The Rundown

Top 10 sporting philosophers

The Rundown

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Joey Barton has raised plenty of eyebrows in the world of football over the last few days - and not only by engineering a move away from Newcastle United by cleverly taunting the club's owners until they decided to cut him loose on a free transfer.

But it's his liberal use of highbrow quotes on his Twitter feed that have been the most surprising element of the affair for many.

People have struggled to reconcile Barton's obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness with a ferocious and violent temper that once saw him stub out a cigar in a trainee's eye, hospitalise a team-mate with a sickening training ground attack, and landed him several months in prison after a conviction for assault.

Barton's hitherto unsuspected penchant for reflection is far from unknown in the world of sport, however, and his thoughtful words have inspired us to name our top 10 sporting philosophers of all time.

 

Bill Shankly

The
legendary Liverpool manager (pictured, top right) took a club which lay at the bottom of the old
Second Division and turned them into the best club in English football, winning
three league titles, two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup.

The Scot
mixed his managerial nous with a fine line in wit and wisdom, however,
dispensing endless verbal gems - including perhaps the most famous quote in
football history.

Sample
quotes: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am
very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more
important than that."

"If
Everton were playing down the bottom of my garden, I'd draw the curtains."

"My
idea was to build Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility. Had Napoleon had
that idea he would have conquered the bloody world. I wanted Liverpool to be
untouchable. My idea was to build Liverpool up and up until eventually everyone
would have to submit and give in."

"Above
all, I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and
worried so that others could share the glory, and who built up a family of
people who could hold their heads up high and say 'We're Liverpool'."

"For a
player to be good enough to play for Liverpool, he must be prepared to run
through a brick wall for me then come out fighting on the other side."

"Chairman
Mao has never seen a greater show of red strength."

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Eric Cantona

The fiery
French superstar became famous at Leeds and a household name at Manchester
United. But it was his extraordinary philosophical introspections allied to his
often brutal physical nature which made him a legend - a never more so than in
his famous interview following a notorious kung fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan
in 1995. He's still at it to this day, hitting headlines just days ago by
comparing leaving Manchester United to coming off a drug habit.

Sample
quotes: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think
that sardines will be thrown into the sea."

"After
his first training session in heaven, George Best, from his favourite right
wing, turned the head of God who was filling in at left-back. I would love him
to save me a place in his team - George Best that is, not God."

"If
you are a heroin addict and you've gone through the agonies of withdrawal, you
don't go back and start hanging out with your dealer. It was, as I say, like
quitting a Class A drug. Psychiatrists have demonstrated that the body of a
retired professional footballer can replicate the kind of symptoms that you get
with abrupt opiate withdrawal. And that's why I've avoided going back."

Yogi Berra

Genius or
imbecile? Nobody ever really knew whether the iconic New York Yankees star was
the cleverest man in sport or a borderline idiot as he dispensed gems of
homespun wisdom. We're voting for genius, though: Berra's insights have a
strange quality of seeming hilariously silly at first before revealing more and
more depth with each re-reading.

Sample
quotes: "It ain't over til it's over."

"When
you come to a fork in the road, take it."

"You
can observe a lot just by watching."

"It's
like deja vu all over again."

"The
future ain't what it used to be."

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Muhammad Ali

As good a
boxer as Ali was, any objective analysis has to show that his reputation as "The
Greatest" relied just as much on his flair for self-promotion, verbal
dexterity and pithy insights as his boxing prowess. Not that there is any
disgrace in that considering that his career overlapped two other all-time
greats in Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Sample quotes:
"Floats like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his
eyes can't see."

"Champions
aren't made in gyms, champions are made from something they have deep inside
them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they
have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the
will must be stronger than the skill."

"I'm
not the greatest; I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick
the round."

"I
done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed
lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a
stone, hospitalised a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick."

Sid Waddell

In some
senses it seems wrong to include a commentator in this list, especially one
more famous for covering darts matches. But when that man is Sid Waddell, the
Bard of Darts, you have to make an exception as his .

Sample
quotes: "When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because
there were no more worlds to conquer... Bristow's only 27."

"He's
not just an underdog, he's an underpuppy."

"Eat
your heart out Isaac Newton, that was an apple falling!"

"We
couldn't have more excitement if Elvis walked in and asked for a chip
sandwich."

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Brian Clough

The man who
turned Nottingham Forest into champions of Europe two years running had an ego
as big as his ability - but it was his startlingly direct manner and no-nonsense
wisdom which made him a household name even among those who know nothing about football.

Sample
quotes: "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was
in the top one."

"Whenever
players disagree with me we talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I
was right."

"Players
lose you games, not tactics. There's so much crap talked about tactics by
people who barely know how to win at dominoes."

"If
God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there."

Albert Camus

The French-Algerian
philosopher and novelist was not just a man of letters: he was an outstanding
goalkeeper who won two North African Cups and two North African Champions Cups with
Racing Universitaire d'Alger while still a teenage. Sadly for the world of
sport, his footballing career was curtailed when he contracted tuberculosis
aged 17 - though he never lost his lifelong love of the beautiful game and even
credited it with teaching him life's most important lessons.

Sample
quotes: " I don't know whether this world has a meaning that transcends
it. But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me
just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can
understand only in human terms. What I touch, what resists me - that I understand.
And these two certainties - my appetite for the absolute and for unity and the
impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle - I
also know that I cannot reconcile them. What other truth can I admit without
lying, without bringing in a hope I lack and which means nothing within the
limits of my conditions?"

"What
is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?"

"All
great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are
often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door."

"If
there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of
life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of
this life."

"After
many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about
morality and the duty of man I owe to sport."

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Chris Eubank

The British
boxing legend, a former middleweight and super middleweight world champion,
became famous when his unforgettable clashes against fighters such as Nigel
Benn and Michael Watson caught the public's imagination. But the flamboyant and
eccentric star has continued to garner column inches thanks to his habit of
driving around in the cab of an articulated lorry and dressing from head-to-toe
in Bertie Wooster-style clothing - not to mention dispensing nuggets of
characteristically eccentric wisdom."

Sample
quotes: "There's nothing more common than wasted potential."

"Not
being born to parents who were accountants was probably my biggest mistake."

"I
used to nick suits for a living, now I pay a grand for them."

"Boxing
is like a girlfriend. When you leave a girlfriend, you don't want her back
because you left her and you did your time with her. "

Walter Hagen

The golfing
great won 11 Major championships, putting him third on the - and it would have
been more had he not largely retired from tournament golf while still at his
peak in order to concentrate on the more lucrative exhibition matches.

Sample
quote: "I never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one."

"Don't
hurry, don't worry, you're only here for a short visit, so be sure to smell the
flowers along the way."

"There
is no tragedy in missing a putt, no matter how short. All have erred in this
respect."

"No
one remembers who came in second."

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FILE - In this file photo taken Jan. 12, 2011, Boston Celtics' Shaquille O'Neal is shown before facing the Sacramento Kings in Boston. The Los Angeles
Shaquille O'Neil

We wrap up
the list with the 7'1" American basketball legend, a four-times NBA
champion, who is one of the few athletes who really lives up to the phrase
"larger than life" in every sense: physically, with his incredible
talent, and with the lavish lifestyle that defined 'bling' before the term was
even coined.

Sample
quotes: "I don't let earthlings motivate me. I only let factors motivate
me. The only thing that motivates me is, when I'm done playing, I want people
to say, 'He's the Baddest mother ******* to ever play the game.'"

"I don't
believe that I personally have been changed by the money. The bad thing is
people assume you've changed because now you have money."

"The day I stopped worrying about
stats is the day I started winning."

"I
am the number one ninja and I have killed all the Shoguns in front of me."

"I
would like to be referred to as 'The Big Aristotle'."

 

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