The Thin Line Between Love and Hate in Sports

Kevin PaulSenior Analyst IFebruary 12, 2009

Valentine’s Day, or “Hallmark Day” as this writer likes to call it, is upon us. The card stores are packed with men, frantically picking through the leftovers. The flower stands are flooded with 400 percent price markups.

Televisions are littered with ads featuring horrifyingly cheesy jingles such as “Every kiss begins with Kay”. And truckloads of chocolates are consumed, later leading to men carefully answering that age-old question, “Does my butt look big in these pants?”

Meanwhile, the sports world is often left out in the cold on this holiday—that is, until today.

As the popular phrase goes, “There’s a thin line between love and hate”. The sports world is no different, as the fans of the world have shown in the ways that they “love to hate” players, “love to love” players, and have those in sports that fall somewhere on the thin line in between.

Players We Love to Hate

Manny Ramirez – Boston Red Sox
The guy can flat out hit, there’s no doubt about it. But there are plenty of others in baseball that can rake, hustle, and be a team player, instead of “stirring the pot” like Manny has been known to do. It isn’t just the economy and price tag that is keeping Manny a free agent. It’s also his age and uncanny ability to be a clubhouse cancer.

Terrell Owens – Dallas Cowboys
An obvious choice, T.O. is a talented player that has hindered his career because of his attitude. Imagine how good this guy could be if he didn’t rattle every clubhouse, letting his ego get the best of him. Everywhere Owens goes, a media circus will follow him until retirement.

Ron Artest – Houston Rockets
Brawls, arguments, technical fouls, and colorful statements are a few things that come to mind when a person mentions Ron Artest. Even though the drama has subsided somewhat in his veteran years, Artest remains a player that fans love to loathe.

Sean Avery – New York Rangers (AHL – Hartford Wolf Pack)

Where do you start with this guy? He’s violated trash talking rules with players, ticked off player after player, and even has his own rule named after him. Yes, the “Avery Rule”, which was created after his goalie interference tactics, which went one-step too far.

Honorable Mentions: Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Rasheed Wallace, and Pacman Jones

Players We Love to Love

Derek Jeter – New York Yankees
With the exception of Red Sox fans, Derek Jeter is the type of player fans love to love… and respect. If you were to look up “hustle” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Jeter. The guy just puts his body up for harm on a regular basis, diving into the stands and leaping for line drives. Not only that, but Jeter has been a clutch hitter, a quality leader, and very involved within the community.

David Ortiz – Boston Red Sox
Don’t worry Sox fans…I counter balanced the list by also adding a deserving Boston player. Big Papi may have recently become a slight injury risk, but overall, he’s been one of the biggest clutch hitters in the history of the game. Not only does Ortiz always deliver, but he also enjoys the game in a “kid in a candy store”—like manner.

Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts
When I think of a hard working sports athlete, I think of Peyton Manning. His off the field preparation is overlooked, and all that hard work finally paid off with a Super Bowl title a few seasons ago. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself in the winner’s circle at least once more before retirement.

Tiger Woods – PGA Tour
He swings with ease, but hits the ball a ton. He’s fiery, he’s passionate, and he’s a family man. Woods may want to win more than anyone on this planet —and one example of proof is how he managed to win a major in tough conditions, while playing on one healthy leg.

Honorable Mentions: Ben Roethlisberger, Larry Fitzgerald, Alexander Ovechkin, and Chris Paul

Players On the Thin Line

LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
Maybe it isn’t fair to pick on LeBron, as many others in the game do the same, but it appears that King James often complains about non-foul calls. Certainly, he isn’t alone—but seems to be a more frequent offender, likely due to how often the media highlights him. Still, for his size, his game, and ability to not just score, but also run the offense and get assists, LeBron is a unique talent that should be in the NBA for quite some time – and likely go down as one of the best ever.

Brett Favre – Green Bay Packers
Recently retired (we think), Favre was as “old school NFL” as it gets in today’s game. He got knocked down often, only to get right back up. He had a rocket launcher for an arm, and seemed like he was always having more fun than anyone on the field. There was just something admirable about Favre and his talents. Only, the recent drama with retiring, not retiring, and then getting traded…it got to be too much media overkill, eventually pushing Favre to the thin line in the eyes of many fans.

Chad Johnson – Cincinnati Bengals
This one is a “no brainer”, as the arrogance and antics of this guy can become quite annoying at times. However, his game cancels it out more often than not. That plus his antics are often amusing, ranging from “Ocho Cinco”, to all the past end zone celebrations that he has become well known for.

Allen Iverson – Denver Nuggets
Iverson deserves a ton of respect for how scrappy he is on the court – playing hard day in and day out. His small frame takes a beating every game, yet he never hesitates to drive into the lanes where the bigger players are lurking. You have to respect that. However, his poor shooting percentage and off the court antics (e.g. his “Practice” speech) seem to push A.I. more towards the thin line.

Then there's Kobe Bryant, who I see as being the one person who would be all over the map. Where would you put him and why?

Who else makes your list?

** This is a rendition/sequel to a post that made its debut to KP’s Blog on February 14, 2007 **