You Know Who You Is
Florida coach Steve Spurrier is a tough man to please, so it's nice to see that he accepted some of the blame when asked about the Gators' poor special teams play this season. Said Spurrier last week, "We've got some mentally slow guys on our team, but we keep putting them out there."
With a game in the balance, most any athlete will sin to win by intentionally violating the rules of his sport. Only a handful, however, have been as quick to fess up as Nebraska receiver Shevin Wiggins, who admits that with time expiring in the Cornhuskers' Nov. 8 game against Missouri, he intentionally kicked a passed football, an illegal move that led to teammate Matt Davison's remarkable end zone catch. The touchdown helped Nebraska tie the game, which it went on to win in overtime.
Shevin, you're forgiven (though you may want to catch a few Hail Marys to be safe). Indeed, confession can be the path to absolution, as it was for Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, long accused of throwing spitballs, an allegation that cast a shadow on his brilliant 22-year career. Even before he retired, Perry didn't simply own up to using a little saliva. "I reckon I tried everything on the old apple but salt, pepper and chocolate sauce," he wrote in his 1974 book, Me and the Spitter. With that he won people's hearts.
In boxing, a sport with a tradition of rule-stretching, the most revered instance of owning up comes from trainer Angelo Dundee, who was in the corner of Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) for a 1963 bout against Henry Cooper. Decked in the fourth, Clay wobbled to his stool, where Dundee noticed a small tear in Clay's left glove. "I stuck my finger in the split, helping it along," Dundee said 20 years later. The ensuing search for new gloves gave Clay time to recover, and he went on to stop Cooper in the fifth.
Others have been more coy in confession. With 13 seconds left in the 1967 NFL Championship Game, quarterback Bart Starr followed guard Jerry Kramer's block into the end zone, giving the Green Bay Packers a 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone on Dallas's side of the ball felt Kramer had left before the snap, but Kramer kept mum until his 1968 book, Instant Replay, in which he said, "I wouldn't swear that I didn't beat the center's snap by a fraction of a second. I wouldn't swear I wasn't actually offside."
Coyer still was New York Yankee Reggie Jackson, who in Game 4 of the 1978 World Series moved his hip into a thrown ball, breaking up a double play and helping the Yanks score a crucial run. Jackson swore he hadn't had time to get out of the way, but when asked if he would say the same under oath, he said, "I can't answer that. That's a good question."
It would have been better for Kramer and Jax to just come clean. Confessions like Wiggins's are the way to forgiveness, even when the deity is evoked as a coconspirator. After getting away with a hand-ball goal in the 1986 World Cup, Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona first attributed the feat to the "hand of God" but later acknowledged, "It was me."