When they aren’t busy boring us with cliches, a fair portion of the world’s sporting elite has spent the electronic entertainment era proving that athletic and intellectual prowess rarely swim in the same gene pool.
This is no condemnation of that rather predictable disparity between physical and mental gifts. This is a celebration of that typical dichotomy.
The cliched are loathed and the creative celebrated, however inane. Forget respect, compassion and humility. Quotability is the ultimate virtue, blandness the deadliest of sins.
Keep your canned responses. Give us more Yogi and less yoga.
New England can have Belichick. Bring on Cowher.
For every Charles Barkley there are a dozen Charles Shacklefords. Pithy, thoughtful quotes might be the goal, but outrageous claims, loquacious drivel and verbal gaffes are pure gold.
So, speak freely, ye sports stars, when the microphone is thrust your way and dare to join our Hall of Fame.
Yogis — A selection of malapropisms that would do Yogi Berra proud:
“Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
— Yogi Berra. Our favorite offering from the sports world’s Godfather of Droll.
“I’ve always tried to immolate Isiah Thomas.”
— Point guard T.J. Ford during his freshman year at Texas. Ford undeniably was an offensive igniter.
“There are some teams who will try to circumcise the rules.”
— Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher. The Mad Mustache is a cut above on the sidelines and on the interview podium.
“Left hand, right hand, it doesn’t matter. I’m amphibious.”
— N.C. State’s Charles Shackleford, more prince than frog when it came to quotability.
“My career was sputtering until I did a 360 and got headed in the right direction.”
— NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, executing a nifty spin move after signing with the Orlando Magic. McGrady is now searching for his emotional compass in Houston.
“Me and [point guard Drew Hall] have always had a special connection on the court. Between us there’s just a certain … photosynthesis.”
— Former Georgetown center Wesley Wilson after parlaying a pass from Hall into a last-second, game-winning dunk in the opening round of the 2002 Big East tournament. Forget synergy. Hoopsters on the Hilltop learn to turn light and water into simple sugars.
“Pain is only temporary, no matter how long it lasts.”
— Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who left his most permanent mark in an Atlanta nightclub.
Theismanns — Ignorance is bliss for those within earshot:
“Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
— Quarterback-turned-commentator Joe Theismann, apparently still suffering post-LT trauma.
“I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to.”
— Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal when asked whether he visited the Parthenon during his visit to Greece. Apparently, Big Aristotle isn’t into Greek history.
“Hawaii doesn’t win many games in the United States.”
— ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso, who always wondered why there were 50 stars on Old Glory.
“Play some Picasso.”
— Former NBA forward Chris Morris, impressing a date with his request to a hotel bar pianist.
“Sure. I’m proud to be an American.”
— Then-rookie pitcher Steve Foster, asked by a Canadian customs agent whether he had anything to declare on his first road trip to Montreal.
TOs — Third-person mania:
“Terrell Owens has got serious skills. … Terrell Owens is a special player. … Football players are overworked and underpaid compared to other sports.”
— Eagles receiver Terrell Owens after selling out quarterback Donovan McNabb and demanding that Philadelphia renegotiate his contract. Owens made nearly $316,000 a game last season. Baseball’s Barry Bonds, a seven-time MVP winner, made just more than $110,000 a game last season.
“Keyshawn don’t call no plays.”
— Receiver Keyshawn Johnson, lamenting his lack of touches after his last game in a Tampa Bay uniform. Just Give Me the Damn Ball now plays for noted players’ coach Bill Parcells in Dallas.
“Just call me Sergio.”
— Sergio Garcia, then 19, requesting the Madonna/Elvis treatment during his professional major debut at the 1999 British Open. Several days later, the media just called him a crybaby when he wept in his mother’s arms after Carnoustie strapped a dead last cut finish (89-83) on him.
Tysons — A man so luminously twisted he has his own wing in our Hall and a permanent place in our hearts:
“I really dig Hannibal. Hannibal had real guts. He rode elephants into Cartilage.”
— Hey, only the baddest of men has the gaul to reference the Punic Wars.
“Lennox Lewis, I’m coming for you, man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah!”
— How was Iron Mike supposed to know that Lewis was childless?
“I want to rip out [Lennox Lewis’] heart and feed it to him. I want to kill people. I want to rip their stomachs out and eat their children.”
— OK, so he’s got a little obsession with cannibalism.
“My power is discombobulatingly devastating. I could feel his muscle tissues collapse under my force. It’s ludicrous these mortals even attempt to enter my realm.”
— Right on, Mike. We’re feeling you.
“My main objective is to be professional but to kill him.”
— Noble goals to be sure.
“I’ll fight any man, any animal. If Jesus were here, I’d fight him, too.”
— The early line is Jesus in the fifth.
“I’m on the Zoloft to keep from killing y’all.”
— No antidepressant can contain him.
“I’m a tyrannical tyrant.”
— You can say that again.
“I guess I’m gonna fade into Bolivia.”
— No way, brother. We miss you already.