Picture the scene: Tiger Woods has won yet another golf tournament. He’s been followed round the entire course by cheering fans and well-wishers for the entire time. His opponents have played valiantly - nay brilliantly - and given him a real run for his money, but ultimately he has triumphed.
He steps up to receive his trophy in front of the assembled press, turns to the cameras and says: “You are nothing to me. You are all losers and turds. I am the best in the world, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I get bored playing on my own I wouldn’t even acknowledge you exist.” He then throws his clubs to the ground and strops off muttering to himself about how totally rubbish everyone is apart from him.
Then we turn over to BBC2 and find six-time snooker World Champion, Steve Davis, watching his opponent pot the final black against him in a frame. He turns to the camera and mouths the word “CUNT” before spitting at the lens; his fat lugie slowly sliding down millions of screens nationwide…
Now let me make it perfectly clear that neither of these events actually took place – nor do I imagine they ever would – and that’s the point about REAL champions. They aren’t just champions in their chosen discipline; they are champions in life. It’s easy for us to see this because of how they behave outside their arenas; i.e. how they respect their contemporaries and how they carry themselves day to day.
Oh, and then there is Phil Hellmuth. Yes, Phil ‘Poker Brat’ Hellmuth. A man who appears to derive no joy from the millions of dollars he’s made both on and off the table. A man who is never content enough to simply sit and ‘be’. A man who has to berate and insult ordinary decent folk during a GAME OF CARDS to feel like a real man.
I recently watched a WSOP show in disbelief as Hellmuth proceeded to blast anyone who appeared to be able to even vaguely play back at him; spitting insults, criticising every move, and referring to anyone with less than 11 bracelets as mere “internet players”. After being patronised twenty times (and being continually called “kid” by Hellmuth) one player on the table - Ben Fineman - ventured, “Phil, we’ve been playing each other for days now. Do you even know my name?”
Every time Hellmuth was all-in (or up against an all-in) he would parade for the cameras; showboating and negotiating insurance with a spectating Phil Ivey, regardless of the poor schmuck sitting waiting for the circus to end so that he could find out if he was still in the tournament or not. Imagine what Phil would do if you made him wait five minutes while you dicked about before the flop was dealt? He’d explode!
At one point Ben Fineman called an all-in with A-K against Dustin Holmes’ K-10 only to watch as Dustin rivered trip tens. If that had been Hellmuth just imagine how much of the level would have been wasted while he blarted curses into the sky like some angry poker trumpet. All Ben did was turn to a sheepish-looking Dustin and say “Don’t sweat it buddie”, before sitting down and carrying on with the game. Amazing composure - truly.
And then there’s Phil’s exit hand. He raises with Ac-10c and Beth Shak calls with Kh-Qh. The flop comes 10-Q-x and Beth shoves all-in. Phil calls and when he sees that he has the worst hand, does he acknowledge that he has made a mistake? Oh no – it’s HER fault!! “I can’t believe she called!” he bleats. “How can she call!?” Well Phil, maybe it’s the fact that she was in the big blind, was getting 2.5-1 on her money, and then flopped top pair! And the thing is, we KNOW that Hellmuth knows this, so his wining is even more pitiful to behold.
I’d love to think that it’s all just for the cameras, but it clearly isn’t – he really is that much of a moron! Hellmuth is the kind of person that I pray no one watches on TV and wants to be like.
Do I want his success? Of course. Do I want his personality? Christ no. Personally, I want to be like Ben Fineman, who proved to me that just because you have to sit next to a total imbecile like Hellmuth doesn’t mean you have to act like him.
I go back to my very first thoughts in this entry. Go on: chose any sport and think of a champion from that sport. Now try to imagine them behaving the way Hellmuth does.
Roger Federer smashing some kid in the face with his racket? Alex Furguson calling Wenger an 'utter wanker' live on Match of the Day? Johny Wilkinson drop-kicking a toddler into touch if he loses? It’s just not going to happen is it…
So why, then, is Phil Hellmuth allowed to act in such a rude, insulting, pathetic way without penalty? Burn him - I say - and burn his face first (metaphorically-speaking of course - I have to add for legal reasons). Anyway, thanks for listening. I feel much better now.