes a point too. Like Glenn McGrath coming it to bowl, falling over, and Brian Lara walking up to him, to say, "I know I'm great, but there's no need to get down on your hands and knees."
ORIGIN: Derek Randall to Rodney Hogg.

8) Admiring Indian player, after being thought out yet again by Steve Waugh, "You’re the bloke with the degree in people."
ORIGIN: Rodney Hogg to Mike Brearely.

9) Ernie Els, gifted, charming, after losing yet again to Tiger Woods: "We should send him to another planet. We play golf. He plays something else."
ORIGIN: Ilie Nastase on Bjorn Borg's dominance in tennis.

10) Martina Hingis, after losing 15 consecutive times to Venus Williams, but then finally winning a match, drawls into the press conference microphone, "NO ONE beats Martina Hingis 16 times in a row."
ORIGIN: Vitas Gerulaitis on Jimmy Connors (or was it Borg?)

11) Saurav Ganguly, having thrown Indian hospitality into a dustbin, exhorting Zaheer Khan from the slips, as Mark Waugh gets ready to face next March: "Hey Zaheer, now make him taste the leather."
ORIGIN: Viv Richards to Malcolm Marshall as Allan Lamb trembles.

12) Any player in any sport to a rules official: "You canNOT be serious".
ORIGIN: John McEnroe to Wing Cmdr George Grimes after a bad line call.

13) US wrestler Rulon Gardner after his upset final win over Alexsandr Karelin, the greatest wrestler of all time going for his fourth sucessive gold in Sydney: "I'm just the latest, you're still the greatest."
ORIGIN: Leon Spinks when he defeated Muhammad Ali.

13) Pete Sampras after winning yet another tough five-setter at the French. The press: "Big problems, Pete."
Pete: "Yeah, big problems."
The press: "What sort of problems?"
Pete, poker-faced, dead-pan: "Problems like I didn't know if I'd get a flight out of Paris tonight."
. ORIGIN: Ivan Lendl, one year at Wimbledon.

14) Mike Tyson speaking at his pre-fight press conference before a world title bout against Lennox Lewis:
"Now Tyson lands a right, what a beautiful swing, but the punch lifts Lewis clean out of the ring. Lewis' still risin', but the referee wears a frown, 'Cause he can't start counting, till Lewis comes down."
ORIGIN: Muhammad Ali spouting poetry before his Sonny Liston fight.

15) In a world of pouting, petulant, protesting athletes, who are never happy with any decision if it means they lose, imagine a runner, who actually has reason to believe he won, saying, "No, I don't want to win on a protest or a photograph. I want to win on my legs".
ORIGIN: Herb McKenley, Jamaican 100m runner at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, relegated to second place, even though the photo of the finish was inconclusive to him.

So fellows, here's the material, there's no copyright infringement, just go out, say it, and we'll remember you forever.

What, you want to get paid for saying it? Hey, what can I say, I tried.

Rohit Brijnath

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