The imperfect ten: The Anti-Sports Personality of the Year nominations
The great and the good get their BBC beano on Sunday night, but what about the gross and the greedy? Here are our 10 contenders for the anti-Sports Personality of the Year award for 2016.
It might be harsh to single out one athlete to epitomise Russia’s drug cheats as some seem as much helpless vessels for a corrupt state-backed systematic policy of doping than wholly engaged and culpable accomplices. But the sheer gall of the protests of Yulia Efimova, who had served an 18-month ban for doping in 2013 and was appearing at Rio only because a provisional ban for using meldonium had been lifted, exemplified the official effrontery of Russia’s response to being caught.
After winning her second silver medal in the 200m breaststroke she said she would “very much want to hear apologies from some people” for all the booing she received and from Lily King, the champion in the 100m breastroke, who called her triumph a “victory for clean sport”. One of the side effects of all that gear? Brass necks.
The only multiple Olympic medal winner to model his hair on Are You Being Served’s Mrs Slocombe, Ryan Lochte celebrated his 12th gold, naturally enough, by tying one on. Trying it on, too, when behaving loutishly after his thirst had been slaked, he spun an intervention by security guards into ‘an armed robbery’, tickling the erogenous zones of the peddlers of crime-wave hysteria in the city. He told banter-monster journalist Billy Bush that one of his assailants even bandied a police badge but after CCTV footage was studied and released, 'The Lochte Mess Monster' (Daily News) and his fellow revellers were forced to admit they had really been obliged to pay damages for some sub-Rolling Stones antics involving public urination and banal vandalism.
By that time, though, Lochte had left the others to face the music but was charged in absentia with making a false statement. He subsequently apologised for ‘exaggeration’ and lost several endorsements but, looking up, he may be in the running to become the Trump administration’s pick for US ambassador in Brasilia.
Ryder Cup crowd
General stridency, vociferous, relentless ululations of ‘U-S-A’, even the frankly boring, baffling but implacable bellow of ‘Cheeseburger’ whenever a European struck his drive at the eighth tee were only to be expected at Hazeltine during the 41st Ryder Cup last autumn.
But the constant shouts of ‘miss’ the moment after a European putt kissed the head of the club, exhortations that Rory McIlroy should ‘suck a d---‘ and that he had somehow contrived to marry his father violated even the agreeably more competitive etiquette of this event. Indeed the obscene hounding of Danny Willett, his wife and parents, by those taking his brother’s breezy preview at face value demonstrated the fetishising of pride and wilful blindness to nuance that is poisoning our age.
The gifted Australian is becoming tennis’s perennial on this list of nominees and though he has done nothing this year to match his previous breaches of social norms – coarse language and taunting of an opponent in the most grossly offensive personal manner – his on-court petulance and nihilist tantrums continue to contravene professional ethics.
His ‘tanking’ during the Shanghai Masters when he gave up against Mischa Zverev was a new low. After defeat he embarked on the usual serpentine cavilling, claiming he didn’t care and his critics didn’t know what they were talking about. Later, in classic teenage martyrdom mode, he asserted that he was ‘better than that’ and everyone else chorused back that they didn’t care and he didn’t know what he was talking about.
There is something truly remarkable about Piers Morgan’s Twitter presence. Not only is it the density of subjects on which he holds opinions that he is unable to keep private, there is his obdurate certainty and a kind of masochism that encourages him to keep windmilling despite the numbers of plausible, expert critics ranged against him. Is he, like the antelope, innately incapable of rutting? One wonders if his dispassionate views on sport are sincere. If they are, these combative assertions about winning being the sole purpose of athletic endeavour betray a clinical, dismissive ethos never more evident than when he tweeted: ‘Just can’t get excited by silver and bronze medals. You win or you lose. Gold is all that matters.’
Predictably it created a furious response and Morgan was empowered to plough on as he always does which may be the whole point of this cycle of provocation and retaliation. Being heard is winning. It is all that matters.
Will this be the erstwhile Fifa president’s last appearance on this annual list? Not, one suspects, while there is still breath in him. The Matterhorn of misdemeanours in previous years has not been matched in 2016. His power has gone and with it the malign consequences of his ideas. But that hasn’t stopped him whinging about the six-year ban from the game he has polluted that has now been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport or droning on about disrespect like a playground 50 Cent.
Apparently he’s been 'ghosted' by his successor Gianni Infantino who cannot bring himself to tell him they’ve split up so ignores him instead: “I told him I have a list of questions that should be solved in Fifa which has not been solved before,” said Blatter. “I have sent him a letter and I have his personal number and I was told that it’s still correct. Never, never an answer, never. I have never seen in any company that the new president ... was not paying respect to the old president.” Infantino, meanwhile, has proposed expanding the World Cup to 48 teams and has dissolved Fifa’s racism taskforce because he felt it had accomplished its mission, proving that the verdict of the German journalist quoted by Brian Glanville in 1994 that Blatter has ’50 new ideas a day, 51 of them bad’ may be as much about the office as the incumbent.
Who do we hold responsible for West Ham’s troubles at the London Stadium? It’s a toss up between David Sullivan, David Gold and Baroness Brady but she earns our nomination for her reported £1m bonus for securing the tax-payer subsidised deal, her description of chaotic security arrangements as ‘teething problems’, her view that the club her employers bought six years ago “had no what I would call culture” and the new stadium was “a real opportunity to change the brand of the club”.
And what a success it has been. They may have won only three times at home this season but “we’re now ranked 15th in terms of brand values. We were 115th when I joined”. Success!
Security training drills have to be as authentic as possible in replicating the kinds of threat stadiums and the crowds they attract are facing. But they also have to be meticulous, something Chris Reid of Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd failed to do at Old Trafford last May.
Each one of those nouns – security, search, management and solutions – must have echoed tauntingly in his head when a mock pipe bomb left in a lavatory for four days after a drill caused the evacuation of the stadium and the postponement of Manchester United’s match against Bournemouth. The match had to be rescheduled for 48 hours later, causing huge inconvenience for the supporters travelling up from Dorset – (all together now) even the Bournemouth ones.
In 2015 Hope Solo and her USA team-mates won the World Cup, were honoured at the White House and enjoyed a ticker-tape parade in New York City. A year later the Olympic gold medal-winning goalkeeper from 2008 and 2012 began her campaign for a hat-trick in Rio by showing off her armoury of outfits and repellents to protect her from Zika after about-turning on her initial decision not to travel.
During matches the home crowds taunted her by chanting the name of the virus and her tournament ended in defeat by Sweden on penalties. When Christen Press missed USA’s fifth spot-kick, Solo insisted on delaying Sweden’s chance to win by faffing around and changing her gloves. Lisa Dahlkvist laughed at her then beat her but after the match Solo stropped off and called Sweden a ‘bunch of cowards’ for their tactics, a jibe that affronted US Soccer more than the jubilant Swedes. The governing body ripped up her contract and banned her for six months, a time she could usefully spend learning beekeeping – she has a wardrobe full of the outfits.
Who at Aston Villa deserves most stick for their shameful, occasionally shameless, approach to the 2015-16 season? Micah Richards for responding to valid if profane criticism aggressively? The Hippy Crack gang? The boozers and over-eaters? Half a dozen players who seemed cowed by the responsibility? Randy Lerner for putting his fingers in his ears and shouting 'not happening, not happening' for six years? Muddled management and mudled managers? All of them bear responsibility but nothing symbolises the attitude at the club more than Joleon Lescott tweeting a picture of a £120,000 Mercedes 15 minutes after a 6-0 defeat by Liverpool.
It was published with no comment but then none was needed. Lescott excused himself by saying it had been accidentally tweeted when the phone was in his pocket during the drive home. A pocket that could unlock the phone, open Twitter, select new post, press add image, choose the image, upload it into the tweet and send it was so ingenious Villa should have appointed it as manager.