Time our sports stars held hands up

CHRIS LAKEY Someone, somewhere along the line, will create a new keyboard button which will wipe out all those unwanted "in the heat of the moment" comments in one fell swoop.


Someone, somewhere along the line, will create a new keyboard button which will wipe out all those unwanted "in the heat of the moment" comments in one fell swoop.

Alt+Ctrl+Ididn'tsaythat will become one of the most used keys for any journalist, as he or she follows up a cracking story with the inevitable denial. Press it and, as if by magic, the words “xxx was misquoted” will appear.

For example, if you have spoken to a McLaren official - any one, it doesn't matter - about Fernando Alonso's comments in the aftermath of Lewis Hamilton's stunning Montreal GP victory last weekend there will come a time when you're writing your story when you will need the words

“Fernando was misquoted”. Press the new button and it comes straight in. Why has no one ever thought of it before, given the way sportsmen and women have fallen back on the old “I was misquoted” line over the years?

While it may appear the writer is giving in to the whim of the interviewee, it can also play into his or her hands.

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For example, England cricket captain Michael Vaughan tried to get journalists to use the old Alt+Ctrl+Ididn'tsaythat key when talking about Andrew Flintoff's pedallo trip during the World Cup in St Lucia - what he was quoted as describing as “the Fredalo incident”.

However, Vaughan soon retracted his comments, saying: “I never used the word Fredalo. As soon as you mention that, you are pinpointing one person. I'll be having dinner with him in an hour's time. It (the article) has been blown out of all proportion. One word changed the whole context of the article, a word which I didn't say.”

But he did, because the journalists had it on tape and, for once, a sportsman was caught out. Vaughan received a bit of a battering all round for that fib and, frankly, he deserved it because by trying to rectify his mistake, he was simply passing the blame on to the journalist who quoted him.

Which was very satisfying for those who have been on the wrong end of someone's change of heart once they seen their words in print. There are few things more annoying that quoting someone, then seeing them retract their comments “because they don't like them”. That leaves you with egg on your face, and a slice of your credibility on the floor.

And it's easy because the famous face will be believed: the journalist will be gutter press.

Alonso, complaining that he knew Hamilton would get preferential treatment in a British team, said: "We knew all the support and help would go his way."

And here's what Ron Dennis, the McLaren team chief, said in response: "Fernando's comments when read carefully are correct, he hasn't been with the team long and the relationship can only continue to develop."

Which is basically saying the journalist misinterpreted what Alonso had to say.

Can the journalist fight back? Of course: by highlighting, like a TV out-take show, those things that Mr MegaBucks sportsman should not have said.

Like Mark Viduka, on why he chose to leave Middlesbrough (not a bad decision) to join Sam Allardyce and Newcastle (bad decision).

"I'm over the moon - the main thing that attracted me to the club was that it is moving in the right direction," said Viduka. Honest, he really did say that about a club that also wants to sign Joey Barton.

And on the subject of Barton…

"I am not proud of some of the things I have done and know I have brought a lot of my problems on myself. But I want to be a winner, not only for myself, but for the fans. I have heard it said that footballers are all about flash cars and expensive watches, but, for me, it is all about winning medals and it hurts me that I haven't any."

The words of Joey Barton, who would be happy with a Timex, £300 a week and a decent pension.

But he would still get miffed if he was misquoted.

t Can't get Formula One out of my head this week, and not just because young Mr Hamilton's exploits have inspired me to return to ITV to watch the races live.

No, it was the news that Singapore is to host a Grand Prix next season which has me breaking out in a cold sweat.

First off - another street circuit? Why don't the F1 powers-that-be just admit that street racing is boring. Get to the first corner and it's about how long the car will last, not when and where it will overtake.

But Singapore? Clarke and Boat Quays will make superb backdrops, as will a 140mph drive past of the old Raffles Hotel. But memories come flooding back of a trip to Singapore in the early 90s when a colleague and I called a taxi for the trip down a very winding and steep hill from our hotel, with the intention of having something to eat. It was pouring with the rain, and the sight of a new-looking white Mercedes drawing up was a welcome one. Until we realised the driver was a madman who clearly delighted in terrorising tourists. Instead of taking it gently on the soaking and dangerous road surface, he insisted on driving with one hand on the wheel, the other draped over the back of the front passenger seat and spending almost every second of the trip with head twisted round to face us, telling us what a good driver he was.

And when we fell out at the end of it, he just laughed. Singapore drivers?

You're welcome to them.