Competition is the DNA of sports; without winners and losers, sports have no meaning. Sure, having fun is a crucial element, but it's really fun to beat the crap out of your opponent. Do you think the NFL would be the multi-billion dollar socioeconomic force it is without a score?
Appropriately, this competitive fire creates personalities—players, coaches, businessmen alike—who definitely fall on the intense side of the spectrum. Whimsy is usually relegated to the drunk streaker who gets tasered on the field.
So, in the sports universe, we get more Ray Lewises than we do Terry Bradshaws. Men and women who seem to successfully marry competitive drive with a general sense of contentment are rare indeed.
You can go to any sports section, or go on any sports website, any day and read about stars who let their passion for the game make headlines and define who they are. However, there are plenty of big names who can smile and draw a little blood--in both the figurative and literal sense.
These are the 20 Happiest People in Sports.
New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning doesn’t exactly wear his emotions on his sleeves, but from his resiliency on the field to his amicable, relatable demeanor during interviews, it’s obvious the man is content.
Why wouldn’t he be? He’s a Manning. He has a hot wife, and he has two Super Bowl rings to go with his two Super Bowl MVP honors.
It’s not as if you need a detailed explanation of why Derek Jeter is on this list or what makes him tick. The Jeet is the New York Yankees. The moment he’s eligible, Jeter will easily be named to baseball’s Hall of Fame, alongside Yankees legends Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio—the kind of company few will ever keep.
And he’s not just one of the all-time greats of the sport, he also has swag. Jeter is that handsome, elite bachelor/star F. Scott Fitzgerald would have created if he had been born a “Millennial” instead of near the turn of the century. Except he would have skipped the whole dying on the inside aspect of the character.
Yeah, Derek Jeter is doing okay. The rest of us could use a few drops of Jeter-Extract every now and then.
Outside of the orthodoxy of physical attributes—over 6’ tall, strong arm, et al—the mental makeup of quarterback prospects can determine whether they thrive or fail spectacularly. Robert Griffin, III is one of those rare players who entered the draft with nearly all the boxes checked.
What really defined RG3 outside of the spectacular athleticism and mechanics he displayed at Baylor, was that he displayed an obvious love of the game and fantastic attitude. He was confident, but understood the learning curve. Easy going, but focused.
RG3 is simply a specimen who can’t be duplicated, and when he handled Jon Gruden’s scrutiny with genuine gusto and won the “Eater of Quarterbacks” over, it became clear that Griffin has the character to succeed in all phases of life.
Pittsburgh Penguins' superstar Sidney Crosby seems to content, so comfortable in his status and expectations, that what would be a positive in almost any other sphere of humanity is twisted into a criticism in hockey.
Resident-for-life hockey buffoon Don Cherry, opponents and opposing fans question his competitive fire; his machismo.
As one of the de facto spokesmen for the NHL (when the league isn’t burning goodwill and money via lockout), Crosby has to be the cheerful face of a violent sport.
Former Steelers receiver, current legend, Hines Ward is a great example of how complicated the term happy can be under the right circumstances. The image of Ward flashing that huge, toothy smile is iconic and synonymous with the image of the 21st Century NFL.
Consistently voted near or at the top of the league’s dirtiest players by his peers when he was active, Ward nonetheless projected a backyard, boyish enthusiasm that endeared him to fans and stoked the flames of the haters.
It always seems that the great, aging quarterbacks stagger bitterly toward the exit, instead of gracefully tipping their hat and bidding the sport “Adieu.” So perhaps the juxtaposition that takes place when the up-and-comer works his way into the spotlight is most responsible for legendary replacements appearing like the ‘happy warrior’.
Former 49ers quarterback Steve Young, like Aaron Rodgers in 2007, had a frosty relationship with the future Hall of Famer (Joe Montana to Rodger’s Brett Favre) who was falling out of favor.
Regardless, it’s pretty clear that Young would have a been a cheerful, good human being no matter what path his career had taken. Impossibly polite and honest as an ESPN analyst, Young and his wife dedicate much of their time and energy to causes and charities.
The act of being an all-around jag is simply incompatible with being one of the stars of those great Head & Shoulders commercials. Just as the camera “adds 10 pounds,” anyone not named Desi Arnaz can hide their loathsome nature from the lens. (I know this is not true or anything but hyperbole, so...yeah.)
Seriously though, the Minnesota Twins All-Star is one happy dude, who is not only beloved by his teammates and staff, but engages the fans and knows how to please a crowd.
The fact that Brandon Marshall seems to always have a smile on his face—on the sidelines, in the huddle, in front of the press—is a minor miracle. It wasn’t that long ago that the “troubled” receiver was struggling on and off the field, first as a member of the Denver Broncos and then the Miami Dolphins.
After years of battling mental health issues, it appears Marshall is getting the treatment he needs, and not only is it making life a little brighter, but he’s actively working to raise awareness about the importance of other players seeking out help if they need it.
Nothing can raise the furor of neighbors faster than when someone in the typically well-manicured community moves in and becomes the guy with a dilapidated house and yard filled with garbage. It can lower property values and scare off potential buyers.
Well, Hope Solo and her weirdo marriage to ex-NFL player, and overall scumbag, Jerramy Stevens is that blighted house surrounded by beautiful brownstones.
But you know what, U.S. women's soccer player Alex Morgan is so adorable, so anti-Hope Solo that the whole situation merely serves to highlight how great she is—as a person and as a representative for women’s soccer.
Henrik Lundqvist is the exact opposite of retired NHL goalie Ron Hextall. Hextall spent a portion of his career with the Flyers and played like a semi-deranged brawler with a mustache—oh, and he stopped a few pucks in the process.
With one Vezina Trophy already under his belt, Lundqvist has been outstanding for the Rangers. His greatness doesn’t come with an edge, however. Actually, it’s accompanied by well-coifed hair, impeccable fashion sense, a guitar and buddy Sean Avery.
Perhaps Avery is the Id to consummate nice guy Lundqvist’s Ego.
What can be said about Seahawks' head coach Pete Carroll? The man is friends with Will Ferrell. You can’t be friends with Will Ferrell if you’re a miserable jerk. Will Ferrell is like a beautiful light that you see when death approaches—he’s funny even when he’s merely existing.
Pete Carroll has played some pretty amazing practical jokes on his players over the years, and he has handled some fairly rough press conferences in a way that suggests no inner Dennis Green is lurking.
Like him or not, successful or not, you can’t deny that Carroll is one happy guy.
Happy people know how to have fun, and I don’t mean fun as in scary, stabbing strip club bouncers kind of fun—I mean photobombing your teammates and playing like a kid on the playground court.
Considering all the pressure the Miami Heat faced until capturing the NBA title in 2012, Chris Bosh was a breath of fresh air—funny, whimsical and not running from The Decision.
I imagine the world through Ryan Lochte’s eyes is a place with rounded edges; a place where moving in water is almost as easy as hooking up with the chicas.
Lochte is no Rhodes Scholar, but you know what kinds of people are generally grumpy? People smart enough to quantify things like murders per capita.
Lochte’s boyish charm and happy-go-lucky demeanor seem to wash away the kind of icky or head-scratching words that come out of his mouth, but that’s okay, as long as he keeps winning gold medals.
Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the kind of player coaches love to have because he has a freakish physical skill-set to go along with an awesome attitude.
It helps growing up immersed in the business of being an NFL franchise. As the son of the long-time beat writer covering the Minnesota Vikings, Fitz’ has the virtue of seeing what it takes to be successful on the field first hand.
At every level, from Pop Warner to the NFL, he has been the consummate company man, cheerful during the good times and bad. And trust me, playing your college football at Pitt and then professionally for the Cardinals ensures much of the latter.
Golf is kind of hilarious in how it almost religiously promotes its seriousness and tradition, while amateurs crush brews between mulligans, and the pros wear insane looking pants.
Look at Tiger Woods: He has been so tightly wound from birth-to-scandal, that when the first threads started to fray, the masses were ready to pull the veneer apart. He may be the greatest golfer since Jack Nicklaus, but outside the course heroics, the process was a buzz-kill.
Enter Rory McIlroy. Not only is he emerging as one of the next great golfers, he looks happy to be doing it. He’s a fierce competitor who doesn’t look strange chugging booze, and that’s just what golf needs.
Houston Rockets' point guard Jeremy Lin has pretty much had an extraordinary array of career experiences condensed into a boiling mass of sudden stardom, good fortune, admiration, failure and normalcy.
His story is a compelling combination of Tim Tebow, Kurt Warner and in some way Jackie Robinson.
Throughout it all, he has kept a smile on his face and acted like someone who feels great for just having the opportunity.
Patriots fans practically gathered together with pitchforks and torches when video surfaced of Rob Gronkowski busting a move—shirtless no less—at a club after the team’s losing Super Bowl effort 2012.
I get it. As a fan, coming up short in the Super Bowl is pure torture and to see a key player from your team living it up almost seems sadistic. But guess what? Normal, well-balanced dudes get trashed, party and move on.
In his interviews, in the stories about him, Gronkowski conveys an absolutely sincere sense of happiness and humanity—and his family is lovely too.
Let me ask you this: Who would you rather live with after a loss like that—Gronk’ or Ray Lewis? Unless you like sitting in the dark and staring intensely at nothing for weeks, you know what the answer is.
I’m certain there is a strong correlation to high self-esteem and well-being, and if you need further evidence just watch Dwight Howard’s joint press conference with Stan Van Gundy. He slipped a knife between Van Gundy’s ribs with a smile and low pulse-rate.
Hey, the NBA is a cutthroat sport and business, so Howard isn’t immune to moments of cynicism, but the man is undoubtedly happy.
Howard has both resurrected and perfected the art of the prank call—a feat that requires the kind of soul that can resist turning something hilarious into something mean and/or scary.
Boxing has seen better days. Over the last 20 years, controversy, poor quality of competition, and the rise of MMA have led to a decline in the sports popularity and revenue. Despite boxing’s recent struggles, Manny Pacquiao offers a fairly compelling reason to believe the sport can make a comeback.
Pacquiao is a charismatic, nice guy who punches people in the face. Naturally, many of the stars and talents who are drawn into the sport, can’t keep the violence in the ring.
Manny is that rare boxer who isn’t just one of the best in the business, but so likeable that he’s a natural choice for endorsement deals that reach out to much broader markets than the sport itself.
Could Tim Tebow be Tim Tebow if he didn’t seem to be an infinite fountain of good will and optimism? I'm not just referring to the intense media attention, the scrutiny over his ability to be an NFL quarterback or the drama surrounding the New York Jets.
If Tebow was miserable, he’d have Ryan Leaf’d himself into the heart of darkness by now.
Part of his makeup, part of his religious worldview—Tebow’s clear love of football and life—is why his teammates at Florida believed in him and why so many think his leadership skills transcend the numbers.
And if you want to make me one of the happiest people in sports, you'll follow me on Twitter! And maybe even ask your friends to do the same. Follow @blamberr