Four wins more shocking than Trump’s election
It’s now ten days since the lying, sexist, racist, thin-skinned, orange-faced clown was elected to the most powerful office in the world
It’s now ten days since the lying, sexist, racist, thin-skinned, orange-faced clown was elected to the most powerful office in the world, and it’s still a huge shock, and slightly disturbing, to utter these words: president-elect Donald Trump. As far as surprises go, Trump now having access to the nuclear codes makes Leicester City winning the Premier League seem utterly normal and to be expected.
In a vain bid to try and bring some calm to the currently ridiculous reality, I’ll try and convince you that complete surprises, at least on the sports field, are not that rare and are, in fact, part of life’s rich, if slightly bewildering and pride-swallowing, tapestry. It may not make you feel any less worried about the identity of the next leader of the free world, but here are four great sporting shocks to remind you that surprises are sometimes not to be feared and part of being part of the human race.
DENMARK WINNING THE 1992 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
If there’s one thing that’s drummed into anyone, it’s that you never get anywhere without hard graft: hours spent on the training field, sweating, grimacing and vomiting your way to glory. Miss out on the hard yards, early starts and huge sacrifices - so the saying goes - then you can forget about winning so much as a punch in the face, let alone a title. That little maxim, however, was shown to be the fatuous cliché it generally is when Denmark proved that swagger, a bit of class and a dollop of luck are just as important when it comes to snatching silverware. Due to Yugoslavia’s late expulsion (all thanks to the country’s bloody civil war) the Danes, literally in many cases, went straight from partying on the beach to host country Sweden and beat the best Europe had to offer – namely, the Dutch team of Van Basten, Gullit and Bergkamp in the semi-final, and the Germans, then the current world champions, in the final. While they had the brilliance of Brian Laudrup in midfield and Peter Schmeichel in goal, this Danish XI wasn’t a patch on the team of the 1980s that for a brief while lit up football. This team of workmanlike players claimed one of the toughest prizes to win all off the back of no preparation - refreshing in its simplicity and lack of accepted wisdom.
JAMES ‘BUSTER’ DOUGLAS BEATS MIKE TYSON
There were two accepted sporting truths at the end of the 1980s: first, football shorts were unacceptably tight, and, second, anyone facing ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson in the ring was there merely to act as a punch bag, luckily for them, for no longer than two-three rounds. The American was in his pomp and as brutal a puncher as boxing had ever seen. So when the unheralded James ‘Buster’ Douglas lined up to face the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in Tokyo, in February 1990, no one gave him a chance. In fact, he was given odds of 42-1, remarkable considering this was, obviously, a two-man competition. But from the start it was clear Douglas wasn’t scared and attacked Tyson whenever he could, he dominated the fight causing swelling on Tyson’s left eye. That was remarkable enough, but when he sent the champion to the canvas in the tenth round – the first time in his career Tyson had been sent sprawling to the floor – and out for the count it was still a huge shock and one that will be permanently embedded in the sporting phrasebook next to the words ‘completely unexpected.’
JOHN DALY WINS THE 1991 US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
If you think golf is such a genteel, vanilla, stuck-in-its-ways sport now, you should have seen it in 1991. This was the era before Tiger Woods and luminous Nike golf gear. This was the age when bland, Pringle-jumper wearing conservative types reigned supreme. The nearest you got to a maverick was someone who forgot to iron their top or might vote for a left-of-center political party. So in many ways John ‘Wild Thing’ Daly’s victory at Crooked Stick was one for the ages and completely against the grain. Firstly, Daly’s nickname was very apt. Not only did he hit the ball a mile, he also was known for his hard-partying ways, sometimes having a fag in his mouth as he teed off. He certainly wasn’t like his fellow American golfers, neat of hairstyle and bland of views. Secondly, he wasn’t supposed to be playing in the year’s last Major. He began the week as ninth reserve. Only when the future world No.1 Nick Price withdrew, due to the birth of his first child, could Daly grab his spot, driving through the night to get to the course in time. It was an unexpected opportunity he made the most of, coming from nowhere to beat the field by three shots. Golf had a new star and sport had its most complex anti-hero of the modern era.
JAPAN BEAT SOUTH AFRICA IN 2015 RUGBY WORLD CUP
South Africa is probably known for three things: Apartheid; Nelson Mandela; and big, brutish Afrikaans who love nothing more than being good at and obsessed by rugby. Japan is known for many things, and rugby is definitely not one of them. In fact, anyone who’s been to the country would find the people there actively avoid conflict, so the idea of taking on the big South African giants on the rugby field is something that for many would be their worst nightmare. Even aside from the above stereotyping there were many reasons no one gave Japan a chance against the Springboks in their first match at the World Cup last year. They had won just one World Cup match in their history, had never played South Africa before and, like the vast majority of teams at rugby’s showpiece, were there simply to make up the numbers and add cosmetic sheen to the pretense that the sport is a global one. So when the Brave Blossoms took the game to the two-time world champions from the start it was something of an unexpected surprise. When they took a 10-7 lead deep into the first-half it was assumed that it was a brief, fleeting moment of glory, with normal service set to resume soon after. But they kept on attacking the Boks and with the final whistle seconds away were only three points behind. Awarded a penalty everyone assumed they’d take the three points for a memorable draw. Convention, however, was clearly not the order of the day and they went for the match-winning try. Fortune did indeed favor the brave as Karne Hesketh crossed over the line to dump-tackle the rugby world order on its head. Memorable.
So, there you have it, while we contemplate president Trump, it’s worth remembering that metaphorical earthquakes occurring and unpredictability are part of what being human is about. Nowhere is that better seen than on the sports field. Clearly the above four shocks had no greater consequence other than many jaws dropping, but perhaps we can all keep our fingers crossed that Trump at the helm of the USA will likewise bring with it welcome surprises rather than the doom and gloom everyone is fearing? We can at least hope…