On the Ball -- Say what?
In sports, it is often recommended that your actions should do the talking. After all, what good’s a dog’s bark if his bite can’t back it up? This past week, there were some that did, in fact, let their performances speak for themselves. There were others who would have been better off keeping their mouths closed, and, for one, it’s what he didn’t say that got him in hot water.
‘I never got this far in my dreams.’ – Bubba Watson
Show me a golfer named “Bubba,” with a pink driver, a fully-buttoned white polo ensemble, and not a single golf lesson to his name, and I’ll show you a Masters champion. Yes, the 2012 Masters title and the legendary green jacket went to a “good ol’ boy” from Bagdad, Fla., who catapulted to a career-high fourth place in the world – the current highest-ranked American in the sport – after an unforgettable final day at Augusta National this past Easter Sunday.
The 33-year-old lefty – who earlier this year became the owner of the orange Dodge Charger known as the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard” – proved he can drive more than cars, as he bested 2010 Open champion South African Louis Oosthuizen with a careful and meticulous hook out of the woods to set up a tournament-winning putt on their second shootout hole.
The Masters itself was worth watching, with a couple of aces throughout the tournament, and one of the most incredible shots ever witnessed – a double eagle by Oosthuizen on a tricky Par 5 on the second hole. But in the end, it was Watson who stole the show, with a bend out of the trees, off of some pine needles, that set up a two-putt par for the title.
As it turns out, his white outfit was worn to raise money for children with birth defects, and his iconic pink driver prompted Ping to manufacture and sell 5,000 limited-edition G20 drivers, with 5 percent of sales being donated to a fundraising campaign.
A tearful Watson broke down as he picked up his final putt, exchanging an embrace with his caddy and mother, while his wife, Angie, and their newly adopted son Caleb awaited his return home. In post-tournament interviews, Watson carried himself as a humble, respectable individual whose actions did all the talking for him.
Such was not the case for others this week.
‘Kill the head and the body will die.’ – Gregg Williams
The New Orleans Saints were denied their bounty-related appeals by the NFL this week, as recordings of defensive coach Gregg Williams’ injury-provoking rant surfaced. The suspensions of Saints’ head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt for their roles in a bounty program were announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who slapped Williams with the harshest penalty, an indefinite suspension.
In recordings leaked across the Internet, Williams carries in a slew of profanities to his players, singling out offensive players, individually, instructing them precisely where to hit opposing players to inflict the most damage.
“We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill [San Francisco 49er’s starting runningback] Frank Gore’s head,” Williams said on the recording. “We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways... Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”
The recordings continue with expletives and obscenities, highlighting other players to target, as well.
Now, there’s motivational speech prior to every football game, and I have no doubt that many coaches, on almost all levels of the game, want to come out as a physical team. But there is no place in the world of sports for this sort of encouragement, especially with the issue of concussions in sports. Williams has no regard for his opponents’ wellbeing and throws sportsmanship right out the window with this sort of talk.
As far as a bounty system goes, players should be thrilled enough that they’re out there, being cheered on by tens of thousands of fans, if not more, making more money in a few seasons – or fewer – than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. They should be happy enough to have a spot on the team without the incentive of more dollars being thrown their way if they deliver a game-ending or potentially career-ending hit. The Saints have put themselves under a tainted light and, hopefully, whoever steps in next will have enough sense to say the right things.
‘I love Fidel Castro.’ – Ozzie Guillen
Open mouth, insert foot. Controversial Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen did just that in a Time magazine interview, in which he was quoted as having said he loved and respected the infamous Cuban leader.
“I respect Fidel Casto – you know why?” he is quoted as saying in the article. “A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”
Guillen was rumored to have been selected for his post, in part, because of his potential appeal to Miami’s Hispanic community, which includes a considerable population of Cuban-Americans and exiled Cubans who fled Castro’s Cuba. Their response to the Time interview was not to shower Guillen with affection.
In attempt to clarify his words this week, Guillen blamed a language barrier that he said allowed him to be misinterpreted during the interview. But this hasn’t been the only time that the 48-year-old Venezuelan has received backlash for outlandish or eccentric behavior.
Guillen, who played in the MLB for 15 years, led the 2005 Chicago White Sox to the World Series as their manager. He declined the traditional visit to the White House after the win but was sure to visit Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his celebration. He has been criticized for using a gay slur toward a sports columnist and spoke out against Arizona’s strict immigration enforcement laws in 2010.
Guillen has since apologized for his comments about Castro, but the poor choice of words netted him a five-game suspension, as well as calls for his firing. Ozzie, while a very colorful character, may want to take a moment to think next time, before speaking his mind.
For University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino, it’s what he didn’t say that got him in trouble this week. A motorcycle accident on Sunday left Petrino battered and in a neck brace at a press conference, but as the story emerged, so did the juicy details.
After the accident, reports surfaced that Petrino had consulted with an officer before going to the hospital, and then it was learned that there had been a passenger on the motorcycle with him. The 51-year-old, married father of four was subsequently fired after it was learned that his passenger was 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas student athlete with whom Petrino had maintained an “inappropriate relationship” for a “significant” amount of time.
Furthermore, Dorrell had recently been hired as part of the Arkansas football staff, in a position that 159 others had applied for. One of the members of the hiring body? You guessed it – Petrino. He also was found to have given her $20,000, according to Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long.
Looks like that Harley wasn’t the only thing Petrino crashed and burned.
Petrino, who was in the middle of a seven-year contract, which averaged $3.43 million, helped build the University of Arkansas football program into a respectable one, garnering a 21-5 record over the past two years. But, alas, it will be his decision to say nothing at all that may cost him everything.
As we all know, taking the spotlight in the sports world subjects players, managers and coaches to plenty of scrutiny and media frenzy. But if there’s one thing that this week has taught us, it’s this: Don’t be a Bobby, or an Ozzie or a Gregg. Be a Bubba.