Say What? When Athletes Are Misquoted

AFP, AFP, Getty Images
AFP, AFP, Getty Images

Last summer, United States Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin and Golf Channel contributor Jim Gray engaged in a heated exchange after Pavin accused Gray of misquoting him.

Gray quoted Pavin saying he would make Tiger Woods his "captain's pick" for the U.S. team despite Woods' struggles during a chaotic 2010 season. He quoted Pavin saying, "Of course I'm going to pick him. He's the best player in the world."

Pavin denied the report and tweeted that Gray got it all wrong.

"His interpretation of what I said is incorrect," Pavin said. "There's nobody that's promised any picks right now. It would be disrespectful to everybody that's trying to make the team."

In sports journalism circles, these are what is known as fighting words.

I have suggested Pavin vs. Gray in UFC 119, the number signifying their combined weights. So far, no mixed martial arts promoters have shown interest.

According to reports from the PGA Championship, Gray was later seen pointing a finger in Pavin's face, saying "You're a liar. You're going down."

Athletes alleging they've been misquoted is a sports tradition richer than the Masters, older than the World Series. It's a game played more often than the U.S. Open (tennis and golf), the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup and the Olympics combined.

The most recent example happened when Detroit Pistons' forward Charlie Villanueva tweeted that Boston's Kevin Garnett called him a "cancer patient." Garnett, who has honed a league-wide reputation as a trash talking bully, denied Villanueva's claim. instead, Garnett said, he told Villanueva, "You are cancerous to your team and our league."

If you believe that, you also believe Garnett concluded by saying, "And, young man, you are a disappointment to your parents, your school and your church."

Tomorrow is a new day

Most often, it's reporters who are accused of misquoting athletes. In sports journalism circles, stories of reporters screwing up the facts grow in legend by the year, connecting as they do to the institutional fear we all share about looking like an idiot in print.

One such story from years long gone concerned a Denver sports writer who covered an Army-Navy game played in mud that smeared the jerseys of every player. It was only while sipping a cold one in a bar late that night, the day's work long behind him, that realization of a colossal blunder hit home.

According to the lore, the writer called his newspaper to say, "In my (story), change all the 'Army's to "Navy," and all the 'Navy's" to 'Army."

Players have long believed that the sports media practices more insidious intent, that we happily misrepresent the facts to sensationalize the events of the day in order to sell newspapers or magazines. Those resentments have been around for decades. And they have led to some of the dullest answers in the history of the English language as players try not to say anything the least bit newsworthy.

"I'm just out there trying to do my best."

"I'm just going to keep working hard."

"Tomorrow is a new day."

Or:

"We just need to take it to the next level."

"Our backs are against the wall."

"There is no tomorrow."

In a sense, social media has allowed athletes to do away with the middleman. They bypass the media filter. They post things to their own websites or pages.

They may think they're getting over on sports writers. I'm not so sure.

Cutting out the scapegoat

I think in many cases the athletes who would've blamed the media for their troubles in past years have simply lost a good excuse. Now, they're doing and saying dumb things all by themselves and they no longer can use the media as a scapegoat.

That's why we have YouTube videos of Stephon Marbury eating Vaseline and crying. Those are separate videos, though it's understandable if the former brought on the latter.

That's why we've had Cincinnati Bengals' receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeting about condoms and how that silly grand jury did former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress wrong in sentencing him for reckless operation of a firearm.

It's why leagues are enforcing Twitter limits.

Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin was reprimanded by the NCAA for mentioning a recruit by name on his Twitter account.

Brian Ching of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo was fined for tweeting after a game. His message: "ref is a cheat." That cost him $50 per character.

When the Chargers fined cornerback Antonio Cromartie $2,500 for using Twitter to suggest the team hadn't made the Super Bowl in part because of the poor quality of training camp food, he didn't exactly learn to keep a lower profile.

Traded to the Jets, Cromartie showed up this summer on an episode of HBO's Hard Knocks. Asked on camera for the names and ages of his eight children (believed to be living in five states), Cromartie struggled to remember. Ridicule descended on him.

Of course, he couldn't say HBO misquoted him.

A few days later, he did say an HBO producer ordered a second take of the segment and asked him to pause more between each name. Network spokesmen deny the claim.

No one in sports (other than the media) has been accused of playing as fast and loose with the facts as boxing promoter Bob Arum, but I've always had a soft spot for the guy.

When he was making a name as a promoter in the 1970s, Arum was talking up one of his fighters in advance of a bout. A sports writer from Newsday called him on it, saying, "Bob, yesterday you said he was a bum."

Answered Arum, "Yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth."

It was pure promoter speak. Boxing journalist/historian Tom Hauser says, "That quote has haunted him ever since."

Could've been worse.

At least Arum didn't say, "I was misquoted."

Here are some of the various ways athletes have been misquoted...

He really was misquoted, they ran a retraction, but still...

After the signing of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade was quoted saying:

"We're going to be wearing a bullseye. But that's what you play for. If we lose a couple in a row this season, it will be like the World Trade (Center) is coming down again."

NBA FanHouse issued a retraction citing a transcription error. The correct quote:

"We're going to be wearing a bullseye. But that's what you play for. We enjoy the bullseye. Plus, there's going to be times when we lose 2-3 games in a row, and it seems like the world has crashed down. You all are going to make it seem like the World Trade is coming down again, but it's not going to be nothing but a couple basketball games."

Invoking 9/11 is never good. But that "transcription error" hardly seems like a typo.

He was misquoted and when he finds the guy who signed off on the manuscript, watch out.

Charles Barkley briefly considered fighting the release of the book Outrageous, saying he was misquoted.

By himself.

Well, actually by the co-author of his autobiography.

In the book, all Barkley did was trash 76ers owner Harold Katz and claim that his own grandmother could score more points in a game than Manute Bol.

According to the AP account, Jeff Newman, Simon & Shuster's sports-books director, said he was sure co-author Roy S. Johnson had tape-recorded Barkley's remarks for the book.

Barkley's grandmother never refuted the claim.

Since we're still friends I won't claim you misquoted me but, dude, you're killing me.

Roger Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young winner, arraigned earlier this year on perjury charges, said he never used HGH or steroids despite the testimony of former Yankees' teammate Andy Pettitte saying Clemens told him he used HGH.

Clemens said he told Pettitte of a TV show he saw about three older men regaining their quality of life through HGH use. Clemens said Pettitte may have "misheard" him.

Next, Clemens will have to talk to Pettitte about the Miracle Ear infomercial he watched just the other night.

He meant to say that Chiefs veterans often flew in nuns on the road for spiritual enrichment.

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was quoted in ESPN the Magazine describing how Chiefs veterans paid for women to fly into town to spend time with players during a 2007 trip to San Diego.

Bowe said he was misquoted. ESPN The Magazine said it had a tape of the interview.

When Bowe met reporters to say he was misquoted, someone asked, "What about the actual interview? Did you actually talk to the guy?"

Bowe's answer: "I really can't remember, man. That's why I'm still stuck in a daze."

I'll say.

You just can't trust these co-authors.

In his book, Terrell Owens described his comeback from a 2004 leg fracture as, "If you'll forgive me for saying so...nothing short of heroic."

During a book tour stop in Dallas, Owens said co-author Jason Rosenhaus was responsible for that choice of words.

Totally believable.

Owens would've no doubt preferred "nothing short of incredibly heroic."

The New Age misquote: the mis-tweet.

Boston Celtics' great Paul Pierce's Twitter account insinuated a sweep of the Orlando Magic after a Game 2 win -- "Anybody got a BROOM?"

Pierce's representatives quickly denied the post was his. Athlete Interactive, which handles digital media for players, supported the claim that Pierce's account was hacked in four separate tweets.

In the meantime, Pierce said in a TV interview, "We're coming home to close it out."

Just checking? Can we quote you on that?

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

8 Surprising Facts About Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris.
Chuck Norris.
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

For decades, martial artist and actor Carlos Ray Norris Jr. has been kicking his way into the hearts of action film fans. In addition to his competitive karate career, Norris has starred in a string of successful movies as well as the long-running CBS drama Walker, Texas Ranger. With Norris having reached the milestone age of 80 years old back in March 2020, we’re taking a look at some of the more interesting facts about his life and career.

1. Chuck Norris is a military veteran.

Chuck Norris in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
Chuck Norris stars in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983).
MGM Home Entertainment

Born on March 10, 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma, Norris was the oldest of three boys and a self-described “shy” child. After a move to California, Norris attended North Torrance High School. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a member of the military police in the hopes of pursuing a career in law enforcement. It was in the service, while being stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, that Norris first discovered the martial arts. When he once found himself unable to control a rowdy drunk in a bar while on patrol duty, Norris realized he needed combat skills. He studied Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do before returning to California. When he was discharged from the Air Force in 1962, Norris began teaching the skills he had acquired to students.

2. Steve McQueen got Chuck Norris into acting.

Norris became a world champion in karate contests, which lent credence to his abilities as a martial arts instructor. He taught several celebrities the finer points of self-defense, including the Osmonds, Priscilla Presley, and Steve McQueen. Norris even trained Price Is Right host Bob Barker. But not all his schools were doing well, and after retiring from competition in 1974, Norris was looking for other opportunities. McQueen suggested that Norris try his hand at acting. McQueen was right—eventually. It took several years and nine films, but Norris had a breakthrough with 1982’s Lone Wolf McQuade.

3. Chuck Norris needed to obey a producer’s request in order to face off against Bruce Lee.

While Norris didn’t become a household name until the 1980s, his turn as a villain in 1972’s Return of the Dragon (also known as Way of the Dragon) opposite Bruce Lee wound up being a seminal meeting of two onscreen martial arts legends. When Lee was looking for an adversary for the climactic fight, he called Norris, whom he knew and was friends with. But the film’s producer insisted that Norris gain 20 pounds so that he would appear to be much larger than Lee on camera. “That’s why I don’t do jump kicks [in the movie],” Norris told Empire in 2007. “I couldn’t get off the ground!”

4. Chuck Norris founded his own martial arts system.

Taking the knowledge he had acquired over many years of training in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do, Norris developed his own unique martial arts system and philosophy that he eventually dubbed Chun Kuk Do. In addition to combat techniques, the system encourages students to develop themselves to their maximum potential and look for the good in other people. It was renamed the Chuck Norris System in 2015.

5. Chuck Norris once marketed Chuck Norris Action Jeans.

Thanks to his fame in the martial arts world, Norris was sought after to endorse athletic products. In 1982, martial arts equipment company Century recruited Norris to be a spokesperson for their Karate Jeans, which featured flexible fabric sewn into the crotch that would presumably allow the wearer to deliver a bone-crunching kick while looking fashionable. Eventually renamed Action Jeans, Norris promoted them for years.

6. Chuck Norris had his own cartoon series.

At the height of his popularity in the 1980s, Norris teamed with animation company Ruby-Spears for an animated series, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos. The show featured Norris and a team of martial artists fighting villains like Superninja and The Claw. Although 65 shows were planned, just a few aired. “We only did six of them, and then a woman at CBS said, ‘Those are too violent,’” Norris told MTV News in 2009.

7. Chuck Norris is a real Texas Ranger.

For eight seasons, Norris pummeled bad guys as the star of the 1990s CBS television series Walker, Texas Ranger, which became the first primetime show shot on location in Texas at Norris’s insistence. In 2010, Norris was named an honorary member of the Texas Rangers by state governor Rick Perry in acknowledgment of Norris’s work in raising awareness for the elite unit and for his work helping underprivileged youths via martial arts programs. Norris’s brother, Aaron Norris, who was an executive producer on the show, also received the designation.

8. Chuck Norris’s role in Dodgeball was a surprise to Chuck Norris.

Norris is generally good-humored about his persona and is often willing to poke fun at himself. But when he was asked to do a cameo in the 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he passed because he didn’t feel like driving three hours to the movie’s set in Long Beach, California. When star Ben Stiller called to ask personally, Norris agreed, but didn’t read the script. He simply shot his scene where he offers a thumbs-up to the dodgeball competitors.

When Norris saw the movie in theaters, he was surprised at the context. “But in the end, when Ben’s a big fatty and watching TV, the last line of the whole movie is, ‘F***in’ Chuck Norris!,'” Norris told Empire in 2007. “My mouth fell open to here… I said, ‘Holy mackerel!’ That was a shock, Ben didn’t tell me about that!”