I like words. Words are my business. But usually, as the sports year draws to a close, all we look back on is action. The great plays. The winning moments. Nobody remembers the colorful, fascinating, and often boneheaded things that people said during the course of the year. Sure. They would rather forget them.
Not so fast. I have spent all year saving up great nuggets of sportstalk. And I have spent the last week digging them out from behind my desk. Some, in retrospect, look wise. Some look foolish. And some look just plain . . . ridiculous.
But they said them. I promise. And now we’re going to remind them. Which is the best? The dumbest, oddest, craziest thing any sports person said in 1988? You be the judge. Without further delay, I present this year’s nominees for Most Memorable Quotes In Sports Talk, 1988.
* Tom Monaghan, Tigers owner, after Kirk Gibson left for the Dodgers: “He was a disgrace to the Tiger uniform with his half- beard, half-stubble. . . . The Tigers are better off without him. . . .”
* Tom Monaghan, Tigers owner, after a swarm of criticism for his comments:
“I’m pulling for the Dodgers in the World Series. Kirk has really been tremendous.”
* Larry Holmes, boxer, a few weeks before facing Mike Tyson: “This is for pride, not for money.”
* Larry Holmes, boxer, a few hours after Tyson knocked him out: “Hey, I got my three million dollars.”
* Chuck Daly, Pistons coach, after a particularly bad loss: “Practice today will last just long enough to throw up.”
* Sparky Anderson, Tigers manager, in August: “There’s 50 games left. If we get the pitching, we’re gonna win it.”
* John McEnroe, tennis player: “Tennis is boring with me, and ridiculous without me.”
* Charlie Francis, coach for sprinter Ben Johnson, two months before the Summer Olympics: “Ben’s getting faster at his event. He might go as fast as 9.79.”
* Mitch Green, boxer: “Mike Tyson wears panties.”
* Mike Tyson, heavyweight champion, in September: “I love my wife. I’m never gonna leave my wife. My wife’s never gonna leave me.”
* Mike Tyson, heavyweight champion, in November: “She’s a bitch.”
* Robin Givens, wife of Mike Tyson: “Why does everybody hate me? I’m the nicest person I know.”
* Jim Schoenfeld, New Jersey hockey coach, to referee Don Koharski: “HEY! HAVE ANOTHER DOUGHNUT, YOU FAT PIG!”
* Lance Parrish, Phillies catcher, to his pitching staff: “The way you hold runners on, God couldn’t throw them out.”
* Dan Fouts, former San Diego Chargers quarterback: “Now that I’m retired, I want to say that all defensive linemen are sissies.”
* David Santee, ABC ice skating announcer, informing Canadian Brian Orser that he had just lost the Olympic gold medal to the USA’s Brian Boitano:
“Brian, I have some good news and some bad news. . . .”
* Larry Brown, Kansas basketball coach, on speculation that he would leave and take a job with an NBA team: “It’s all very silly. Kansas has been wonderful to me. I don’t anticipate leaving.”
* Jacques Demers, Red Wings coach, back in April: “We have worked so hard in trying to rehabilitate Bob Probert, and I think we’ve made tremendous improvement — tremendous improvement, compared to running cars into a ditch.”
* Petr Klima, Red Wings forward, back in April: “This is it. This is my third year. I play good now or I’m bleeped.”
* George Steinbrenner, Yankees owner: “Billy Martin is my manager. Case closed.”
* Willie Pep, former featherweight champion, on reports of his death: “Naw, I’m not dead. I ain’t even been out of the house.”
* John Salley, Pistons forward, narrating his home movie during the NBA Finals: “OK, now here we have a picture of Rick Mahorn’s butt. . . . Wait. Let me back up a little. . . .”
* Dennis Rodman, Pistons forward, when asked what he would do once the championship series had ended: “I don’t know. Maybe drive across the United States or something.”
* Jeff Robinson, Tigers pitcher: “We feel we’re the best team in the AL East. Nobody wants to believe that. After we win the World Series, they’ll still be saying, ‘What a fluke!’ ”
* Peter Pocklington, Edmonton Oilers owner: “Wayne Gretzky has an ego the size of Manhattan.”
* William Clay Ford, Lions owner: “We’re boring and we’re losing.”
* Chuck Long, Lions quarterback, after a knee injury took him out of the lineup: “I’ll be back sooner than they think.”
* Darryl Rogers, Lions coach: “Of course I expect to be here next year. Every coach expects that. But you never know.”
So there you have them. This year’s nominees for Most Memorable Sports Quotes. Of course, there’s still two weeks left in the year.
Mr. Monaghan? Any thoughts?
Mitch Albom’s sports-talk show “The Sunday Sports Album” can be heard tonight from 9-11 on WLLZ 98.7-FM. Guests include: Bill Laimbeer, Billy Sims and Tony Mandarich.