Ugly is, well—it's an ugly word, a loaded word, really, not the sort of label you'd ever hang on anyone without the duest of causes. You're ugly. It's one of those digs you can't take back, one of those judgments that can't be anything but final. Ugliness, after all, is a lifetime affliction; if you're ugly once, you're ugly forever—and short of taking the scalpel-and-Botox plunge, there isn't a damn thing you're ever going to be able to do about it. It's like they say, Meat: U-G-L-Y, you don't got no alibi—you're ugly. You're just horribly, horribly ugly...
There is, though, a point at which a spade has very definitely got to be called a spade, and so we at The Spot aren't pulling any punches this week. Yes, we understand that ours is far from a frivolous task, and—take our word for it—we've compiled our list of the five ugliest athletes ever with more than just a little reverence for the aesthetically-unfortunate finalists. Still, you won't find any apologies here, because the truth is that we're doing what we have to do. After counting down the greatest male and female sex symbols in sports history, we couldn't not spend some time on the other side of the eight ball—couldn't not take a trip to the dark end of the street, far, far away from the bright lights and the beautiful people. It's a yin-yang kind of thing, when you get all the way down to it: you can't have the good without the bad, and for every rare and splendid orchid—
For every rare and splendid orchid there's got to be a mean and lowly onion, for the sake of existential balance if nothing else. So don't be too quick to sneer at the five bulbs singled out here, because we need them as much as we need their floral counterparts. They may not be pretty, but lest we forget: beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and, hey—
These guys make the rest of us look halfway decent...
Number Five: Steve Nash
The dude looks like Gollum. We thought about working in some kind of championship ring joke here, but we didn't want to detract from the fact of the thing itself: the dude looks like Gollum. He just does. Maybe it's the stringy hair. Or the sunken eyes. Or the sloping, superpronounced forehead. In any event, Nash is straight out of Middle-earth, a J.R.R. Tolkein character who somehow weaseled his way into one of the Chip Hilton books. To his credit, though, the Suns' point guard hasn't let his freakshow looks keep him from bedding a jaw-dropping succession of high-profile hotties. From Ginger Spice to Elizabeth Hurley, chicks seem to dig the Smeagol vibe—which makes the crew here at the Spot think that maybe we've got the singles scene all wrong. So long as you're an international celebrity with two NBA MVP awards to your name and millions of greenbacks in the bank, women really will love you for who you are instead of how you look. And to think we'd let ourselves grow cynical about the state of modern romance...
Number Four: Ronaldinho
In a word: yikes. Soccer's stubbornly tepid popularity in the United States means that American sports fans only get up close and personal with Ronaldinho during World Cup play, and we assume we speak for everyone when we say that once every four years is more than enough, thankyouverymuch. The Brazil native and two-time FIFA Player of the Year has a grille worthy of those BEFORE pictures at the orthodontist's office: all gums and gaps and crazy angles, with the sort of overbite that only Goofy could love. So much for the idea that looks correlate with income, though—as of this April, Ronaldinho is the highest-paid footballer on the planet, taking home the equivalent of more than $38 million a year in his gig with FC Barcelona. As of press time, though, there was no word on whether the club dental plan will cover braces for the midfielder's kids.
Number Three: Joe DiMaggio
A horse is a horse, of course of course, and no one can talk to a horse of course...unless of course that horse is wearing Yankee pinstripes and hawking Mr. Coffee products. Equine banter aside, we at the Spot have never been able to figure out how the Clipper managed to evade the ugly police over the years, much less how he suckered Marilyn Monroe into marrying him. Were standards lower back then? Did the double whammy of Depression and global warfare leave the American people incapable of seeing that their masculine ideal—their cultural avatar of grace and class and debonair sophistication—looked like he'd taken a shovel to the face at a young age and never quite recovered? Some questions are best left to social historians, but we'll say this much: be careful what you wish for, Simon and Garfunkel. A lonely nation hardly needs to turn its eyes to a man with the general facial characteristics of an unprocessed glue stick.
Number Two: Sam Cassell
No surprise in the number two spot. Cassell has the misfortune of playing a high-profile sport in age of media saturation, meaning that his, um, unconventional kisser gets beamed to living rooms around the world on a nearly-nightly basis. Even worse for the Clippers' floor general, sports fans have been none too shy about stating the obvious: Sam I Am ain't exactly the prettiest cat in LA county. The result? Sam Cassell ugly turns up almost 45,000 hits on Google (Sam Cassell alien: 43,000), including no small number of sites that single him out as the most grotesque jock of all time—and that, Meat, is where we beg to differ. In fairness to Cassell, he does make a respectable run at the crown, and he and Chris Kaman are certainly the frontrunners for the title of ugliest pick-and-roll combo ever, but let's be honest: to be the worst you've got to beat the worst, and nobody—not even Sam Cassell himself—gets within an Elephant Man's trunk of the one, the only...
Number One: Willie McGee
Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my. Where to begin, and what to say? There's plenty that baseball fans have forgotten about McGee over the years—his 1985 NL MVP award, his pair of batting titles, his World Series rings from 1982 and 1987—but everyone who ever watched him play remembers at least one thing: that face–good God Meat, that face. McGee's mug was–and we presume still is-a sight to behold, evocative not so much of loathing or revulsion as pure Aristotelian stasis; to gaze upon him was to discover an arresting, almost beautiful sort of ugliness, at least insofar as beauty is that which compels us to engage with the truth of its and our own being. Throw in the inevitably awkward 51 on the back of his jersey and an almost unfathomably spastic swing–McGee at the plate roughly resembled a drunk epileptic being harassed by a bumblebee–and you've got the most thoroughly unappealing figure to ever grace a playing field. Not that the Cardinal great has anything to be ashamed about; like your old JV coach always told you, anything worth doing is worth doing well, and no one—no one—has ever been so good at looking bad. So keep your head up, Willie, and, just, well—
Just try to keep your face out of the light, huh?