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Burroughs makes good on 'called shot'
If you call your shot, you better make it. Miss a called shot and you’re a fool, a too-cocky bonehead who just couldn’t live up to your own hype.
What if Babe Ruth had pointed to center field at the 1932 World Series and then hit a towering blast to the warning track? What if Joe Namath played magnificently after guaranteeing victory in Super Bowl III but was let down by his defense? What if Muhammad Ali told everyone his vision of knocking out Sonny Liston in the first round and then got knocked out himself? What if Michael Jordan lost to the Pacers in 1998 after he’d guaranteed a Game 7 victory?
They'd have been fools. Each and every one of them.
Instead, they guaranteed, and they followed through. Instead of arrogant, they were confident. Instead of being mocked, they solidified their spots among the greatest ever.
All of which is an attempt to give a bit of perspective on Jordan Burroughs’ called-shot gold medal Friday in the 74-kilogram (163-pound) weight class for freestyle wrestling.
Consider the tweets the 24-year-old University of Nebraska grad sent in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, from a Twitter account with the handle “@alliseeisgold”:
On July 20, 21 days before he was due to wrestle in London: “I wonder if the Gold medal in London is thinking AlliseeisJordan?”
On July 26, 15 days before he was due to wrestle in London: “At Opening Ceremonies not a lot of people will know who I am. But by Closing Ceremonies they will.”
On August 9, 16 hours before he was due to wrestle in London: “Thanks everyone for the goodlucks tomorrow. Dreaming of Gold tonight. My next tweet will be a picture of me holding that Gold medal!!!”
And then on Friday night, after he’d beaten the Iranian Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi to achieve his life’s dream: “I did it! 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist!”
A photo, of course, was attached.
“I would have had to change my Twitter name if I lost,” Burroughs told reporters afterward.
“I am extremely humble, but I put in a lot of hard work. The fans want someone who is confident in himself. If you won’t be confident in yourself, who will be confident in you?”
On Friday, Burroughs seemed tight at first. The nerves of the Olympics — and perhaps the pressure he’d put on himself — were getting to him. He beat a Puerto Rican, then a Canadian, but he admitted he wasn’t on top of his game. His coaches beseeched him to be more aggressive.
Next up was a Russian, a former world champion named Denis Targush. Burroughs won the first round, then Targush the second after a takedown and a pushout. In the deciding third round, the arena rumbling with chants, Burroughs pushed the Russian out with seconds left. It got Burroughs into the final match, and it secured him a medal.
But anything short of a gold medal would be a failure. An embarrassment, even. After all that pressure he’d put on himself, he had to come back with gold.
“He wants to be the best in the world,” Zeke Jones, the head coach of USA Wrestling, said. “He wants to be the greatest of all time. So I just think it comes with the territory. ... He had confidence. When he walked in the back room, he had a swagger.”
He swaggered back onto the mat to meet the Iranian, the same man Burroughs had faced when he won the 2011 World Championships in a surprise. The place was going nuts. Burroughs had a strategy: Keep it close until the end of the round. Then score a takedown or a pushout with just a little time left. That way the Iranian wouldn’t have a chance to make up ground.
Which is exactly what he did. The final round ended, and Burroughs thrust his fists in the air. He sprinted from the mat to the other end of the arena, confidently hopped over a rather tall barrier, ran into the stands and sought out his mom. People snapped pictures with him as he wrapped himself in the flag.
“I knew my mom was in that section somewhere,” he said. “Someone told me (section) 410. But my mom’s only 5-3.”
He found her. They hugged. He hopped onto the podium to receive his gold medal. He put on a news conference with the medal around his neck. He said he wouldn’t take the medal off for weeks, even when he showers. He called the gold medal infinitely more important than the $250,000 bonus check. He said he’ll be back for Rio in 2016.
Then he asked a question.
“Is there WiFi here?” the champion asked.
Moments later, he sent out a tweet with a picture, him with his gold medal. Jordan Burroughs had called his shot.
Follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @ReidForgrave or email him at ReidForgrave@gmail.com.