The Last Word: The scandal of sport

Ninety-five years ago, a group of corrupt baseballers playing for the Chicago White Sox participated in arguably the biggest heist in the history of sport.

The ''Black Sox'' took money to throw the 1919 World Series. Eight men were banned from the sport for life.

I have been thinking about the baseball this week as the cricket fixing scandal has evolved.

Corruption in sport is nothing new. As long as there has been athletic competition, there has been dodgy doings, fixing, underground skulduggery, and gambling.

But we must not let ourselves be overcome by this sort of ''ah well, it's inevitable'' thinking. Match fixing and spot fixing cut to the very heart of sport, and every effort must be taken to weed out the corrupt leeches who would infect cricket with their warped priorities.

I'm talking jail sentences, life bans, you name it.

And make no mistake: this is the biggest scandal in the history of New Zealand sport. If we take out the 1981 Springbok Tour - that belongs in a rather different category - this is on another level to cricketers smoking pot, Keith Murdoch being sent home, Coutts and Butterworth jumping ship, Mark Todd's ''curly one'', racing's Blue Magic, and even a bunch of lawn bowlers deliberately losing an end.

World Cup slogans
Prepare for a whole lot of Football World Cup hysteria over the next few weeks. And not just from me.

The latest bit of bluster from the world's biggest sporting event has been the naming of the team slogans. A public contest led to the selection of a slogan for each of the 32 teams. The words of inspiration (cough) will be painted on the team buses in Brazil.

Here are the winning slogans (some have been translated into English), with a brief comment from an anonymous slogan expert. -

''Desert warriors in Brazil.''
Expert: Don't laugh. Algeria beat West Germany at the 1982 World Cup.

''Not just a team, we are a country.''
Expert: Ugh, terrible.

''Socceroos: hopping our way into history!''
Expert: Bah ha ha ha. So bad it's good.

''Expect the impossible!''
Expert: Naff.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
''Dragons in heart, dragons on the field!''
Expert: You can't go wrong with dragons. Just ask the Targaryens.

''Brace yourselves! The 6th is coming!''
Expert: Surely vibrant Brazil could have come up with something better than this.

''A lion remains a Lion.''
Expert: Still think you sound like a biscuit.

''Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! Go Chile.''
Expert: Like something from a high school cheerleading squad.

''Here travels a nation, not just a team!''
Expert: Awful.

Costa Rica
''My passion is football, my strength is my people, my pride is Costa Rica.''
Expert: Almost sweet.

''With fire in our hearts, for Croatia all as one!''
Expert: Acceptable, in a bland sort of way.

''One commitment, one passion, only one heart, this is for you Ecuador!''
Expert: Sloganeers really like their exclamation marks.

''The dream of one team, the heartbeat of millions!!''
Expert: Two exclamation marks!! Really?

''Impossible is not a French word.''
Expert: Hmm, not strictly true. I understand the word originated from Anglo-French & Latin.

''Ein Land, eine Mannschaft, ein Traum.'' (One Nation, One Team, One Dream.)
Expert: Mannschaft. Never fails to amuse.

''Black Stars: here to illuminate Brazil.''
Expert: Quite like this one.

''Heroes play like Greeks.''
Expert: Another good 'un.

''We are one country, one nation, five stars on the heart.''
Expert: Meh.

''Honour of Persia.''
Expert: Not the Prince of Persia?

''Let's paint the Fifa World Cup dream blue.''
Expert: But France won't win.

Ivory Coast
''Elephants charging towards Brazil!''
Expert: Nice.

''Samurai, the time has come to fight!''
Expert: Just a little bit scary.

Korea Republic
''Enjoy it, Reds!''
Expert: Only Liverpool gets called the Reds in this paper.

''Always united, always Aztecas.''
Expert: Neither here nor there.

''Real men wear orange.''
Expert: We have a winner!

''Only together we can win.''
Expert: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

''The past is history. The future is victory.''
Expert: Well, you do have Ronaldo.

''No-one can catch us.''
Expert: Straight out of beige 1980s Moscow.

''Inside our hearts, the passion of a champion.''
Expert: Like a syrupy song lyric.

''Final stop: 07-13-14 Maracana!''
Expert: Clunky.

''Three million dreams - let's go Uruguay.''
Expert: Wait, Uruguay has fewer citizens than New Zealand? (Checks Wikipedia. Sinks into depression.)

''United by team, driven by passion.''
Expert: Classically boring.

You snooze, you win
They are a dedicated bunch, those Arsenal fans.

One young Dunedin hipster I know proved this when he stayed up for the FA Cup final at the weekend and was bouncing off the walls with excitement - till he fell asleep a few minutes before the opening whistle and missed his beloved Gooners finally winning a trophy.

An important survey
Some website you have never heard of asked more than 3000 women which sports produced the ''hottest'' men.

Surfing, with 23.4% of the vote, was a runaway winner ahead of football (16.2%) and swimming (12.5%). Baseball, tennis, motorsport, rugby, basketball, golf and athletics rounded out the top 10.

The Last Word has been wondering why the organisation that controls rugby seems to be having an identity crisis.

We all know (and, er, love?) it as the New Zealand Rugby Union, formerly the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. The ''union'' part of the name is important, as it separates our national game from rugby league.

Lately, something called ''New Zealand Rugby'' has been appearing in news stories and press releases.

There has been no official announcement, and legally the organisation is still known as the New Zealand Rugby Union. It is simply using New Zealand Rugby as a sort of fan-friendly brand.

College kids
You may have seen our story on Otago golfer Laura Hoskin last week.

Hoskin, a talented and effervescent character, is off to Oregon State University on a full scholarship. She will get a great education, top coaching and four years of elite competition. Brilliant.

I am a passionate supporter of the American college sport system and it delights me when promising Otago athletes get this sort of opportunity.

We'd like to keep regular tabs on our kids in the college world, so we're making a list. Let me know if your son or daughter, friend or neighbour, is playing sport over there.

Birthday of the week
French football great Eric Cantona is 48 today.

''Ooh ahh'' Cantona was arguably the defining figure of English football for a generation of Premier League fans.

He was the imperious, collar-up striker who guided Manchester United to title after title, moving with style and grace, as long as he wasn't kicking fans in the head.

I reached out to a United-supporting colleague, Sean Flaherty, who emerged from his post-Moyes slump to offer this summary of what made Cantona great: ''Because the seagulls followed the trawler hoping they would get some sardines.''

Look it up.

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