I was checking out the Fox Sports website when I noticed a link to Forbes magazine’s top-ten “most disliked athletes” poll. I’m not certain why Forbes feels the need to take such a survey, unless there are a lot of Forbes’ readers who take a dislike at mere athletes with money, and need to invent rationales to justify their personal discontent. Not surprisingly, minority athletes are the principle targets of their ire. Some of these athletes are guilty of nothing more than being too uppity or “phony” for their white critics: Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Ndamukoug Suh and Terrell Owens. Some are guilty of violating the moral codes of self-styled moral paladins: Tiger Woods and Kris Humphries. Frankly, I never even heard of Humphries until he made the cover of supermarket tabloids, but anyone who can make a pampered no-talent like Kim Kardashian miserable for a few minutes is alright by me. The fact that NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was number 10 on the list suggests that Forbes didn’t want to be accused of having a racial agenda, so they just picked out an unliked white athlete in the poll and stuck him on the bottom of the list; I mean, how many people care about NASCAR or even know the Busch is a driver and not connected with the beer maker? For me, Tony Stewart is the Woods of racing, and if he isn’t doing well, I couldn’t care less about race car driving. The other athletes that round out the list—Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress—obviously have had legal issues, but out of all of the athletes on Forbes list, only Burress seems to continue to be a cancer in his sport.
There are always athletes you dislike, especially if they are a thorn in the side of “your” team. But I don’t think that simply because they make more money than you do, and you believe this is unfair, it is no reason to dislike them more than the average over-paid pro. The athletes on Forbes list—outside Woods—excite more indifference than dislike, and the contradictory ways people feel about Tiger predates his recent “exposure.” The Williams’ sisters as the only American success story for many years has not entirely shielded them from the criticism of people who wish they were someone else (like those Russians in their cocktail dresses). Me, I need a real reason to truly dislike an athlete. After wracking my brain for a few minutes, I actually came-up with my own top-ten most dislike athletes, some of them now retired.
In no particular order, here is my list:
Peyton Manning. Manning played for my Alma Mater, but being a Big Ten supporter dating from my youth, I never really cared for the hype surrounding him, which mainly emanated from his “pedigree.” Manning never beat Florida, and was thus never able to quite scale the heights predicted every season for the UTK football team. A year after he left, a once and future no-name quarterback, Tee Martin, led Tennessee to the national championship—in all likelihood because his talent level required him to be a “team” player, which Manning was and is not. When all the commentators are calling you “perfect,” you tend to believe that, and such was Manning. He was always quick to blame pass receivers for his misfires. Far from being a “mentor” to his back-ups, he selfishly demanded all the snaps in practice—and then commentators wondered why what happened in 2011 occurred. He was allowed to pass off his hysterical outburst against an offensive lineman in one game—who simply asked why Manning didn’t call a running play after throwing three incomplete passes from the goal line—as a “friendly” disagreement. This past off-season, I felt nothing but nausea at the groveling nature of the way teams pursued his services; needless-to-say, if the Denver experiment implodes because Manning wants total control and treats his coaches like subordinates, I say the team received exactly what it had coming to them.
Hope Solo. Locally and in the U.S. women’s soccer world, Solo is the current “face” of the franchise. But Solo always struck me as petty, arrogant and conceited, and I couldn’t have been more happy when the all-white U.S. women’s team failed to win the last World Cup, in no small measure to Solo’s flailing collapse in the “shoot out.” She just couldn’t cut it as a “solo” artist. I still feel distaste over Solo’s unsportspersonlike conduct when she was substituted by Briana Scurry—a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion—against the Brazilian team in the 2007 World Cup, because Scurry’s had previous success against them; I have no doubt that Solo’s pouting behavior affected the team. People wouldn’t recall that the U.S. team played short-handed most of the game, because Shannon Boxx got herself kicked off the field—perhaps as a show of “support” for Solo—with two yellow cards. More recently, Solo showed up on “Dancing With the Stars,” where this Hope-less amateur accused her professional partner of “sexism” when he expressed frustration at her “technique,” and was reportedly rude and condescending to cast and crew--none of whom were unhappy about seeing her get the boot.
Merril Hoge. Hoge is a retired NFL player, but since he is in the business of “critiquing” current players, he is fair game. As I’ve mentioned before, he has a habit of being disrespectful and rude to people who have done him no offense, ridiculing and belittling those he disagrees with an a most offensive manner. Why ESPN executives and colleagues continue to tolerate him is a mystery. In 1994 as a Chicago Bear, Hoge stopped breathing temporarily in the locker room, due to complications from a concussion; he successfully sued the Bears for not being suitably aware of the dangers of concussions. His current attitude toward player health suggests he still hasn’t recovered from its effects.
Metta World Peace, AKA Ron Artest. Give “Peace” a chance here: “Metta” has elevated the definition of hypocrisy to new heights (or is that reducing it to a new all-time low?). Do we really need to recap his history of mayhem and thuggery that have been an embarrassment to the game of basketball and one of the reasons that the NBA has seen a reduction in popularity? “Peace” received some good “citizenship” award from the NBA, but his behavior on the court is how he really “influences” the kids.
Randy Moss. Moss has been a bad teammate wherever he has been, but his brief return to Minnesota in 2010 really galled me. Being a Brett Favre fan, and knowing how Favre lobbied for Moss even in Green Bay, I can imagine what a letdown Moss was for him when reality set in. Moss’ contempt for other human beings was on display when he made despicable remarks concerning food brought in by a caterer chosen by a teammate (“I wouldn’t feed this to my dog”), and was the low-point of a season of disappointment after falling just short of the Super Bowl a year earlier.
Floyd Landis. The way this low-life tried to take down Lance Armstrong with him is symptomatic of how the U.S. seems so eager to destroy its sports icons (like Tiger Woods). Remember that after winning the Tour de France, Landis tested positive for a banned substance and swore up and down that he was “clean.” It was only after his appeals failed that he decided to unburden his “guilt” and confess. But that he wasn’t going to down alone; despite the fact that Armstrong never definitively tested positive for banned substances, Landis insisted that he used them. Whether or not Armstrong was guilty is beside the point; it was Landis who screwed-up, and his attitude was akin to a child who is caught with his hand in a cookie jar and defends himself by accusing others of doing the same thing.
Martina Hingis/Navratilova. Although Martina Navratilova invited my ire by whining about how as a white lesbian, she wasn’t receiving as much “attention” as that “inadequate” black male Tiger Woods, it is the other Martina who really annoyed me. The arrogant Hingis was forever reminding you of her European “superiority,” but it was the 2001 French Open finals against Steffi Graf that forever burns in my memory. The French was the Grand Slam event that Hingis never won, and this would be her last best chance. But Graf, near the end of her prime, thoroughly out-played Hingis—who stomped about like a petulant child amidst boos and jeers, throwing her racket and even crossing to the other side of the net to point out where she thought a ball allegedly landed. When she eventually lost the match, she ran off the court, to be escorted back out in tears by her mother. Graf—rather than be exasperated by Hingis’ unsportspersonlike behavior—to her discredit chose to comfort Hingis as if this person who was so contemptuous of others really was just a poor child. When Hingis was finally banned from professional play for testing positive for cocaine, it put an end to career that was more a testament to Euro pomposity than actual accomplishment: Hingis’ five Grand Slam victories was paltry compared to the Williams’ sisters combined Slam 20 singles titles, and yet the sisters’ “faults” have been far more “notorious.”
Troy Aikman. Probably the most over-rated quarterback in NFL history and in the Hall of Fame. Sure he won three Super Bowls, but Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls and he’s not in the Hall—nor should he be. I wrote a post last year detailing how during Dallas’ four-year run, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith accounted for 60 percent of the Cowboys’ offense, yet Aikman was somehow considered “indispensable” to the mix; the fact is that as a “game manager” what he did was mostly get the ball to his playmakers, and get out of the way. Aikman was also accused of being a racist, habitually screaming and cursing his black teammates. When this story was first reported before the 1996 Super Bowl, his teammates came to his defense; while admitting that Aikman often seemed to “overreact,” his behavior was rationalized by the claim that since most of his teammates were black, he treated them all the “same.”
Pick ‘em white Duke Dude. OK, so we know the drill: Duke University basketball has become “renowned” for being “proof” that even if white men can’t jump, but they play “smarter.” Every team that plays them wants to beat them bad, because no one wants to lose to a team full of conceited smarty-pants. Even the few black players on Duke teams seem to have gone through the Michael Jackson skin-peel program. Fortunately, people with names like Hurley, Laettner, Ferry, Parks, Redick, Dunleavy, Scheyer, “Wojo,” Collins and so on have been flops in the NBA, which only goes to prove that overachieving in college tends to lead to a career of burning a hole on the bench.
Rodger Clemens. I always disliked Clemens, because I knew that if the Brewers (when they were still in the AL) didn’t score runs early on him, they were sure to lose. But my principle beef was that here was this pompous white guy treated like his scatological emanations didn’t stink. People might not be aware of this, but the second time around for trying Clemens for perjury before a Congressional hearing on steroid use in currently underway. His former strength coach and principle accuser Brian McNamee has repeated his claims in court and former teammate Andy Petite seems “conflicted” about what he actually heard Clemens tell him (his wife could help jog his memory, but she has been banned from testifying). Although Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s testimony was generally favorable to Clemens, he did confess that he allowed Clemens to bring in McNamee as a “personal trainer” after reaching the conclusion that Clemens was not physically fit. More damaging to Clemens was the testimony of a team doctor for the Houston Astros, who denied Clemens’ claim that he had been supplied B-12 vitamin shots or that the doctor even allowed it for use, because he considered the vitamin shots “ineffective.” Nevertheless, I don’t see the charges against Clemens’ sticking, any more than they did to Barry Bonds. But if indeed Clemens is guilty, then his behavior has been utterly contemptible and despicable.
As you can tell from my list, I don’t dislike someone because I get an allergic reaction against people who—if they were not athletes making millions—would just be another Invisible Man you ignore, feel contempt or discriminate against in “real life.” All of these people, if I actually had personal interaction with them, would greatly offend my idea of simple human decency.