Even before Twitter, sports stars still raised trouble
Ladies and Gentlemen, please raise your glasses for the latest induction to the Coaches and Administrators Migraine Hall of Fame.
After bursting on to the scene as an unheralded rookie with minimal menace, this ubiquitous press-conference-provoking nuisance is now the market leader in inciting statements of apology, suspended fines, and single week spurts of horribly alien levels of talent in the lower grades.
It has gradually developed a troublesome standing in the world of sports, yet is still somehow indispensable to boss and employee.
The inductee’s trademark move is to strike a coach or CEO at any time, manifesting itself in a midnight phone call from a journalist, a sternly-worded talkback caller, or a couple of horrifying inches in a gossip column.
It preys on those weakened by a craving for attention and the inability to resist retaliation, and dines out on those lacking effective understanding of the mousetraps of modern technology.
And on simple-minded footy players.
Please come up to the dais and accept your key to this hallowed collection of various pains in the posterior of your payers.
You deserve it, Twitter.
Take your place among booze, recreational and performance-enhancing drugs, team bonding sessions, and Kings Cross. There’s a nice spot saved for you in the Mason/Fevola section, just up the back and to the left.
This omnipresent cannibal of reputation has electronically flexed again this week, with Carlton’s Brock McLean giving an online ear-flick to a punter in response to a cheeky chide.
It added to a growing collection of 140-character communiqués delivered by sports stars that break the paymaster’s golden rule of ‘bland, sterile and definitely no pre-audited honesty.’
This got me to thinking. Surely these kinds of incidents have always plagued athletes over time and left their superiors sucking up to sponsors?
So I went back through my almanacs in search of occasions through history where sportspeople have caused a front-office brain bunion by engaging in some dim-witted verballing with the public via various means of communication.
I’ve located a few hidden gems that have been swept under the carpet.
“Harvey hits the Tweet-spot.”
As we all know, Australia’s 1948 cricket tour of England lead by Sir Don Bradman was four months of superb Pom-slapping as our boys swept aside all comers.
But it wasn’t all Bushells and damper for the Invincibles’ support staff after batsman Neil Harvey came in for some heavy disparagement from a local scribe when he made a thin score in a tour match.
When the knock was described in the local rag as ‘substantially non-spiffy’ and ‘moth-eaten ho-hum,’ it sent Harvey into a rage, and he responded with a flaming hot telegram direct to the press box.
“To the daft gent at the local periodical, I hope a rogue chimney rat relieves itself in your gentleman’s cap and establishes a homestead in your butter churner.”
This spiteful rebuttal caused a wave of conjecture through the Old Dart cricket community, and forced Australia’s team manager to make Harvey publicly apologise and pay a fine of thrippence to a local rodent preservation charity.
“Durack trends into troubled waters.”
The 1912 Stockholm Olympics was a memorable meet for Aussie pool queen Fanny Durack after winning gold in the 100m freestyle, confirming her status as darling of the baths.
But the medal and her fine reputation were nearly soiled when she made her feelings know to a boorish heckler, who when obviously excited by the plunging knee-line of her togs, rudely bellowed for her to “show us your ankles.”
Thanks to the work of a friendly marshal poolside, Durack was able to find the name and address of the spectator and duly penned a stunning riposte that she attached to a carrier pigeon and sent to the details given.
“To the squalid vagrant in row four: Judging by the size of your trousers, it would appear that Sweden is a lot colder than I thought. Perhaps some kind of surgical enhancement is in order, or perhaps a heater of some fashion. #shrinkage.”
Due to the sluggish pace of the carrier pigeon, the furore surrounding Durack’s message had worn off by its arrival, and only a slap on the wrist from the Olympic bigwigs and a week in the Sydney Amateur Swim League was required to wash away her sins.
“Dally’s foul-mouthed post.”
There aren’t too many players held in higher regard than Dally Messenger in the rugby league world.
However, even the man who kept the pen hands of historians perpetually cramped from regularly re-writing record books wasn’t immune to the temptation of providing some zesty return fire via various methods.
In a crucial 1911 premiership match between Messenger’s Eastern Suburbs and rivals Glebe, things started deteriorating when the referee made some loose decisions.
Newtown’s prop was allowed to take the field with the back of his thighs coated in Murray’s brand hair paste, and when the referee started to allow the Bluebagger’s wrestling techniques to take hold of the ruck, it left the game’s best player fuming.
Messenger took action on the back of a few stouts at the post match function when he found a ham radio behind the bar, and gave it to the referee with both barrels in the tongue of morse code.
“I question the heritage of the clodpate galah holding the pea-whistle today and wish that all of his billy teas from this day forth taste over-boiled.”
This resulted in the league superstar being hauled before a disciplinary committee where he was removed from daily news circulations as ‘the face of the game’, costing the league a ton of shillings to have the promotion re-done.
So there you go sports fans, that’s just a couple of examples from our rich history of sporting heroes stepping out of line when online.
I would love to hear of any I’ve forgotten, and I’ll even accept replies in dots and dashes.
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