As I sat there and watched Sportscenter today, like I do every morning before leaving for work, it occurred to me how odd it was that two of the biggest headaches in sports were headlining at the same time.
Terrell Owens and Shaquille O’Neal were getting the attention, in between the more important story regarding two NFL players and a college football player missing off of the coast of Florida. This got me to thinking about those two and how the similarities are striking and glaring.
It was at this point that I decided that all professional sports' halls of fame need to add a separate wing called the "Necessary Evil" wing, or perhaps the "Major Headache Athletes We Can't Live Without” wing. Whatever the name is, that portion of the hall would be dedicated only to those athletes who exhibit the list of traits commonly displayed by T.O. and, recently, Shaq.
I only have three criteria to be a member of this hall of shame
First and foremost, the player has to be a constant headache. For all of you folks up in Wisconsin, this excludes Brett Favre. I know that he made your summer of 2008 hell, but on the whole, he had been a good guy. Somewhere, Favre pundits are screaming about his addiction to painkillers early in his career, but since it is good enough for the county's most beloved right-wing talk show host, we will give Brett a pass.
The list of constant headaches is endless. Obviously, no one is better at being headache that T.O. but he hasn’t cornered the market on this. Some candidates that hit this criteria are Alex Rodriquez, Manny Ramirez (did you all hear the collective cheer in Beantown?), and Sean Avery. These athletes drive fans, owners, coaches, and teammates crazy.
The term "distraction" pops up the moment they pull into the parking lot and everyone involved secretly wishes that the player would shut his mouth and do his job, which they are normally paid well to do.
The next criteria for our illustrious hall is that the candidate has to be in our face constantly. The constant irritation sets these players aside from normal headaches. We all get headaches, but the worst linger or never go away. This group is part of the latter.
Now, to clarify, the group does not have to responsible for keeping themselves in the spotlight, but if they are that rare breed that specializes in making you care about them when they shouldn’t, they deserve extra consideration.
Candidates that immediately come to mind here are Charles Barkley, as no one is better at keeping himself in the spotlight than Sir Charles. Up until five years ago, Magic Johnson also fit into this category, though I don’t consider him a headache. Again, the relevant word in this is constant. Think T.O. when making your choices. Is there every a time that we are not being run over with T.O. news?
Ocho Stinko in Cincinnati also falls into this grouping. I am going to assume that Mr. Cinco didn’t pass astronomy at Oregon State, because he is convinced that the universe revolves around him (by the way, did anyone else realize that both Johnson and Houshmandzadeh went to Oregon State?)
The third and final criterion will whittle down your list considerably. The final qualification is that the player needs to be very good. Right there, dozens of candidates just realized they will not be joining us. Ryan Leaf, somewhere in a drug-induced stupor, just plopped face-first into his tapioca. Lawrence Phillips just kicked something across his apartment (hopefully a vase or a pillow). And Maurice Clarett just shived his pillow in prison.
This third criterion is what makes this group of problem athletes so unique. There are tons of problem players that we ignore because they stink. Does anyone believe that if Pacman Jones had performed up to his potential that Jerry Jones would have at least made some effort to keep him? Once Pacman wasn’t the player he was before his suspension, we no longer cared about him.
Players like O’Neal, Owens and Ocho Cinco continue to draw our attention because they are very good. This is where the frustration comes in. They become necessities. We don’t like them, but we have to have them.
There isn’t an NBA owner that would let Dennis Rodman babysit their hamster, but when he was in his prime, every GM somewhere in the back of their mind was thinking how they would give up some insanity to get 20 rebounds a game.
The Owens debacle brings to the front a situation that this group tends to run into. When these players have finally worn their welcome out with their current organization, we question who will pick them up. Who is willing to take their baggage to harness their talent? Another potential member, Keyshawn Johnson, ran into this a few years ago before taking a job as an analyst.
After the Carolina Panthers cut Johnson, this conversation popped up. General managers around the NFL had the conversation about how he could play but how he wasn't really worth the headache. Barry Bonds unquestionably fell into this category the year after he broke the all-time home run record, going so far as to accuse baseball owners of collusion.
So with that being said, I’ll start looking for the place to put our new hall, come up with a name, and pick out the drapes to match the carpet. I just need all of you to give me the nominees.