The Longshot: Names that Stick in the memory, totem poles and chainsaws

Gong but not forgotten: Wasps, cats, contrary pigeons and cavemen footballers dominate as awards season arrives at Longshot Towers 
The Longshot: Names that Stick in the memory, totem poles and chainsaws

Saudi Arabia celebrate victory over Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar, one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history.

As we ready ourselves to rip the calendar from the wall only to replace it with another one with animals just as fluffy, let’s look back at who deserves to be remembered for the year just gone in the sporting realm.

Best tipster

Better get the big one out of the way first. Only one winner here.

Returning to these pages after a four-year hiatus, yours truly has offered solid betting advice for the past four months. Sure, there have been plenty of dunderheaded tips, but we’ve offset that with a few big calls. Should I be the one to decide this award? Is there not a massive conflict interest in, let’s face it, selecting oneself? I suppose so.

But it’s still just about Christmas and the best gifts are the ones you give yourself.

Worst referee

Bringing up the subject of bad beats, Mathieu Raynal denied Australia a famous comeback win against the All Blacks in September. And cost us a 13/1 winner. The French ref decided Bernard Foley was time-wasting during his run-up to kick the ball into touch and end the match. Pity they don’t have the ability to stop the clock in rugby. Oh yeah, they do. Prat.

Best All Blacks defeat

New Zealand’s rugby side were beaten four times (shoulda been five) this year, twice by the boys in green, who became the first touring side to leave the country victorious since France in 1994.

Biggest rugby sting in the tail

Storied English rugby club Wasps went under due to insolvency. We’ll no longer be able to make the old reliable “will they be putting out their bee team?” gag when they arrive on these shores. Sad.

Most amusing name

The backs coach for South Africa’s Springboks is Wanky Stick.

Saddest treatment of a cat

Kurt Zouma. No contest really. Don’t allow videos of yourself kicking your pet cat to go online is rule number two. Rule one is don’t kick a cat. Simple enough rules.

Most intrusive impact

Todd Boehly became co-owner and chairman of Chelsea after the Russian got booted out. He almost immediately floated the idea of a North v South Premier League All-Star Game. It might not be for me or most football fans, but we’re not saying something like that wouldn’t be a massive money-spinner in this day and age if done right. It’s just Yanks crossing over the Atlantic and interfering with others’ fields probably needs more subtlety, as we know.

Biggest shock

Saudi Arabia beating Argentina 2-1 in their opening game. They still went out in the group stages, but not before piling ignominy on Argentina, from which the proud football nation is unlikely to recover anytime soon.

Honourable mention

England’s rugby league side beat Samoa 60-6 in the group stages of that World Cup in October. Less than a month later they were beaten by the same side by a single point in the semis. Some turnaround.

Most philosophical moment

Former football pro and radio broadcaster Jason Cundy, on his talkSPORT show, postulated: “Football’s only been around for 150 years. A hundred thousand years ago there was a man who could have been the greatest footballer ever but all he did was kill an animal and wear its skin on his back.” Deep.

Least philosophical moment

In September Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha took to Twitter and offered his time to fans: “I’ve got some free time today so ask me some questions and I’ll answer as many as I can guys.” A guy named Danny Shurey put a moral quandary before him that doesn’t bear thinking about and definitely won’t be printed here. Check it up if you dare.

Least dignified exit

“I s**t on your prostitute mother,” Gerard Pique’s final words as a professional footballer, as he was sent off from the bench for arguing with the referee during his last game for Barcelona. Lovely

Almost least dignified exit

Messi and friends were in an open-top bus in Buenos Aires for their homecoming. Things were thrown, and people tried to jump on to it from bridges. The hairiest moment came when five of them barely managed to duck under an overhanging wire that could have swept them off the back if their reflexes hadn’t been so good.

Best comeback 

Nine months after collapsing to the pitch as his heart stopped during the European Championships, Christian Eriksen rejoined Denmark in a 4-2 loss to the Netherlands, when he scored with his first touch after coming on as a half-time sub. He now has a pacemaker, an insert to kickstart his heart rather than someone to run in front of him, which is just as well as that guy would constantly be getting caught offside.

Worst poetry

 Ryan Giggs channelled his inner Dylan Thomas when writing love notes we discovered in a court case taken by his former girlfriend, where he faced charges of assaulting her (a retrial was ordered after the jury failed to reach a verdict).

“You are the cherry on my cake, the jam in my doughnut, the salt in my tequila, the truffle in my pasta.” That’s not bad compared to this. “I’m gonna end by saying you are my love my friend my soul, And most of all you believe in me, which makes me hard as a totem pole.” 

Best simile 

There was far less poetry in the other major football court case —dubbed the ‘Wagatha Christie’ trial — although Rebekah Vardy did show she has a flair for similes: “Arguing with Coleen [Rooney] is like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong but it’s still going to s**t in your hair.” 

Best Spice Market 

“It’s one of the best spice markets I’ve ever been to... I cannot wait to bring my children here” David Beckham sold his reputation for some corporate bucks. His Doha spice market review was a bit disingenuous. Especially considering his wife was a Spice Girl. It was an open goal.

The World Cup may have passed without much protest, but that didn't stop some footballers standing up for what they believed in.
The World Cup may have passed without much protest, but that didn't stop some footballers standing up for what they believed in.

Rawest Pots 

Romanian Second Division side Politehnica decided to share an anti-war message before a league clash in March. Their side lined out in T-shirts to show support for the end of hostilities in Ukraine. They stood in the wrong order and managed to advocate for ‘RAW POTS’ instead.

Biggest DIY enthusiast

Jens Lehmann buzzed through the roof beams of his neighbour’s garage in Germany with a chainsaw, which we imagine won’t exactly bring an end to what has apparently been a long-running feud.

It couldn't be? Micheal Martin's doppelganger found things nervy at the Dublin-Kerry semi-final.
It couldn't be? Micheal Martin's doppelganger found things nervy at the Dublin-Kerry semi-final.

Honourable mention 

Dublin goalie Evan Comerford showed he’s handy at a bit of woodwork by doing his best to turn Hawkeye manual as he shook the Croker posts for Sean O’Shea’s last-second effort in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry.

Best quote 

Oisín McConville when interviewed with Galway footballer Shane Walsh — who had this season transferred to Dublin club Kilmacud Crokes — was asked if he had ever considered moving away from Crossmaglen. ”I did, but from an early age I had become very attached to my knees.” 

Best return of Serb in tennis 

‘No-vax’ Djokovic’s getting sent home from Down Under in January.

Worst self-motivation

 The Serb bounced back at Wimbledon thanks to Nick Kyrgios’s meltdown on Centre Court. It wasn’t the Aussie’s fault, of course, it was the fault of his coaches, his family, and his girlfriend in the crowd. And a woman cheering him on too loudly.

Best headline 

Well, I wrote “No Escape from Alcaraz” after the 19-year-old Carlos from Spain became the youngest ever ATP No. 1 after winning the US Open. Another ace associated with a jail was Boris Becker, who left prison after serving (!) seven months in the UK for fraud.

Best horse sense

 Rhys McClenaghan shrugged off Olympic and European Championship disappointment to become Ireland’s first gymnastics world champion on the pommel.

The best Irish performance on a horse in Liverpool since Rachael Blackmore guided Minella Times home last year.

Most disgusting moment (in the history of sport)

Coach Dominic Ingle drinking a glass of sweat squeezed out of the training shirt of his boxer Kell Brook.

Shortest retirement 

Sweeping away any claims Tyson Fury might have to this title was Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady who changed his mind after 40 days away from the NFL. Being American, it was probably in some sort of Christ-centric timing thing 

Best actual intervention from God 

Scottie Scheffler, the only golfer to play every round under par at Augusta, finished 10-under to win his first major championship at the Masters and retain his No. 1 world ranking. Fair play to him? No. It was all down to the Big Guy in the Sky, he said. “The reason why I play golf is that I am trying to glorify God and all that he’s done in my life.” No wonder he did so well around Amen Corner.

Most insincere golfer 

“They are scary motherf*****s to get involved with. We know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.” Phil Mickelson decided to ignore any doubts he had about Saudi Arabia and joined up with the LIV Tour.

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