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Bob's your uncle

Sports blotter: "Across the pond" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  November 28, 2007


Good show, chaps
When was the last time England was relevant at all in the sporting world? And don’t give us that Lennox Lewis crap. Lennox Lewis was about as British as Evel Knievel. Now Frank Bruno, he was British. How can you tell? Because last time anyone saw him, he was getting his face caved in at the Las Vegas Hilton by Mike Tyson — and was looking thrilled to be there. That’s a classic sign of a British sports superstar; when you’re hailed as a national hero for being just barely good enough to share the same field of play as the real champion, you know you’re descended from that great line of British second bananas that includes Tim Henman, Andy Murray, Alan Minter, and “Lord” Byron DaFoe.

Typically, a British sports superstar also spends his retirement indulging in sexually ambiguous artistic escapades — Bruno became a famous British mime, which, in itself, says something. (Does America even have famous mimes?) Of course, if he’s good-looking enough, the British sports star might just marry a Spice Girl and chase a $250-million-dollar deal to LA, where he’ll spend a couple of injury-plagued years hideously underperforming as the city’s 19th-most-important athlete, wedged somewhere between Reggie Willits and Vlad Radmanovic in the local-sports Q ratings.

So what’s the reason for this anti-British rant? The latest absurd indignity inflicted upon the British rooting public, this one coming via a combination of the abovementioned David Beckham & Co. and the Gatwick Airport police. Because not only did Great Britain suffer a crushing 3-2 defeat to Croatia in the Euro 2008 soccer qualifiers this past week, the Brits further covered themselves in glory by pursuing what looks like an exceptionally overaggressive shoplifting arrest of Croatian Football Federation chief Zorislav Srebric at a Gatwick stationery store shortly before the pivotal contest.

According to news reports, the 67-year-old Srebric stepped just outside of a WH Smith store in Gatwick to shepherd his team through a security checkpoint while carrying a newspaper he hadn’t yet paid for. Police were immediately summoned and the official was dragged — apparently literally kicking and screaming — into a back room for questioning. Although Srebric’s identity was quickly determined, the incident continued on rather unpleasantly. Croatian authorities issued a wry comment via the Hina news agency afterward: “A London policeman thought [Srebric] was trying to avoid paying for the newspaper, which is nonsense. . . . The situation got even more absurd as he was taken to a police station where the situation was clarified, but, due to a lengthy procedure, Srebric had to spend some time there, instead of just several minutes.”

Eventually, all charges were dropped, and the Croats went on to pound Britain in the match, leading to yet another avalanche of self-flagellating wailings emanating from Fleet Street. (WHY ARE THEY ALL BETTER THAN US? screamed the Guardian.) Sad for them, humorous for the rest of us. Go Croatia!

More Hawkeye fun
Not long ago, the continuing troubles of Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Hawkeyes were detailed at length in this space, with much attention given to the ingenious exploits of Hawkeye wideout Dominique Douglas, who recently stole $30.02 worth of DVDs from a Wal-Mart shortly after being arrested for online theft. The Douglas bust (which culminated in a weirdly dramatic standoff at the wide receiver’s dorm room, inside which Douglas barricaded himself to prevent the cops from making their fifth-degree misdemeanor arrest) turned out to be the 15th player-related arrest to trouble the Hawkeyes since spring practices, a very high clip for a traditionally quiet program.

Now Iowa has problems again — sort of. Former Hawkeyes offensive lineman Lee Gray was busted this past weekend on fairly serious drug-trafficking charges. Turns out the 320-pound Gray (who last played for Iowa in ’05) has been a target of undercover narcs for more than a month; the arrest affidavit claimed that they made three coke purchases from Gray at his apartment since mid October. When they served a search warrant at his place, cops also discovered ecstasy. Now Gray is facing six class-C felonies, five for coke and one for X. Look for Coach Ferentz, who has taken a beating in the Iowa press this year, to somehow be blamed even for this in the upcoming weeks. Meanwhile, give Gray 35 points.

Sports crime this week was otherwise slow, unless you want to count Missouri State hoopster David Cline’s bust for the theft of nearly $15,000 of photo equipment. There is a late-breaking story about six minor-league hockey players (the Jacksonville Barracudas, down in Florida) getting popped for beating up a chick, but the details on that case are hazy as yet; more next week.

When he’s not googling “rude Britannia” and “Hawkeyes pierced,” Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone. He can be reached at

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