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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trending that caught Doug's eye: Botched guarantees

Posted: 08/30/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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If there's anything you can say with absolute certainty, it is this -- There are no guarantees in life!

Just ask Dennis Skulsky, president and CEO of the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League. Before last Sunday's game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Skulsky was seeing red -- make that green -- when the Riders purchased an antagonistic billboard near BC Place sporting the cheeky slogan: "Green is the new Orange."

Angered by the Riders' in-your-face marketing tactics, the Lions boss not only guaranteed a victory in Sunday's game, but promised everyone in attendance would get a free ticket to one of four remaining home games if the Lions lost.

"The Saskatchewan Roughriders have challenged this community," he snarled at the time. "We're a very good football team and we're here to proudly represent this city and this province. The best way to do that is to win on Sunday and we guarantee that will happen."

Oops! Unfortunately, the B.C. players didn't get the memo, dropping a 20-16 decision to the visiting Riders. The average ticket price for a Lions game is $65.20, meaning the team could be out more than $2 million in revenue if everyone at Sunday's debacle takes Skulsky up on his free-ticket guarantee.

Sneered one B.C. fan on Twitter: "Dennis Skulsky has to give out tickets like Oprah gives out cars!"

On the upside, the Lions CEO is in good company when it comes to botched guarantees. Here's a handful of sporting folks who also had to eat their words:

5) The guarantor: Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson

The guarantee: We're starting off with the legendary Dallas Cowboys linebacker, even though, technically speaking, he did not use the word "guarantee" when he declared "America's Team" would hammer the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII in 1979. The wildly flamboyant Henderson generated most of the pre-game hype at Media Day, predicting a shutout for the Cowboys' vaunted "Doomsday Defence" and publicly questioning the intelligence of the Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback, Terry Bradshaw. In what turned out to be his best hit of the week -- on or off the field -- Henderson said of Bradshaw: "He couldn't spell C-A-T if you spotted him the C and the T." Talk about famous last words. For his part, Bradshaw, did his talking on the field, proving he could spell TD and MVP, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns and leading his team to a 35-31 victory. After failing to back up his boast, Henderson was quick to clarify his pre-game comments. "I didn't say he couldn't play, just that he couldn't spell," he sniffed. As for Bradshaw, often viewed as a country bumpkin, he shrugged off the ridicule, noting: "It's football, not rocket science."

 

4) The guarantor: Matt Hasselbeck

The guarantee: As a longtime quarterback in the National Football League, Hasselbeck has done lots of great things on the field. But he's best remembered for nine careless words he uttered to start overtime on a chilly afternoon in early January 2004 in a wild-card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Hasselbeck's Seattle Seahawks had scored with 51 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, then they won the OT coin toss and Hasselbeck -- likely unaware referee Bernie Kukar's mic was still on -- leaned in and infamously declared: "We want the ball, and we're going to score!" Then, on the sixth play of the Seahawks' second OT possession, the cocky QB threw an interception to Green Bay cornerback Al Harris, who promptly returned it for a game-ending touchdown. It would be an understatement to say Hasselbeck has never heard the end of his overly confident coin-flip guarantee. "That's all I get, 'Oh, you're THAT guy'," the QB said a few weeks later after a Pro Bowl practice. Snorted one jokester on ESPN's website: "Hasselbeck threw an interception... and for one bright, shining moment Elisabeth (former The View co-host and Hasselbeck's sister-in-law) wasn't the most embarrassing member of the family." Ouch!

 

3) The guarantor: Joe Glenn

The guarantee: You've probably never heard of Glenn, which is hardly surprising. The then head football coach at the University of Wyoming is perhaps best known for putting his foot in his mouth back in 2007 when he guaranteed his Cowboys would ride to victory against the hated Utes of Utah University. Inspired by their coach's bravado, Glenn's team immediately went out and got the tar beaten out of them in a humiliating 50-0 loss, with the Utah fans enjoying every moment by politely chanting "GUARANTEE! GUARANTEE!" En route to the blowout, Utah rudely attempted an onside kick, which Glenn responded to by flipping the one-finger salute to the Utes' bench. In the days following the shellacking, the hot-tempered Glenn -- now head coach at the University of South Dakota -- apologized for making the obscene gesture and for guaranteeing a victory in the first place. "I got emotional last week and got my big Irish mouth going and made the guarantee," he chirped at the time. "I'd probably like to have it back now. I wouldn't do it again. Find the crow, and I'll eat it."

 

2) The guarantor: Dan Gilbert

The guarantee: When the world's best basketball player, LeBron James, bolted Cleveland four years ago to take his marquee act to the Miami Heat, lots of people -- these would be people who did not live in Miami -- were angry. But no one was even remotely as angry as Dan Gilbert, the churlish owner of Cleveland's NBA franchise, the Cavaliers, who posted an open letter to disappointed fans in which he made what many consider the most embarrassing guarantee in the history of sports. In his petulant letter, which was recently removed from the Cavs' website, the angry owner told fans: "You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal." But the central statement came in bold and all caps: "I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE." So, yeah, how did that work out for you, Dan? For the record, with the Heat, LeBron won two NBA championships and four MVP awards. Cleveland? Well, the last time a Cleveland team won anything was in 1964, when the Browns took the NFL championship. With LeBron back in the fold -- and just joined by fellow superstar Kevin Love -- things are poised to change. As for Dan Gilbert, we assume no more guarantees are waiting in the wings. "Looking back now, that (letter) probably was not the most brilliant thing I've ever done in my life," Gilbert conceded after LeBron won his first title in Miami.

 

1) The guarantor: The 2002-2003 Atlanta Hawks

The guarantee: Heading into a new campaign, after three consecutive losing seasons, then Hawks coach Lon Kruger was giddy about his revamped team's prospects. So giddy, in fact, that he guaranteed the Hawks would make the NBA playoffs. The Atlanta organization liked his bravado so much, they built their advertising campaign around his prognostication. "Thank you for calling the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks," is what callers heard if they dialled the team's offices. Then the marketing department put the team's money where the coach's mouth was -- offering to rebate $125 to season-ticket holders if the Hawks didn't make the playoffs. You already know where this is heading. The Hawks finished 35-47, seven games out of the playoffs. The coach was fired with seven games to go in the season. The general manager, who insisted he didn't support the idea, was canned. And the team, already millions in the hole, had to cough up around $500,000 in a rebate to disgruntled fans.

 

One final bet: If they could hop in a time machine, we suspect everyone on this list would go back and do things just a little differently. In fact, we (bad word) guarantee it!

 

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2014 D2

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