Joey Barton And Others: The Alternative Sports Personality of the Year Shortlist
I remember watching a granite-faced Ryan Giggs amble his way towards the platform to receive his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2009, displaying all the emotion of T-1000 at a child’s birthday party. Michael Owen’s performance in collecting the prize in 1998 was similarly perhaps the first clear sign that his talent for scoring goals was matched only by his ability to induce acute narcolepsy within seconds of opening his mouth to speak; the poor guy is even such a plant pot he’s mistaken personality for facial hair, as his Movember effort betrays. Even the 2008 winner, über-pro and King of Scotland, Sir Chris Hoy, comes across as just a little too squeaky clean to convey any meaningful sense of the word ‘personality’. A pedant for semantics I may be, but it seems that ‘Sports Performer of the Year’ would better fit the award as it stands, which would allow for a new, truly representative ‘Personality of the Year’ prize.
So, here’s the 2012 shortlist that really matters, where personality counts for everything and performance for nothing, scoring against them if anything…
It’s the man who needs no introduction… although that would make for a pretty dull paragraph, so I may as well have a go. This year has really seen Barton step up his four greatest qualities: aggression, narcissism, pretension and self-entitlement. Initiating a one-man riot for QPR against Man City back in May saw his first major achievement in 2012, getting sent off and nearly relegating his team in the process. Not content with the subsequent support from the Professional Footballer’s Association that helped to keep his ban to a disproportionately lenient level, Barton tweeted his personal verdict of PFA chief Gordon Taylor: ‘You’re a fat, festering old king!’ A stint on Question Time really got the best out of his pretension, a skill that is sure to be nurtured further during his loan spell in Marseille.
If injuring your own manager with a massive camera tripod isn’t enough to get you on this list then you know it’s been one hell of a year. Obviously he wasn’t looking for a fight back in February when he turned up to the Chisora vs Klitschko post-fight conference uninvited, goading Chisora and attacking everyone within a ten metre radius; the guy was just looking after himself like any self-respecting person would. The two men fought via a Luxembourg fighting license in July, with Haye emerging victorious and very, very rich. They instantaneously forgot their differences, hugging and singing each other’s praises. The most contrived, cash-eyed feud in history? Possibly, and Haye played the part magnificently.
He makes the shortlist for entertainment purposes, particularly if he or Haye were to win the award. Watching Sue Barker attempt to break up the fight would be worth the license fee alone.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘He’s not British’. Well, in the spirit of Armstrong’s frankly impressive mastery of fraud and deception, we can assume he owns a British passport. According to the US Anti-doping Agency, throughout his glittering career, he ‘ran the most sophisticated doping programme ever’, intimidating team mates into collusion, all the while appearing as clean as a whistle to everyone outside of his well-oiled racket. That takes some doing – inspirational even to the wrong sort of person. In fact, the more I think of it, the more my conspiracy theory grows that the creators of the US drama series Breaking Bad knew something the rest of us didn’t when writing the plot – the pathological ability to maintain a façade, the coldness and single-mindedness in achieving incredible goals, even the cancer…
This guy… Texting members of your South African opposition describing your team captain as a ‘doos’- Afrikaans for ‘dumb c***’- certainly shows personality of some sort. Andrew Strauss proved himself the better man by maintaining the moral high ground, but also the more boring man. This list isn’t for consummate level-headed professionals though, it’s for the likes of Pieterson: highly talented, highly volatile and flashy to near-footballer levels. He’s the only cricketer I can think of who wouldn’t look out of place at a post-match interview with a pair of Beats headphones draped around his neck. Best described as the Ronny O’Sullivan of cricket – exemplified by his introduction of the switcheroo sweep shot to the cricketing world – Pieterson is now back in the frame smashing out match-winning centuries for England, but most importantly, underneath the façade of professionalism he still has a glint in his eye- and earrings- that he’s up to no good.
We knew him as the militant face of Man United, Liverpool fan winder-up-erer and the best right-back in English history to possess no real talent. After admitting to himself last year that the best he could do in defence was foul the opposition before they had reached the penalty area, retiring from the game, Sky Sports snapped him up to replace Andy Gray. Since then, he’s got the assistant manager job for England on the basis of his punditry in the Sky Sports studio. Bolshy, non-nonsense and happy to call bullshit on all kinds of popular footballing myths espoused by angry fans – the kind who spend their evenings queuing up to shout ‘He’s got to go!’ on Talksport – Neville always does it with the backing of a sound argument. An unlikely candidate to win it, he’s mainly included for inevitable outspoken remarks about the BBC and the voting system.