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July 30, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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But Words Will Never Hurt Me

New Zealand golfer Michael Campbell is an interesting creature. After finishing in a tie for third after the first round at the Open Championship (a display of surprisingly decent form from a sportsman who found himself languishing outside the Top 100 all but a week earlier), the man born in Hawera grinned as he said to a crew of waiting news media, “You’re probably all surprised, aren’t you? I’m not. I was talking to my wife and coach the last couple of days and I said it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m leading after the first round, I’m playing so well.” He found himself missing a series of putts (and the irony of his statements) a mere day later by carding a saddening seven-over-par 68 in the second round, barely making the cut in the process.

This isn’t the first time a sporting personality has churned out a delicious concoction of headline-friendly haughtiness, only to see himself slicing up his fair share of humble pie but a single game later. For example, Sean Fitzpatrick infamously declared that the Wallabies were incapable of beating the All Blacks, moments before the two sides in the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi-final (a game which most New Zealand rugby fans still believe never actually took place, me included).

Sometimes what’s said isn’t so much “wrong” as it is “hilariously decontextualised.” There is no better example of this than the sagely pieces of wisdom that have passed through the lips of Sky TV’s own Murray Mexted. The former All Black loose forward has carved himself a niche in sporting humour for his unintentional (and sometimes painfully intentional) gaffs. “I don’t like this new law,” Mexted once quipped, “because your first instinct when you see a man on the ground is to go down on him.”

He followed that gem up with: “Darryl Gibson has been quite magnificent coming inside Andrew Mehrtens, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the same today”, and there’s my personal favourite: “Everybody knows that I have been pumping Martin Leslie for a couple of seasons now.”

American sport is also littered with similar bits of boundless bravado, and to be quite frank, moments of pure, unadulterated idiocy. NBA superstar Magic Johnson once remarked that his combination with team-mate James Worthy was so in-sync, they “must’ve had ESPN or something.” Baseball great Yogi Berra once sagely said that “Baseball is 90 per cent mental — the other half is physical”, while NASCAR driver Kurt Busch celebrated a win in 2005 by saying “My wiener has never been so exhausted.”

I guess Michael Campbell can take solace in the fact that no matter how cringe-worthy his statements were in retrospect, they pale in comparison to the litany of quips that have spewed forth from the cross-eyed face of sport.

I guess there are really times – and pastimes, for that matter – where words really are useless.

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