Over the course of a typical sports year, we see and hear some incredibly dumb things both on and off the field.
Tiger Woods leaves a voice mail and text message trail. Chad Ochocinco speaks (at all). Hanley Ramirez throws a temper tantrum in front of the 10,870 Marlins fans who bothered to show up. Someone in the NBA goes on Ustream.
It’s a wonderful world we live in.
As we know, it takes quite an ego to play sports professionally. The enormous amount of confidence required to go out in front of huge crowds, to feel that your performance is worth millions of dollar, has to be difficult to manage.
And sometimes, our favorite athletes’ mouths runneth over. What follows are a few instances of athletes talking when maybe (just maybe) it would have been better to shut up and play.
These are The 10 Stupidest Sports Guarantees of all time.
The Setup: Perhaps you’ve heard of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry?
The teams don’t like each other. The fans don’t like each other. In nature, a wolverine and a buckeye are probably located on different continents to maintain the balance. We know they don’t coexist well in neighboring states.
The Guarantee: Terry Glen, 1995, “Michigan is nothing.”
David Boston, 1997, “I play against better defensive backs than him [Michigan’s Charles Woodson] in practice every day."
The Failure: The final score in 1995 was Michigan 31 - Ohio State 23. So as it turned out, Michigan was actually 31 points better than nothing (and eight points better than Ohio State).
After a 20-14 defeat of Ohio State in 1997, Woodson was quoted as saying, “I was like a father out there, chastising his son for talking to the wrong people.” Ouch.
Apparently they don’t teach history at Ohio State University.
The Setup: Cristobal “Nightmare” Arreola brought a spotless 27-0 professional record to his bout against WBC Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in 2009. At the time, he was considered a prime contender to unseat the incumbent champion and provide a compelling American heavyweight for the first time in almost 20 years.
The Guarantee: “I'm gonna win this fight, I'm gonna do it. I've worked my butt off to get here and I've always seen this day coming.”
The Failure: As it turned out, the only portion of the fight likely to be associated with a nightmare would be Arreola’s memory. Assuming he remembered anything. Klitschko won in an 10th round TKO and the fight was never in doubt.
Anyone who guarantees a victory and ends up humiliated and in tears has earned a place here.
(photo credit: © Tri Le / TheDailySportsHerald)
The Setup: No, not Silent Bob. Kevin Smith, running back for the Detroit Lions.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, the Lions entered 2009 with absolutely nowhere to go but up. They finished 2008 without winning a game, the first team in NFL history to do so.
And how better to punctuate coming off of a historically awful season than by making a historically awful prediction?
The Guarantee: “I won’t make a prediction about how many games we’re going to win, but I will say this: We will definitely make the playoffs this season.”
The Failure: Amazingly enough, the Lions did not make the playoffs. On the other hand, they did make a significant improvement of two wins over the previous season. Did I mention that the previous season included zero wins?
As bad as the Lions were, Smith’s season was much worse. After eclipsing the 100-yard mark only once in his first 13 games, Smith tore his left ACL, an injury that could impact his 2010 season. Hopefully this year’s guarantee comes from his doctor.
The Setup: In 1993, Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to two consecutive championships and was playing for his third. Standing in his way: the round mound of rebound and his Phoenix Suns.
And far be it from Charles Barkley to keep quiet.
The Guarantee: “God wants us to win the championship. I told Michael Jordan the other day that it was destiny for us to win.”
The Failure: I’m not sure that’s in the top 100 things you’d want to say to the most competitive person on the planet. Jordan is also probably the only person alive that would want to try to take God one-on-one.
Not surprisingly, the Bulls won the series in six games. We know Sir Charles to be good-natured and prone to joking. But this was just plain "turrbl."
The Setup: Mark Messier is the only member of this list to also have made a successful guarantee (winning Game Six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and scoring a hat trick along the way). It would have been unfair to excuse him for his not-so-successful one.
After a brief stay in Vancouver, Messier returned to the New York Rangers for the 2000-01 season. The Rangers were coming off of three consecutive losing seasons. Logically, he was quick to promise big things for the team, including a guaranteed playoff berth.
The Guarantee: “[On whether he stood by his playoff guarantee] Absolutely. I haven’t changed my mind at all. We’ve got half a season left, we’re only a few points behind. We’ve got to get there.”
The Failure: The Rangers finished 16 points out of playoff contention (a significant margin). As a consolation, this put them 20 points ahead of the Islanders, making them the best team by an even more significant margin in the city of New York. So that's something.
Messier himself finished the season with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) at age 40, so it’s not as if he didn’t contribute to the cause. The fact remains that it would probably have been better to make a promise like, “I will make this team better.”
Baby steps, Mark.
The Setup: Leading into 2002, Atlanta Hawks fans had endured three consecutive losing seasons. Drawing the only logical conclusion from, well, three straight losing seasons, Hawks coach Lon Kruger guaranteed the Hawks would make the playoffs.
But that’s not even the guarantee stupid enough to land the Hawks on this list.
The Guarantee: As part of their 2002-2003 marketing campaign, the Hawks promised $125 refunds to all of their season-ticket holders if they didn’t make the playoffs.
The Failure: The Hawks went 35-47, good for fifth place. Seven games out of contention for the final playoff spot. Kruger was fired during the season. Even GM Pete Babcock, who claimed later that he didn’t support the idea, but went along with it, was let go. Like a Monty Python subtitle, except futile instead of funny.
The person responsible for writing that line, we are informed, has been sacked.
(Courtesy of Ted Keys, die-hard Hawks fan)
The Setup: After a victory over Algeria in their first match and seeing the United States and England tie to lead off what was supposed to be an easy group for both teams, Slovenia was feeling understandably confident heading into the second match of its 2010 World Cup. So confident, in fact, that one of their bench players, Andrej Komac, felt compelled to guarantee a victory over the U.S. in that second game.
The Guarantee: “We are going to win this match…We are playing our style of football and we’ll continue with that, and we can beat the U.S. with that style.”
The Failure: Well, what Komac meant to say was that his team would take an early 2-0 lead, blow it and have to settle for a draw. Which was almost a loss. The good news for Komac? He didn’t come in until the 90th minute of the match, so it totally wasn’t his fault.
I can’t help but mention here that it was actually a loss, but John McEnroe wasn’t there to berate the referee into seeing it America's way.
The rest of the people in the Burger King drive-thru as I listened to the match on my radio were not spared the same fate.
The Setup: At the start of the 2007 season, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins went on record as saying, “I think we are the team to beat in the NL East.” This pronouncement shifted karma and the power structure in the National League East for the next two years.
Seeing Rollins’ success, the New York Mets decided to try their hand at the guarantee game. They apparently forgot that they were the Mets, and karma is not theirs to manipulate.
The Guarantee: Carlos Beltran (2008), "Without [Johan Santana] last year we did good, until the end of the season. So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat.”
Francisco Rodriguez (2009), “Of course we're going to try to win the division. Of course, we're going to be the front-runner. Of course we're going to be the team to beat.”
The Failure: The Mets were actually the team to be beaten. Following their 2007 collapse, the Mets made big free agent signings and appeared to be poised to regain control of the NL East. Again, they’re the Mets. They have to share a city with the Yankees.
Beltran’s prediction won the rival Phillies a World Series, while the Mets missed a playoff spot entirely. But his fate was significantly better, than K-Rod’s.
K-Rod, after failing to learn from Beltran’s prediction, decided to deliberately repeat it. He want on to post his career high in ERA (3.71) and his career low in saves (35) as a closer. The Mets also succumbed to injury woes and failed to make the playoffs again.
The Setup: We can thank Joe Namath for starting the trend of NFL players making guarantees. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Joey Porter wakes up each morning, goes to his mirror and guarantees he's going to have a great day.
That would explain why he's so jovial.
At any rate, in 2007, the New England Patriots were undefeated through 12 games. The Pittsburgh Steelers were a respectable 9-3.
Naturally, this lead to a player on the Steelers making a guarantee.
The Guarantee: "We got our swagger back on defense. We're playing great ball. And they're playing great on the offensive side too, so I think we've got a real good chance to win the game. We will win the game."
The Failure: Steelers defensive back Anthony Smith, given the chance to step back from this statement, stuck with his guns, telling the press it was a guarantee.
The Patriots went on to demolish the Steelers 31-13. Smith was burned on two deep balls for touchdowns. Not that Bill Belichick is known to be vindictive.
To make matters worse, Smith lost his starting job shortly after this game, proving there are no guarantees in life.
The Setup: You knew this was coming.
After tying the 2010 NBA Finals at a game apiece, the Boston Celtics were heading back home for a three-game stand. Winning two of the three would put them in great shape to have to steal only one game back in Los Angeles.
Winning all three, of course, would clinch an NBA Championship, their second in three years.
The Guarantee: Paul Pierce, “We ain’t coming back to L.A.”; Glen Davis, “We’ll come to play, we’ll compete, and we’ll be there at the end holding the trophy.”
The Failure: We all know how this worked out.
The series, miraculously, did come back to L.A. Just a tidbit here, Pierce actually grew up in Inglewood, CA. So maybe he wasn’t actually talking to Lakers fans about the actual series, but instead expressing some pent-up feelings about his hometown. Just spitballing here.
As for Big Baby, his guarantee probably came as close to happening as any on this list. It’s also possible that his concussion led him to believe it was 2008.