Remembering Emergency 911 Goran...
That’s a match up even Ivanisevic can win (say that fast 10 times).
Press conferences for athletes (and the media) can be pretty dull affairs on occasion, but given a bit of thought and flare they can be winners for both the players and the media involved. There were few better than Goran Ivanisevic at spicing up the day.
Ivanisevic gave what is arguably the funniest tennis press conferences in history at Wimbledon in 2001 and that off court performance still brings smiles to the faces of anybody who was lucky enough to be in the room at the time.
During his amazing run from wild card to Wimbledon winner in 2001, Ivanisevic revealed for the first time, that there were two Gorans that he had to manage during his matches. The Nice and Nasty, the Good and Bad.
The Bad Goran wanted him to argue with the umpire, break a few racquets, get fired up. The good Goran disagreed and wanted to concentrate on winning his matches by focusing on the game at hand. Ivanisevic said things got so bad at times that the two Gorans would start arguing with each other during points and he would just freeze up.
“Guys, guys... one has to be under control, but they both, they were going,” he said in one Wimbledon interview. “One was rushing, the other one was rushing even more.”
It got so bad that during a third-round match with Andy Roddick, Ivanisevic had to call in a secret, and as yet undisclosed THIRD Goran.
“The third one came and said, “Guys, relax. It’s a lovely court, relax. Just calm down.’”
“The third one had to come. I had to call him. He’s the emergency one. Emergency 911 call. That’s the one who just comes when [there is] a very emergency situation. He is nowhere you know, he is like behind the scenes, you know. He is like the brain man. He’s controlling.”
[TENNIS AT HOME]
The good news is all three Gorans went on to win one of the most emotional and exciting Wimbledon finals, seeing off Australian Patrick Rafter 9-7 in the fifth set of a classic match carried over to a third Monday. The bad news is there was only one trophy to present.
The three Gorans have recently be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I am not sure which one of the three is actually inducted but you could ask former US powerhouse Todd Martin, the Hall of Fame CEO. He recently met all three Gorans at an induction function at the Australian Open in January. He’ll know. My bet is it is Good Goran.
As a 40-year-plus veteran sports journalist and ATP insider, I must have been to a million pressers (okay, so a little journalistic licence there - it’s probably only 756,000 at best) and most of them went in one ear and out the other.
But there are a few that stand out for me as a reporter.
I always thought the Australian golfer Greg Norman had the right attitude in the press room. For him, the conference was his as much as the media’s and he was always looking for ways to give a good story and grab a headline. One of his better efforts in my book came many years ago at the World Matchplay Golf championship in London.
After a particularly dreary day, Norman came into the interview room late in the day and sensing the flat atmosphere said, “So do you guys have a story for today?”. The answer was a resounding no, so Norman took charge.
“I’ll give you a story,” he said. “I am going crocodile hunting in the Australian outback next week.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?,” somebody asked.
“You bet it is,” Norman said. “My wife is insisting I take a satellite phone and check in twice a day.”
The story got bigger and bigger as the interview went along and the next day everybody ran a version of “The Shark hunts Crocs” story. It led most sports pages. Norman had taken the opportunity not only to give a great story, but also to promote his swashbuckling brand. The media got an entertaining yarn. Everybody was happy.
As far as I am aware, no crocodiles were hurt in the production of that story.
While on golf, I can’t pass without mentioning the Merry Mex, Lee Trevino. For him, press conferences were more like stand-up comedy. Always a full house when he came in, no matter what score he shot. Every golfer knows a million Trevino stories, and some of them are even true.
Here are three of my favourites:
“I’m in the woods so often I can tell you which plants are edible.” Good line, but a Trevino embellishment. He was one of the most accurate players to ever pick up a club.
“One of the nice things about the Senior Tour is we can take a cart and a cooler. If you’re game is not going well, you can always have a picnic.”
“Columbus went around the world in 1492. That isn’t a lot of strokes when you consider the course.”
I covered the Winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988 and finished up working the downhill skiing out in Banff. The mixed zone interview area, where media meet the players for quick comments after competition, was a gently sloping snowed area and for the first few days with plenty of snow it was hard to catch much from the athletes as they slid gracefully by.
Then came a Canadian chinook, and that melted the snow in the mixed zone and the skiers became bogged going though and, suddenly, had a lot more to say. The winners though, always came into the interview room and through a translator would do their pressers in a variety of languages. One that stood out for me was a Swiss skier, Peter Mueller. I can’t remember what medal he won and I’m too lazy to look it up now, but if you’re reading this I know you have time on your hands, so you look it up.
Anyway, being Swiss he was automatically multi-lingual, so he dismissed the translator and started to work his way through various languages and seemed to going pretty well until he got to Japanese. I’m pretty sure the combination of “Suzuki, Toyota, Mitsubishi ...san” wasn’t quite cutting it, but a gold medal from me for trying. The Japanese press loved it.