The 30 Dumbest Decisions Ever Made by Professional Athletes
Maybe it's because no one ever disagrees with them. Maybe they subconsciously feel a bit guilty for making more money than us. Maybe they just don't care, precisely because they make much more money than us.
Whatever the reason, professional athletes have provided us with many, many moments that leave them open to ridicule.
I've organised 30 of my favourites into a neat little package. Enjoy.
Keith Ballard Takes out His Own Goalie, 2009
Disgusted after being at fault for conceding a goal to Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard took a big swing at the crossbar to vent his frustration. Unfortunately, he hit his goaltender instead, causing him ear lacerations that required hospital treatment.
Undaunted by his first attempt that broke his teammate's face, Ballard then took another swing at the goal, breaking his stick before skating off, his anger seemingly calmed.
Good job, Keith.
Albert Haynesworth: Pretty Much Everything
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Where to start?
At a Tennessee Titans training camp, Albert Haynesworth had to be restrained after kicking Justin Hartwig in the chest.
In a game against the Dallas Cowboys, he stomped on the head of Cowboys center Andre Gurode while his helmet was off, causing him to require 30 stitches.
He punched a man in the face in a road rage-related incident.
While playing for the Redskins, Haynesworth repeatedly refused to cooperate with coaching staff during training or NFL games.
Following the stomping incident, he said he would seek counseling and work with children. I'm not sure you'd have many people offering you their kids, Albert.
Tiger Woods' Extramarital Affairs
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Tiger Woods had everything. Money, success, a family and the hero-worship of millions of aspiring young golfers. But when he crashed his car into a tree, citing a "private matter," his life began to unravel.
It emerged that he had embarked on a series of ill-advised affairs with more than a dozen women, citing sex addiction and a sense of entitlement brought on by fame and wealth.
Unsurprisingly, his endorsers started to drop him. After the scandal died down, it was estimated that Woods destroyed around $12 billion in stock value.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it wasn't worth it.
Tony Allen Regrets Showing Off
In 2007, the Celtics were losing to the Pacers when Tony Allen decided that he would dunk the ball despite the referee having already blown the whistle and the ball being dead. He went down hard, tearing both his ACL and MCL.
He didn't make the dunk either. I suppose he should just have been grateful he didn't get called for a technical foul as well.
Zinedine Zidane Headbutts Marco Materazzi
There's no doubt that this was a dumb thing to do. It was in the last 10 minutes of extra time in the World Cup final. If it went to a penalty shootout—which it did—then France would sorely miss Zidane—which they did, losing 5-3. On top of this, Zinedine Zidane was playing in the last game of his career.
He later said he had no regrets about the decision, and he was awarded the Golden Ball in recognition for being the tournament's most outstanding player.
But there's always been something about this incident that has bothered me. Why did he headbutt him in the chest?
Zidane was responding to some trash talk about his sister, which he said he just couldn't put up with any longer. Assuming that he was that enraged, wouldn't he have headbutted him in the face? If he was always going to go for the chest, why not just shove him?
LA Rams: Let's Ram It
It's an easy target, but I refuse to believe that someone read through the lyrics and offered up no questions about how they would be construed.
If they had, they could've avoided such classics as "I like to ram it, as you can see/nobody likes ramming any more than me" and "I learned long ago that if you ram it just right/you can ram it all day and ram it all night."
Sammy Sosa: No Habla Inglés
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Sammy Sosa was asked to speak before congress regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. He denied ever using them and has never been charged with any infraction of that nature.
Sosa spoke only through an interpreter. Supposedly, he couldn't speak English despite having conducted many interviews in English throughout his career. After the hearing, his grasp of language returned to him in a similarly miraculous manner.
Must have been the stress.
Gilbert Arenas Brings Guns to Work
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
On Dec. 19, 2009, Gilbert Arenas' teammate Javaris Crittenton was alleged to have threatened to shoot Arenas in the knee if he continued to renege on his gambling debts.
Upon arriving at the Verizon Center two days later, Arenas laid out four guns with a note that just said "Pick 1." Crittenton responded by pulling out a firearm of his own and chambering a round.
The fact that all of this took place in an NBA locker room is one of the most remarkable things about it. It shocked the sporting world, and Arenas was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house, 400 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. Crittenton received a year's probation and was not re-signed.
In August 2011, Crittenton was arrested and charged with the murder of mother-of-four Jullian Jones in a drive-by shooting, alleged to have been targeted at a man who stole jewelry from Crittenton. He is currently on bail.
Plaxico Burress Fails to Walk Up Stairs
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Plaxico Burress was deemed unfit to play against Washington in 2008 because of a hamstring injury. So, naturally, he decided to go to a club in Manhattan with a gun instead.
While climbing the club's stairs, he noticed that the gun was starting to slip from its hiding place in his waistband. When he reached into his pants to retrieve it, he accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Upon being discharged from hospital, Burress was then arrested and charged with two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon. He was suspended by the Giants and released four months later.
Michael Jordan Follows His Dream
In the wake of his father's murder in 1994, Michael Jordan retired from the NBA and followed the dream that his father had for his future: Major League Baseball.
Reporting to spring training with the Chicago White Sox, Jordan was greeted with disbelief from both fans and media. It was viewed as a gimmick, and something that no one should take seriously.
Jordan, however, took it very seriously, arriving to the cages at 7:30 every morning.
After spring training, Jordan was sent to Double-A Birmingham and hit .202 with 51 RBI, 30 stolen bases and 114 strikeouts over 127 games. He also took part in the 1994 Arizona Fall League, where he posted a .252 average for the Scottsdale Scorpions. He had some difficulty hitting the curveball, and the MLB strike of 1995 was the final nail in the coffin of his baseball career.
There is probably an argument for this not qualifying as a dumb decision, as he wanted to pay respect to his father. But let me ask you this: If you were one of the best players ever to play basketball, would you decide that baseball was more your thing?
Didn't think so.
Mario Balotelli: Pretty Much Everything
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Another one-man slideshow, the Manchester City striker continues to delight and horrify in equal measure. Recent escapades include:
Driving into a women's prison just because the gates were open.
Stomping on Spurs captain Scott Parker's head, not being sent off and then scoring an injury-time winner.
Throwing darts at the Manchester City youth team because he was bored.
Setting fire to his own home after an indoor fireworks party unsurprisingly went awry.
Tonya Harding Takes out Hit on Rival
Mike Powell/Getty Images
On Jan. 6, 1994, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked with a police baton by an assailant who had followed her to Detroit, intending to break her leg and render her unable to skate. It was revealed to be a hired assault, orchestrated by Tonya Harding's ex-husband and her bodyguard.
Harding was given three years probation for her role as well as a $160,000 fine and 500 hours community service.
Luckily, Kerrigan's leg was only bruised, and she went on to take the silver medal at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
Harding finished eighth.
Jim McMahon Mounts Scooter for Money
I love the 1985 Bears team. I do not love Jim McMahon's endorsement decisions.
The makers of this commercial obviously couldn't get enough decent footage out of McMahon to fill the slot, so they played the whole thing again, but backwards. Outrageousness!
A Harley or something would've been cool. But a Honda scooter? Really, Jim?
Michael Vick Buys Dogs, Then Kills Them
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
I'm not saying that Michael Vick is stupid*, but if I was running a dog fighting ring (I'm not), I probably wouldn't name it after my hometown. Or keep over 70 of the dogs on my property.
Due to this horrendous business venture, Vick was convicted and served 21 months in prison. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008 but returned to the NFL in 2009.
*I am. He's very stupid.
Nate Newton Learns Nothing
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
If you're a high-earning ex-Pro Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys, there are probably many side projects you could pursue after your NFL career. Your recognizable face makes you a prime candidate for endorsements.
With his celebrity status, Nate Newton decided that drug trafficking was for him. When his van was found to contain 213 pounds of marijuana, it should've been an indicator that he had erred slightly from his career path.
But not Nate. Undeterred, he went out five weeks later in Texas and was found to have 175 pounds of marijuana in his van, landing him in federal prison for 30 months.
What must he have been smoking to make that decision? Yeah, probably weed.
O.J. Simpson Learns Less Than Nate Newton
One of the greatest running backs of all time, O.J. Simpson has had such a decline that he is arguably more recognisable as a criminal than a football player.
After avoiding jail time for the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman, Simpson had multiple legal troubles involving taxes, drug trafficking and stealing cable TV.
In September 2007, struggling to pay his debts, Simpson entered the Palace Station Hotel Casino in Las Vegas with a group of men, taking sports memorabilia at gunpoint. When questioned, Simpson attested that the items had been stolen from him.
At the trial, Simpson was convicted of multiple felonies that included kidnapping, robbery, assault and using a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison, 13 years to the day that he was acquitted of murder.
For some reason, I've never considered this to be the saddest moment of Simpson's life. To me, that will always be when he sold his Heisman to pay part of a court judgement. The embodiment of his youthful promise auctioned off in an attempt to rectify his idiocy as an adult.
Terry Orr Steals from His Friends
The man Terry Orr ripped off (Art Monk).
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Your teammates always have your back. They can be relied upon at all times. They'll never screw you over—right?
That's what Art Monk thought, and he proceeded to give $50,000 to Terry Orr to invest in Orr's shoe company. The tight end then used the money from Monk—along with money from other former teammates—to pay off personal debts, leaving them all with nothing from their investment.
Unsurprisingly, they were less than pleased, and they testified against Orr. He got 14 months in jail and lost quite a few of his friends.
Scottie Pippen Buys a Gulfstream II Jet
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Never the best businessman, Scottie Pippen bought himself a little present in 2002 that turned out to be a rather large disaster.
I'm not denying that it would be cool to have my own plane—or the money to even consider it—but I like to think that I'd check it was working before parting with the $4 million required to own one.
A few months after the purchase was made, the plane was found to need $1 million worth of repairs. Apparently an inspection was missed that would have highlighted the problem, and the jet was forced to remain on the ground.
On a lighter note, Pippen sued his attorney for the missed inspection and was awarded $2 million in compensation. The system works!
He apparently got a taste for the non-basketball-related court, and last year started suing everyone who reported that he was broke. I'm not saying that here. Definitely not. He's not broke. He's worth at least $40 million.
Chad Ochocinco Sleeps with the Fishes
Not content with naming himself after his jersey number, Chad Ochocinco decided that having a custom-built fish tank installed in the headboard of his bed would be the best way to go.
He later complained that his fiancée spent all her time looking at them, which doesn't say a lot for his off-field performance.
Lenny Dykstra Grows Forgetful
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
Lenny Dykstra had a rather well-publicized fall from grace, as business ventures went badly and the debts started outweighing the incoming funds. He filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and went into enforced liquidation soon after.
It seems that Lenny swept a few things under the rug when taking account of his assets. Like $400,000 worth of property.
On Dec. 3, 2012, Dykstra was sentenced to six-and-a-half months in prison for hiding assets.
I remember things by writing them down. It's not flashy, but it works.
Raghib Ismail Can't Say No
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
If you ever need a bit of cash or a start-up loan that the bank just doesn't want to give you, you could do worse than give "Rocket" a call.
His list of businesses include "The Rock N Roll Cafe" (not the Hard Rock Cafe, honest), a scheme to develop a nationwide phone card dispenser and my personal favourite, "It's in the Name"—a shop where would-be purchasers could browse a selection of framed calligraphy.
Undeterred, he told Sports Illustrated in 2011 that he hoped "Bite Tech"—a company dedicated to specialist mouthguards—would be a success. I hope so too.
Vin Baker Overestimates the Demand for Fish
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Another classic morality tale, Vin Baker made $90 million before being lost to alcoholism and gambling.
This was exacerbated by poor business decisions, with the main culprit being the "Vin Baker Fish House," which I can only imagine was the result of a drunken bet.
Perhaps inspired by Michael Jordan's similarly fated steak house, this was met with universal disdain, and Baker ended up owing $1 million on the project.
Note: If Michael Jordan can't make it work, you probably can't either.
Travis Henry Goes Unprotected
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
I'm sure that NFL stars get women throwing themselves at them all the time. Obviously that's fine, but when the children start to increase in number, you'd expect them to take the simple step needed to prevent this happening more.
Either Travis Henry missed the class at school that covered contraception, or he simply slept with so many women that the two percent chance of contraception not working resulted in 11 children by 10 different women. A football team, in other words.
He failed to make the required $17,000 a month in child support and in 2009 was arrested by the DEA for financing a cocaine trafficking operation. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
Carl Lewis Ruins Music
Carl Lewis was a great athlete, but in 1986 he proved that he should stick to just that.
I'm not sure who convinced him to dress like Grace Jones or that setting the whole thing in a gym was a good idea, but their powers of persuasion must be beyond that of mere mortals.
Watch it until the end—trust me.
Michael Phelps Takes a Hit
You can't trust the British media. Michael Phelps found this out to his cost when he appeared in the News of the World with a bong in his face.
He was banned from competing for three months, returning to action in May 2009.
The News of the World, however, collapsed in the midst of a phone-hacking scandal and printed its final edition in July 2011. Upon hearing the news, Phelps probably allowed himself a small smile.
Rosey Grier Tells People About His Hobbies
The best thing about this picture is it looks like someone has walked into Rosey Grier's house unannounced and caught him in the act. I mean, seriously? Needlepoint for men?
Suddenly the Vin Baker Fish House doesn't seem like a bad idea.
Shaq-Fu Is Released
Conclusive proof that athletes can't sell products just by endorsing them.
One of the worst games of all time, Shaq-Fu has risen to such a state of infamy that there is a website dedicated to finding and destroying all remaining copies of the game.
If you bought this game, you probably know how his ass tastes.
Diego Maradona Finds the Target
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
One of the greatest players the world has ever seen, Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona has courted controversy throughout his career.
From the infamous "Hand of God" goal that destroyed England's World Cup hopes in Mexico to his well-documented 20-year appetite for cocaine, Maradona will have some stories to tell his grandchildren.
Probably the dumbest of them will take place outside his Buenos Aires home in 1994, when he abruptly decided that he'd had enough of being hounded by journalists, crouched behind his Mercedes and fired an air rifle at them. He injured four people and was given a two-year, 10-month suspended jail sentence.
Tom Brady Thinks UGGs Are for Men
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
It's not often that I condone ridiculing a professional athlete, but sometimes they just bring it upon themselves. This is one of those times.
I'm sure that Tom Brady got paid about a billion dollars to do this, but there's no way of looking at it without wondering if he's wearing Gisele's shoes.
Ron Atkinson Shows His True Colors
Formerly the Oxford United captain and Manchester United manager, Ron Atkinson had made a decent career out of being a TV analyst. That is, until the day he revealed to the world that he's actually a massive racist.
The postgame analysis of the Champions League clash between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid was focusing on the poor performance of the Chelsea defense, most notably Marcel Desailly.
Believing his microphone to be off, Atkinson described Desailly as "what is known in some schools as a f****** lazy, thick n*****." Unfortunately for him, his microphone was live and his comments were broadcast around the world. He resigned immediately after the game.
Honorable Mention: Twitter
It's great to be able to interact with your favorite athletes and feel like you're closer to the team in doing so. But there's an obvious downside, and it lies entirely with the athletes themselves.
It's often said that you should never meet your heroes, as there's a strong chance that they won't be able to live up to the image you have of them in your head.
Some of the comments made on Twitter only serve to reinforce this, as illustrated in the accompanying image by the Kansas City Chiefs' Larry Johnson throwing homophobic slurs out into the ether.
I'm not sure athletes worked out that some people (including their employers) are holding them to a higher standard.