Looking back at 2008

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 3, 2009

By Tom Jones
St. Petersburg Times
Let’s have a look back at the wild, weird and wacky sports stories of 2008.DID HE SAVE THE BEERS? A 21-year-old fan at an Ottawa Senators game fell about 25 feet from the upper deck at Scotiabank Place when he tripped over a purse in an aisle while carrying two beers. He was hospitalized briefly and is okay.

GETTING HIS KICKS: Angel Matos, a tae kwon do star from Cuba, didn’t like being disqualified from an Olympic bronze-medal match and kicked the referee in the face, shoved a judge and spit on the floor. The Olympics hit back. He and his coach are banned forever. Meantime, Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian was banned for two years from international competition because of his protest: He left his bronze medal on the mat because he felt he was robbed.

RIOT IN MONTREAL: It’s never a surprise when a city erupts in violence after one of its teams wins a championship. But three police cars were set on fire after the Canadiens beat the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs! Geez, Habs fans, you guys have won more championships than anyone. Act like you’ve been there before.

GETTING A BIRDIE: Usually getting a birdie is a good thing. For Salisbury native Tripp Isenhour, getting a birdie landed him probation, anger management class, community service and a $500 fine. This genius thought the best way to quiet a protected hawk that was interrupting his instructional video shoot in Orlando was to hit a golf ball at it. Isenhour hit the bird, killed it and was charged with animal cruelty and killing a migratory bird.

TMI: In the file “Too Much Information,” we learned that Yankees slugger Jason Giambi wore a gold thong to get out of a hitting slump. Why gold? Those things aren’t made with pinstripes? Don’t answer that. Let’s move on, please.

IDIOT COACH OF THE YEAR: Loyola (Md.) basketball coach Jimmy Patsos came up with a clever idea for stopping Davidson star Stephen Curry. He would double-team Curry the entire game. Oh, it worked. Curry stood in the corner with his two defenders while the rest of his team played four-on-three against Loyola. Curry was shut out. Didn’t score one point. And Davidson won by 30.

CLASSY? You stay classy, Beijing It was learned after the Olympics’ opening ceremony that the little girl who sang during it was deemed by organizers not cute enough to be seen by a worldwide TV audience. So the Chinese got a “cuter” girl to lip-synch the words.

YADA, YADA, YADA: Before the Packers played the Giants in last season’s NFC Championship Game, a TV station in Green Bay pulled episodes of Seinfeld after Giants QB Eli Manning revealed that it was his favorite show.

OCHO OH NO: Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson legally changed his name to reflect his uniform number: Chad Ocho Cinco. But we need to point out that “ocho cinco” translates to eight five, not eighty-five. If you’re going to do it, do it right.

ANOTHER CHANGE: Not to be outdone by Chad Ocho Cinco, Bucs defensive lineman Greg White changed his name based on a character in the forgettable 1980s movie Teen Wolf. (If you’re going to change your name, shouldn’t you at least change it to a character from a better movie?) Anyway, White’s new name is Stylez G. White. Still, neither his nor Chad Ocho Cinco’s name change is as cool as former NBA player Lloyd Free, who changed his name to World B Free. Now that’s cool.
BANG, BANG BURRESS: We’ve heard of the phrase “shooting yourself in the foot,” but Giants receiver Plaxico Burress took it to a new level when he shot himself in the leg with his own gun at a New York club.
Burress, however, wasn’t the only one to suffer a bizarre injury this year:
– Tennis player Mikhail Youzhny was so upset with his play that he whacked himself in the head with his racket three times. He ended up needing a timeout because he literally cracked his head open. No surprise that the match was on April Fools’ Day.
– Tigers catcher Brandon Inge missed time after injuring his shoulder when he pushed a pillow under his sleeping 3-year-old son’s head.
– Avalanche star Joe Sakic is out three months after breaking three fingers when he tried to clear snow out of his snow blower … while it was on! That happened after he was out of the lineup for throwing out his back lifting weights.
– Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose somehow sliced open his arm while cutting an apple in bed. Says he forgot the knife was there and rolled over on it
– Fabian Espindola of MLS’s Real Salt Lake cracked a bone in his ankle doing a back flip after scoring. The rest of the story? The goal didn’t count because the play was ruled offside.
– White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin broke his wrist when he pounded the top of his bat with his fist because he was ticked that he fouled off a pitch.
– Astros outfielder Hunter Pence was injured in spring training when he jumped out of his hot tub and walked through a closed sliding glass door. Pence suffered numerous cuts.

WILD WORLD OF SEAN AVERY: The NHL’s biggest pest started his offseason working as an intern at Vogue. But he fell out of fashion when he made disparaging comments about ex-girlfriends. The comments got him a six-game suspension by the league and permanent suspension from the Dallas Stars.
Good riddance.