Dumb Lies Athletes Have Told About Injuries
Hey, we've all been there: After doing something kind of embarrassing, it's human nature to try to downplay the incident, or lie about it altogether. However, part of the motivation of twisting—or outright fabricating the facts around such an incident—is that the new story is less embarrassing or, at least, less likely to draw attention.
In sports, an injury doesn't just have the potential to affect an athlete's career and reputation; it can run afoul of a set rules and/or contractual obligations that can lead to fines, suspensions and other punitive measures that hurt more than the injury itself.
Sometimes there isn't an injury at all, or someone else is injured—but whether an athlete slipped on a banana peel or pushed a friend into the path of a banana truck, all too often they eschew the bitter pill that is fessing up, for the massive suppository that is lying (then getting caught).
The misguided decisions and subsequently, often more misguided decisions about what to say after an injury may get an athlete into hot water, but such episodes sure do make for a compelling story.
These are dumb lies athletes have told about injuries.
Victoria Azarenka Employs the 'Sosa-Strategy'
In January, U.S. Women's Tennis player Sloane Stephens had No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka on the ropes in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Just 19 years old and a clear underdog, the match was setting up to be one of the first big upsets of the sport in 2013.
It was not to be: During the second set, a clearly flustered Azarenka called for an injury timeout and was granted a 10-minute break from the action (including six minutes inside and out of the intense heat). After regrouping, Azarenka rebounded to take the match and eventually win the tournament.
While the story of an up-and-coming young American woman unseating the top-ranked favorite was obliterated, a new, almost as compelling, one emerged: Azarenka gaining an advantage by calling an injury timeout without an obvious injury.
During her on-court interview after the win, the tennis star from Belarus never mentioned the "rib injury." When questioned in the post-match presser about the injury itself and why she seemed to forget she suffered it—Azarenka went all Sammy Sosa. Yep...the girlfriend of LMFAO's "RedFoo" leaned on her Belarusian roots and claimed she misunderstood the question.
Monta Ellis' $3 Million Moped
In sports, the contract is the glue that keeps athletes and franchises in an often tenuous marriage for the sake of the "kids." (Fans, but ultimately, money.)
When then-Warriors guard Monta Ellis signed a six-year $66 million contract with the team in July 2008, the kids got a boatload of money in exchange for the obligation of playing basketball. However, little over a month after inking the deal, he suffered an ankle injury that would keep him off the court for three months—an injury he claimed happened while working out on-court in his hometown.
Fine. It happens—that's the nature of the occupation and why the contract exists. The only problem? Joyriding on a moped is not in the job description. His story drew skepticism from the team from the start and their suspicions were confirmed when the media started reporting inconsistencies in his story. Finally, it was revealed he got hurt riding a moped—motorcycle's nerdy kid brother and a "dangerous" activity prohibited by the NBA.
Instead of being honest, Ellis lied—squandering any possible leniency and got slapped with a 30-game suspension without pay by the Warriors. That, my friends, was a $3 million moped ride.
Jeff Kent and the Dangers of Truck Washing
The relationship between pro athletes and their team's respective front office is often akin to that of a wealthy father and cherished, but spoiled, son who has to stay out of trouble if he wants to keep his trust fund. Such a dynamic leads to a player's shenanigans often getting overlooked, while on some occasions "Dad" simply has to lay down the law.
For retired MLB second baseman Jeff Kent, this metaphor truly came to life. In 2002, the talented star and unabashed purveyor of outdoor life, broke his wrist shortly before the Giants opened the season. It was an injury Kent attributed to a "six-foot fall" off the bed of his truck while he washed it.
The story didn't hold up, as rumors about popping wheelies on a motorcycle surfaced (a contractually prohibited activity)—rumors later supported by the many witnesses of the accident. Kent never outright admitted he was lying, and the injury only kept him out of four games. But if words were ever spoken that did less to add veracity to lie than Kent's own, I'd be surprised. From CNNSI.com:
"There's no doubt that I ride motorcycles," Kent added. "That's my hobby. There's no doubt that I hunt and climb trees 20 feet in the air. It's no secret that I wash trucks and that I'm an outdoor person."
Gilbert Arenas Does a Solid for a Bro
The latter half of the Gilbert Arenas era for the Washington Wizards was rife with controversy, scandals and overall dysfunction. It was another brutal chapter in the struggling franchise's history—overshadowing a four-year playoff run.
While not as attention-grabbing a headline as the Arenas locker-room "gun incident," the stunt the eccentric guard pulled in a 2010 preseason game against the Hawks truly captures the poisonous impact his presence on the team had become.
In an effort to help teammate and friend Nick Young get more playing time to showcase his skills, Arenas told then-coach Flip Saunders he had a "sore knee" prior to the game and couldn't play. If this was done by someone without a terrible track record, perhaps the scheme could be chalked up as dumb, but not a threat to the integrity of the team.
However, this was Gilbert Arenas and his first preseason game back from the 50-game suspension he received for bringing guns into the locker room. And, the dude he helped out basically let the cat out of the bag—resulting in a fine and another nail in the coffin of his tumultuous tenure with the Wizards.
Tom Brady's Perpetually Sore Shoulder
While truly a team effort, star quarterback Tom Brady's weekly appearance on the Patriots' injury report from 2005 until January 2012 (with a legit reason for being included in 2008, obviously) was a farce within a farce that is New England's injured list.
Every NFL franchise plays the "who's in, who's out" injury game, but none with such shameless abandon as the Patriots—and really, no team is as befitting for such a stunt. Seven years. Seven...years, Brady was listed as "limited" due to a sore shoulder.
With the exception of the 2008-2009 NFL season, when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury, he has started every single game since taking the reins from Drew Bledsoe in 2001. He's the definition of a passer who stays healthy and as the best player on the Patriots until he chooses to retire, no opponent would be dumb enough to presume the man won't be under center on Sunday.
Dan Miceli's Convoluted Charlie Daniels-Inspired Story
When Marlins reliever Dan Miceli showed up at spring training with stitches in his hand and gash on his elbow, he forthrightly explained the injuries, providing a succinct, matter-of-fact outline of the events to club officials and the press.
Actually, that's not what happened at all. Miceli spun a yarn so wild and unbelievable that you can only envision the exchange with the former MLB journeyman wide-eyed and accentuating every word with exaggerated gestures and other storytelling theatrics.
He told those who asked that he suffered the injuries after single-handedly battling a bunch of knife-wielding "hippie rednecks" who hit on his wife outside a bar in Orlando. I assume he juxtaposed the two contradicting labels "hippie" and "redneck," because hippies aren't known for starting epic, Westside Story-worthy brawls.
What happened was he got into some kind of fist-fight with his brother at their family home.
Hugh Douglas' Version of Romance
Let me preface this slide by acknowledging you assumed it would be exclusively dedicated to lies athletes have told about an injury they suffered—I feel you, but some of the most compelling lies out there do not all ways pertain to the liar.
Case in point: former NFL defensive end and, most recently, an ESPN analyst fired after instigating several very public, racially charged confrontations with then coworker—and host of Numbers Never Lie—Michael Smith.
In September, Douglas was arrested at a hotel in Hartford, Conn., after getting into a violent drunken altercation with his girlfriend—a incident where he allegedly choked her. His explanation to the police? Everything is cool; she's just suffering from a little collateral damage via all the awesome, rough sex they were having.
Released on $50,000 bail, Douglas will have the chance to elaborate his story before a judge on Oct. 21 to face the charge of second-degree strangulation.
Joe Biemel Prioritizes Geography over Stupidity
A couple of nights before reliever Joe Biemel and the Dodgers were set to take on the Mets in the opening game of the 2006 NL Division Series, he decided to blow some steam and catch the Monday Night Football game at a local bar in Manhattan.
By the end of the night, Biemel had a profusely bleeding cut on his pitching hand and the groundwork was laid for starter Brad Penny to be forced into a relieving role in Game 1 (a loss, followed by two more and a Mets sweep).
Biemel decided to stay true to the head-slapping facts of the incident and concoct the logistics—he initially told the Dodgers training staff that he'd been drinking beer in his hotel room and dropped a bottle, cutting his hand on the glass.
The injury actually occurred at the bar—a Manhattan bar, filled with fellow revelers who witnessed the whole incident. But, for some reason, he focused on the location rather than the boneheaded cause of the gash that kept him off the mound.
Big Ben Puffs Up His Super Bowl Heroics
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's career has been anything but dull. He found himself the bookend of the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers trade mess in the 2004 NFL draft, was thrust into the starting role almost immediately and became—at the time—the winningest rookie passer in the league's history.
Two Super Bowl victories (and a third losing appearance), a motorcycle crash faceplant and a handful of sexual assault allegations later, he's now facing what may be the toughest stretch of his career on the field after the Steelers' rough start to the 2013 season.
However, the outright weirdest aspect of his body of work may be his penchant for publicly claiming he suffered from an injury during a game—a claim often met with surprise, confusion or outright skepticism by his own coaching staff.
Some of the incidents, while dumb, at least served a (ill-advised) purpose—like the mysterious "broken toes" Ben said he was dealing with in the 2005 AFC Championship loss to the Patriots. But, when he told SI.com that he was suffering from broken ribs during the Steelers' thrilling last-minute victory against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII—days after the game—it defies explanation.
His touchdown pass to a toe-dragging Santonio Holmes in the end zone to retake the lead with seconds remaining was a legendary play. Yes, Holmes got the MVP, but what kind of a dumb complex can a guy have if he needs to embellish what is perhaps his greatest moment as a player?
Leave Your Son out of It, Paul Quantrill
In February 2011, Blue Jays relief pitcher Paul Quantrill ended up in an Ontario hospital requiring surgery for what he initially insisted was an offseason injury sustained while tobogganing with his son. Oh, the humanity!
Not a bad first version! After all, who is going to fault a loving father for spending time with his adorable young son? And sled riding certainly can't be against the rules…or can it? Actually, it can be.
It didn't take Quantrill long to crack like an egg. Three days after the incident, he revealed that the injury was the result of a snowmobile accident, rather than tobogganing with his son. A peculiar fib, considering both activities are banned in a standard player contract.
Brandon Marshall's McSlip
In the spring of 2009, former Broncos wide receiver Marshall suffered an arm injury that required stitches. It was initially reported as being the result of using a television screen like a heavy bag—a story he denied, claiming he accidentally ended up elbow deep in a television after slipping on a McDonald's bag.
His explanation was, of course, ridiculous and turned a lukewarm rumor into a much hotter one by virtue of the whole weirdness surrounding the incident. Following his injury "false start," Marshall finally did the right thing—he concocted a story that still likely bends the truth, but doesn't seem inspired by a running Looney Tunes gag.
Only in the topsy-turvy universe of the NFL and Brandon Marshall's life a few years ago is injuring your arm in a wacky series of events—sparked by tripping on a McDonald's bag—better than doing it by wrestling with a family member (or whatever actually happened).
Who HASN'T Turned into Kurt Angle After a Case of Schlitz?
After just three seasons with the Mariners, Japanese pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki suffered an extremely freak injury, which just so happened to coincide with his services becoming less valued in Seattle.
He cracked several ribs, ending up on the DL for the second time in 2003, when he tripped down the steps in his home while carrying a suitcase.
Sasaki's absurd story was questioned by sports journalists both in the U.S., as well as Japan, who believed it to be as convenient as it was implausible.
Sometime later, author Robert Whiting said that a source revealed Sasaki was actually injured attempting some WWE-style moves whilst inebriated.
'Package of Deer Meat' Never Makes a Story Less Weird
In 2005, Rockies rookie Clint Barmes broke his collarbone in what he initially described as a simple fall while carrying groceries up a set of stairs. Then he later explained that he wasn't carrying just any groceries, but rather a precious package of deer meat given to him by teammate Todd Helton.
Barmes said he changed his initial story because he didn't want to bring Helton into the mess. Which would've been fine, if that had been the final version. But it wasn't the final version.
Eventually Barmes edited the tale again, this time adding that he had spent the day riding ATVs at Helton's ranch outside Denver with Brad Hawpe, another teammate.
How funny that he spent the entire day riding around on an ATV without incident, only to be undone by an innocent package of venison! To this day Barmes refuses to admit the truth, but does concede it has haunted him throughout his career. As it should! This is exactly why you should tell the truth; it'll hurt in the moment, but it can save you a lifetime of pain.
You think anyone would still be talking about a stupid ATV accident?
Alberto Contador and the PED-Marinated Steak
Cyclist Alberto Contador's 2010 Tour de France victory was—surprise—fleeting, when it was announced a month later the Spaniard tested positive for clenbuterol—a powerful stimulant prescribed for asthma. As if the sport's sordid recent history and reputation provided shelter from skepticism, Contador claimed he'd gotten food poisoning from a steak contaminated with a tiny amount of the drug.
Initially, it seemed like a far-fetched (but not impossible) explanation, due to the small amount in his blood work—leading the ICC to hedge its statements on the investigation with a caveat about the test results.
But, pro cycling and most egregiously, the Tour de France, are a sucker's bet when it comes to assuming the worst-case scenario is anything less than a near certainty. In 2012, Contador was stripped of his title and handed a two-year ban from the sport (dating back to his provisional suspension after testing positive).
**Speaking of lying about injuries...I got carpel tunnel from fighting a Kodiak bear in Alaska. Follow me on Twitter and hear more about it. Follow @blamberr