The 5 Most Astonishing Faxes In Sports History
It was, without doubt, the most earthshattering sports moment of 2020. It didn’t happen on the pitch, but via an anachronistic piece of equipment long since forgotten. Lionel Messi informed Barcelona of his intention to leave the club via a fateful fax last week. The memo immediately became one of the most stunning faxes in sports history, but was it the most shocking of all time?
Let’s be real here, how many people under the age of 30 have ever used a fax machine? Probably about as many people as have played soccer at the same level as Lionel Messi.
For those too young to remember, a fax machine is an antiquated appliance that allows one to send documents over a phone line — think email attachments before there was email. There was a time when fax machines were a predominant source of communication in business, and early versions of what we’d call internet memes circulated via fax.
These days, just about the only time you hear about fax machines is on National Signing Day in the U.S., when high school athletes send their letters of intent to play sports at a given college or university. But faxes have a long history in sports.
Here are the five most incredible faxes in sports history.
Most Shocking Faxes In Sports History
#5. Elvis Dumervil Loses $12 Million
In 2013, Elvis Dumervil lost his spot on the Denver Broncos roster — and $12 million in guaranteed money — because paperwork filed via fax was a few minutes late.
The story, detailed here, was supposed to be one of Dumervil — at the time one of the top defensive ends in the NFL — signing a restructured contract, one that would still see him paid quite handsomely but also free up some cap space for the Broncos.
Unfortunately, Dumervil’s agent filed the paperwork six minutes late. Because it was too late, the Broncos chose to cut Dumervil rather than pay the $12 million guaranteed contract to save cap space, making Dumervil a free agent. After firing his agent, Dumervil signed with the Baltimore Ravens, with just $8.5 million guaranteed in his first year.
Dumervil retired in 2018. He announced his retirement via Twitter, not fax.
#4. David De Gea’s Real Madrid Transfer Seconds Too Late
In 2015, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea was set to make a big-money move back to Spain to join Real Madrid, swapping places with Keylor Navas. However, the deal never went through, with a fax received two minutes too late for De Gea to be registered as a Real Madrid player.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) September 1, 2015
There was a lot of he-said-she-said at the time as to who was to blame. United claimed it did everything right and on time; Real suggested the English club deliberately delayed the fax to invalidate the transfer. Some said the fax machine was to blame (hint: it’s never the fax machine, only user error/intentional malice).
Ultimately, de Gea signed a contract extension with United and remains at the club as of this writing ahead of the 2020-21 season. He’s stuck around long enough to become the villain at United, with Dean Henderson potentially replacing him as the Red Devils’ first-choice keeper.
#3. Lionel Messi Announces His Intention To Leave Barcelona
Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer of all time, spent his entire professional career with Barcelona. But after an 8-2 humiliation to Bayern Munich ended a trophy-less season, Messi wanted a change.
According to his camp, Messi had a clause in his contract allowing him to leave Barcelona for free should he provide the club notice at the end of a season. Messi did just that, sending the official notice via burofax, basically a formal fax service used in Spain.
While those who follow the sport closely weren’t completely taken by surprise — this had been brewing for some time — it was still stunning to see it actually happen. Messi is Barcelona and Barcelona is Messi. A divorce of this proportion is almost inconceivable these days because so few top players stick with one team for so long.
#2. Barry Sanders Retires
In terms of shock and surprise, it’s hard to top Barry Sanders’ retirement from football, especially the way it was announced.
In the summer of 1999, Sanders was the best running back in the NFL. With 15,269 yards, he was on his way to becoming the league’s all-time leading rusher. Then came the stunning fax, sent to his local newspaper, the Wichita Eagle:
“Today, I officially declare my departure from the NFL. ... I leave on good terms with everyone in the organization. ... The reason I am retiring is simple: my desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it.”
The announcement stunned the sports world and infuriated the Detroit Lions, the awful team for which Sanders played his entire 10-year career. The Lions demanded Sanders return the hefty signing bonus he received after signing a six-year contract extension two years earlier, and a nasty fight ensued. Detroit refused to release Sanders, still in the prime of his career, from his contract, so Sanders refused to give back the money (until an arbitrator ordered him to do so).
It was an ugly, disappointing end to a brilliant player’s career. On the bright side, it served as a warning to inept teams: No longer would great players accept mediocrity, there was always the threat of just quitting the game instead of playing for a shit team.
#1. Michael Jordan’s “I’m Back”
Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, once thought he could be one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was wrong, and after a brief hiatus away from the court, MJ decided he wanted to get back to doing something he was actually the best at.
On March 18, 1995, Jordan grabbed a piece of paper and faxed two words that changed the course of NBA history: “I’m back.”
“I’m back.”25 years ago today, Michael Jordan used two words to announce he was returning to the NBA pic.twitter.com/uNDxEWYXhj
— ESPN (@espn) March 18, 2020
Jordan returned to the league that season and the NBA was never the same again.
Though he failed to bring Chicago a championship that year, he won three more titles before the Chicago dynasty imploded. (In 1995, the Bulls were beat 4-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Orlando Magic, a team Houston swept in the NBA Finals. To me, this is clear proof the Rockets would’ve wiped the floor with that Chicago team had they faced off against each other and should end the lazy narrative that the Rockets only won their titles because MJ was out of the league.)
MJ’s return cemented an indelible legacy. With those two words sent via fax, Michael Jordan ensured his status as the most revered player in NBA history.
Bonus Soccer Fax: Houston’s Diesel
Check out this amazing soccer fax!
Oh wait, that’s a fox, not a fax. Sorry, move along.