As another year of sporting achievement draws to a close, the BBC is preparing to hand out the gongs at BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2014 on 14 December. Those who like acronyms will know this event as SPOTY, and I see that for fans of brevity it’s been shortened to SP14, which sounds like a tax form.
As readers of this blog may already know, I gave up watching SPOTY a few years ago. The endless montages, cheesy interviews and wall-to-wall sycophancy gave me a headache.
There’s not even much of a competition this year, with World Number One golfer Rory McIlroy seemingly a shoo-in to beat new Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton for Sports Personality of the Year 2014. That’s disappointing news for fans of the ever fertile Roger Federer, who’d argue that fathering a second set of twins is even more impressive than picking up two Majors.
Instead of watching SPOTY, I’d like to salute those players, managers and administrators across the sporting world who made the headlines in 2014 for all the wrong reasons.
Luis Suarez: big mouth strikes again
When you look back on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, what do you think of first? Is it the 5-1 rout of defending champions Spain by the Netherlands or Germany’s ruthless 7-1 semi-final annihilation of over-confident hosts Brazil? Of course not. It was Uruguay’s goal-hungry striker, Luis Suárez, apparently sinking his teeth into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini that made headlines around the world and sent the British press into a feeding frenzy. Suárez had previous form – most recently an attempt to nibble Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic’s arm – so his four-month ban wasn’t a surprise. Love him or hate him, the orthodontically challenged Luis is a gift to sub-editors (“It had to be chew!”) and GIF-makers. Liverpool haven’t been the same since he left.
Phil Mickelson: a formula for failure
The British press had the knives out for veteran Phil Mickelson at the 2014 Ryder Cup. Both before and after his team’s 16 ½ to 11 ½ points defeat by Europe, Mickelson’s penchant for shooting his mouth off overshadowed the action. I’ve always found Phil’s swashbuckling style, expanding girth and incipient man boobs quite appealing. His “we also don’t litigate against each other” quip – referencing Rory McIlroy’s dispute with former management company Horizon was more innocuous than obnoxious. Sadly not many people appreciated the candour of Mickelson’s “We have strayed from a winning formula” post-mortem on Tom Watson’s feeble captaincy. A case of bad timing?
Kevin Pietersen: right to reply?
I’ve never been able to make up my mind whether Kevin Pietersen is a “maverick genius” or just another tattooed narcissist with too many trick shots. Following England’s disastrous Ashes tour last winter, the ECB terminated KP’s contract – some would say with extreme prejudice. His response was the imaginatively titled KP: The Autobiography, in which he lambasted the “bullying culture” supposedly fostered by former coach Andy Flower and senior England players like Graeme Swann and Matt Prior. No doubt the mutual mud-slinging helped KP shift lots of units, but it wasn’t what Alastair Cook’s beleaguered team needed.
Shamil Tarpischev vs the Williams sisters
Shamil Tarpischev sounds like a girl’s name to me, but even if the president of the Russian Tennis Federation had an “ova” he’d still be no match for Serena and Venus Williams. That ill-judged reference to the “Williams brothers” during a Russian chat show appearance briefly made Tarpischev a household name. The WTA slapped him with a US$25,000 fine and a 12-month suspension. Serena Williams hit him with the triple-barrelled accusation of being “extremely sexist, racist and bullying”.
The ever popular Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand’s Twitter account was in the news again in 2014, following that ill-advised “sket” hashtag. The FA fined him £25,000 and banned him for three matches for introducing fans to this Caribbean slang for a loose woman. The FA took into account that @rioferdy5 has almost 6 million followers and is therefore held to a higher burden of responsibility as a prolific tweeter. In response he tweeted: “Is humour even allowed….I’m baffled! Ludicrous…. & I don’t mean the rapper.”
Money talks & West Indies walk
In the 70s and 80s the West Indies test team were world-beating entertainers with the scariest fast bowling attack and Master Blaster batsman Viv Richards. In 2014 Dwayne Bravo’s team made the news for abandoning a tour of India in October because of a pay dispute. I don’t know who’s to blame: the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) or the players. I do know it’s a terrible advertisement for the game of cricket.