NEW YORK, NY – We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled holiday-themed columns to bring you this sensitive think piece on the spoken word. Between all of the comments flying around in this whole Tiger Woods mess, the always-suspect statements released by George Steinbrenner, and just about every other athlete claiming that their words were “taken out of context,” we decided to do a little investigation into some of the sports world’s most memorable quotes and see if they actually happened the way they were reported. What we found out was that, in many cases, they weren’t. To paraphrase the always quotable Yogi Berra: most of these people never said the things they said. For instance:
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach:
“We’re gonna unleash hell in December!”
-What Tomlin actually said:
“We’re gonna really smell in December.”
And in losing to the Raiders and Browns in successive weeks, Tomlin’s prediction was right on the money.
Herman Edwards, Former New Jets Head Coach:
“You play to win the game.”
-What Edwards actually said:
“You play to win the game and when you don’t win the game, which will happen quite a bit, you try to say something amusing that will hopefully help you land a TV gig after you get fired.”
And Herm did just that. In fact, his expert football analysis is almost (almost, mind you) as funny as his tenure with both the Jets and Chiefs.
“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
-What Paige actually said:
“Don’t look back. There’s a huge woman holding a rolling pin standing behind you.”
Moments later, Satchel’s teammate Bullet Joe Rogan got brained by his wife.
Jerry Manuel, Mets Manager, after another sloppy loss:
“Did we make some mistakes tonight? No question.”
-What Manuel actually said:
“Did the Mets make a mistake in bringing me back? No question.”
And there’s very little question that Jerry in 2010 is another huge mistake.
Vince Lombardi, Hall-of-Fame Packers Coach:
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
-What Lombardi actually said:
“VD makes cowards of us all.”
The coach made this famous speech after half the team came down with the clap on a roadtrip to Detroit.
Roger Clemens refuting the testimony of former teammate long-time chum Andy Pettitte:
-What Clemens actually said:
“Andy is a f***ing two-faced liar and so is anyone else who says I ever used performance enhancers. Yeah, that goes for my HGH-addicted wife too.”
By the way, when are the Yankees going to make Clemens their pitching coach the same way the Cardinals brought Mark McGwire back to be their hitting coach?
“Just because you put a guy in a tuxedo, it doesn’t mean he’s a good guy.”
-What Iverson actually said:
“Just because you put a guy in a tuxedo it doesn’t mean he’s a good Maitre d’.”
Not many people know that The Answer is very particular about his front-of-house restaurant staff.
“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”
-What Berra actually said:
“Joe Pepitone is 90% mental and the other half is a bad toupee.”
As Rex O’Rourke pointed out months ago, Yogi really had a way with words.
Al Michaels at the conclusion of the U.S. Hockey team’s upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics:
“Do you believe in Miracles?”
-What Michael’s actually said:
“Do you believe those idiots put Miracle Whip on my baloney sandwich?!?”
It’s true, Michaels missed the call on one of the great moments in sports history because he was irate over a deli order.
Muhammad Ali, on many occasions:
“I am the greatest of all time.”
-What Ali actually said:
“I am the greatest of all mimes.”
It’s amazing just how many people misheard this quote so many times. Ali was actually very humble when it came to his prowess in the ring, but if you even hinted to the champ that Marcel Marceau was the greatest living mime he’d scatter your teeth like mahjong tiles.
Anyway, you get the point. I’m sure there are other big ones here that I’m overlooking. Feel free to set the record straight on any that come to mind. See you next Wednesday. You can quote me on that… And check out the new videos.