Excuses are a part of being human. We all make excuses. When it comes to athletes, we hold them to a higher standard. Competition—sports—have no use for excuses. Leadership, strength—these are things outside the realm of excuses.
Excuses are really just a softer word for betrayal. When you're not accountable for your own actions, when you shift blame from yourself to someone or something else—fair or not—you are making excuses. And while excuses are not necessarily wrong, rarely do you get the benefit of the doubt.
For athletes, nothing is worse than going beyond offering the company line. Maybe the athlete feels like the coach or a teammate screwed up, but you never point the finger. And, if you screwed up; own up.
These are 20 athletes who always make excuses.
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett has had a career resurgence since he was acquired by the Bucs in 2012—after 10 games pitched, Burnett has a 2.57 ERA and an impressive 79 strike-outs. However, it wasn't long ago that the right-handed pitcher was an overpaid disappointment on the New York Yankees.
While Burnett certainly claims no blood-right to the title, the way he handled it—1. Was the epitome of excuse-making; 2. In retrospect, forewarned a disastrous tenure with the Pirates; the latter hasn't happened.
As he struggled in 2010-11 with the Yankees, Burnett pointed toward "tinkering" by pitching coaches Dave Eiland and Larry Rothschild. He was late for press conferences and shrugged it off. He got pulled from the rotation and did the same.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is one of the toughest passers to bring down in the pocket and at least in his own mind, the narrative extends to all other aspects of his game and life.
Over the course of his career, Big Ben has proven to be one of the best at his position in the NFL, but when he and/or the team struggles...Ben is quick to point the finger away from his own 6'5" self.
From mysterious injuries disputed by the coaching staff, to taking thinly veiled shots at offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play-calling, Roethlisberger has found a way to recalibrate criticism toward other people and things.
Ben uses those tried-and-true elements fundamental to good excuse-making: "we" and "our."
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been one of the best sluggers in the MLB since his stellar debut as a rookie in 2007.
However, as pro baseball is adept at doing, Braun's achievements were suddenly overshadowed in 2011 when he initially tested positive for a wildebeest-level of testosterone and was slapped with a 50-game suspension.
However, Braun showed that he truly understood the art of an excuse (or at least vicariously through his legal team) when he actually won his appeal due to the sample-taker storing his urine in his home refrigerator for a day as well as the nature of how the information was...leaked...to the press.
So, his name was cleared via the procedural nuances of the MLB's drug testing program. The ultimate excuse: technicalities.
But, it gets better. In February, Yahoo! Sports reported that Braun's name was found the files of PED-peddler BioGenesis. Right on schedule, Braun had an explanation—he wasn't getting juiced by the company, he merely hired them to provide expertise for the drug-test appeal.
Tennis pro Victoria Azarenka is currently the third-ranked player in women's tennis and a force to be reckoned with; but the girl also knows how to wield a manipulative excuse. Already known for conjuring up convenient injuries that absolve Azarenka of an outright loss, she took it to a whole new level against American upstart Sloane Stephens.
On the verge of potentially losing the match after a spate of unforced mistakes, Azarenka called a medical timeout and left the court for the air-conditioned confines of the trainer's room. The break stunted Stephens' momentum and she ultimately lost.
The truly revealing aspect of the whole episode was Azarenka's bumbling, convoluted interview which sounded exactly like you would expect from someone questioned about an event that begged for answers...not excuses.
The Boston Bruins had the seemingly immortal New York Rangers on the ropes, up 3-0, before the Rangers eked out an OT win in Game 4. Under coach Claude Julien, the Bruins have been a consistently solid team—a shot-blocking, puck-control team that is built for the playoffs.
One player that has thus far failed to completely assimilate into the Julien culture is center Tyler Seguin.
Seguin has failed to live up to expectations thus far, and he managed to miss a team breakfast before a game in 2011. However, he had a great excuse: his alarm was set on "Boston time" for a breakfast in Winnipeg.
While the excuse by itself is lame, the fact such a mistake should have gotten him to Tim Horton's an hour early seems to be lost on the young'n.
Pro golfer Sergio Garcia made headlines this week with his racist, mean-spirited comments about Tiger Woods, but he was making excuses that go beyond stereotypes far before the latest controversy.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has had his ups and downs as the guy under center for the Monsters of the Midway. Since he was traded from the Broncos, Cutler has been able to point to a lack of offensive weapons—and terrible offensive line—for his inability to help push the team into contention.
Furthermore, Cutler hasn't stayed healthy when his team needed him most.
No better example exists than when Cutler pushed, yelled and confronted his own offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb after he felt the linemen failed to block the pass-rushers. But, I'll let Cutler articulate the excuses himself, when explaining how no one gets his adversity:
“These are guesses. You’re guessing. Admit that you’re guessing,” Cutler said, “Yes, you are guessing. You are guessing. How can you say you’re not guessing? This blows my mind.”
Houston Rockets prospect/draft pick Royce White has been the proverbial albatross of the franchise.
An undeniable talent, his issues with anxiety have paralyzed his career and put the team in an extremely awkward position. The team has tried to work with the promising young man, placing him in the developmental league.
He has a fear of flying, conditioning (afraid of cardiac arrest) and almost anything related to basketball off the court.
While his excuses are not necessarily without veracity, at some point, it's time to pull the curtains.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was heralded as an athletic, freak D-lineman who's a certain Pro Bowler when he was drafted second overall in 2010. He was every bit the beast as anticipated in his rookie season, drawing two blockers on every play, yet still finding a way to be a disruptive play-maker.
Then, The Stomp happened in the Thanksgiving game in 2011. Suh strangely attempted a form of rhetorical jiu-jitsu to explain his obvious foot-to-the-noggin of the Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith, claiming:
“I was on top of a guy being pulled down and trying to get up off the ground, which is why you see me pushing his helmet down,” Suh said. “As I’m getting up, I’m getting pushed so I’m getting myself unbalanced. . . . With that a lot of people are going to interpret it as or create their own storylines, . . . but I know what I did, and the man upstairs knows what I did.”
This incident completely shifted the paradigm of the Suh-narrative, and since, he's been nowhere near the player of his rookie year. Accusations of dirty play and outright violence—in both the pros and college—have become part of his identity.
Worse still, the excuses continued, to an almost comical degree, when he booted Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the man-parts in '12:
“I had, honestly, no control over what took place because I was being pulled down...”
Free agent wide receiver Chad Johnson—formerly Chad Ochocinco; formerly, formerly Chad Johnson—made a career out of high expectations. He was T.O. minus the numbers (on a consistent basis).
One thing Johnson was terrific at was making excuses—the standard stuff. He wasn't getting the ball enough. The offense wasn't best utilizing his play-making ability. It was all very tiresome.
When he finally left the Cincinnati Bengals and found himself in the organizational buzzsaw known as the New England Patriots, he was completely inept. But nothing encapsulates Ocho-Johnson's excuse-making more perfectly than when he was pulled over for driving a car with illegally tinted windows.
He allegedly told the officer (relayed via his own Twitter account), "I'm allergic to the sun." Um, yeah. On, Sundays?
Oh, 'Melo, you're a great player but your 'tude is bringing you down. The New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony has been a pulsating source of excuses from day one; not just to justify problems on the court, but to mitigate issues impacting his own personal life.
'Melo managed to blame Jeremy Lin and his completely random rise to stardom for claims that he's a selfish teammate and in 2004 got busted for weed at the Denver International Airport. Guess what, Anthony blamed it on a mysterious friend who loves weed, but decided the best thing to do with it is stuff it in 'Melo's backpack.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett is a totem representing one of the prevailing failures of Major League Baseball. He capitalized on his success and then went on and capitalized on his failures.
For a player like Josh Beckett, there is no reason not to make excuses for chowing down on fried chicken and crushing beers in the clubhouse during his former team's historic September collapse.
Beckett has never been one to take the blame; to be a leader and say "the buck stops here." He's entitled; he's in the MLB.
Whether he's dismissing criticism of his picnic spread as his team flails out of postseason contention—because it was his "off day"—or telling a reporter her paper's story is "stupid," Beckett has an excuse for anything and everything.
New York Giants safety Tyler Sash is lame, but he's really just an example of a growing problem in pro sports—doctors are prescribing Adderall and other PEDs that are completely legal but against league rules.
In fact, due to the nondisclosure rules of the NFL, Adderall as become the go-to excuse of players who've failed a drug test but need some way to trivialize it.
In the case of Sash, his excuse is the worst. He cited a doctor's prescription to address nerves associated with public speaking an other situations associated with social anxiety.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is a nice guy. The problem is that he became a 'feel good' story before he had truly established himself as a quality NFL wideout.
And, in that same breakout season in 2010, he made a 'play' that ended up defining his breakout season far more than his successes. The 'play' I'm referring to is the sure touchdown he dropped against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For Johnson, it was less about the pressure, or his hands...it was about a higher power. That's right, Johnson blamed God for dropping the game-winning touchdown. It didn't stop there, either, he took it a step further. He didn't actually drop the ball; it was a miscommunication with his quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is certainly no stranger to controversy. And, through Andy Reid's commitment to him and the possibility of new head coach Chip Kelly's ability to best use him, Vick has been the good soldier.
But, he's found a way—from his Atlanta Falcons days to now—to dismiss much of the criticism of his play.
Philadelphia Eagles wideout/playmaker DeSean Jackson can be one of the most electrifying players on any given Sunday—he's a home-run threat in both the passing game and as a kick returner. His sensational, game-winning return for a touchdown against the Giants in 2010 cost punter Matt Dodge his job and kept New York out of the playoffs.
After the season, Jackson looked for a return on his performance and demanded a new deal from the Eagles before the end of his rookie contract. The dispute dragged out through the '11 season and amid allegations that Jackson wasn't giving 100 percent, his production declined. He missed meetings; in essence, he phoned it in.
When Jackson was given a five-year, $47 million contract in March 2012, he declared that the past is behind him and that in one of those five years, "I'm going to guarantee a Super Bowl..." You see? Jackson got paid like a star so he is now more than happy to play like one—except 2012 was his worst season yet.
At this moment, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard is more a tower of excuses than a fortress in the paint. While injuries certainly could explain some of his struggles with the Lakers this year, the trail of destruction he left in wake of his extortion scheme to get out of Orlando, leaves Howard without the benefit of the doubt.
Unhappy with what he believed to be a lack of effort by the Magic to build a contender, Howard sought a trade at the beginning of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. Engaging in a "will he or won't he" battle that culminated in an awesomely awkward presser with coach Stan Van Gundy, Howard was eventually shipped to the Lakers last summer.
Howard placed the blame for the drama squarely on the shoulders of the Magic and declared that his former team was stocked with 'nobodies' who didn't appreciate his leadership skills.
Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin is a finalist for the NHL's Hart Memorial Trophy; awarded each year to the player deemed most valuable to his team. If Ovi is takes home the Hart, it'll be his third. I'm sure it will look lovely next to the array of trophies he's been given for various individual achievements over the years.
At some point—probably sooner rather than later—they're going to feel hollow even if they look impressive.
Ovechkin may have gotten hot in the second half of the shortened NHL season, helping to propel the Capitals from the Southeastern Division basement to division winner, but the postseason underscored a problem that's plagued his NHL career. He hasn't won a Stanley Cup and the Capitals have mostly disappointed in the playoffs.
For Ovi, any accountability seems like a formality. As his play has declined since 2010, he...or his apologists...have blamed coaching, being under-utilized, or adjusting to a new system.
However, after blowing a 3-0 lead in the first round of the 2013 playoffs and losing the the New York Rangers, Ovechkin played his hand:
"Not saying there was a phone call, but they wanted Game 7. For ratings. You know, lockout, escrow, league must make profit."
You know what people love? Guys that brag about how awesome they are, then fail and quickly blame everything and anyone but their own shortcomings. Yep, zero accountability paired with arrogance is putrid—and Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is an expert. As expected, you can't be a blowhard without a quiver-ful of excuses.
Johnson's draft stock skyrocketed when he posted a record-setting 40-time of 4.24 at the NFL Combine 2008 and after two and a half great seasons—and a huge new contract—the man has been more of a myth than a legend.
Johnson has struggled to even approach his early success and has responded by blaming his offensive line and then boasting that he can break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record. He also managed to dismiss his decline as being the product of his status as the highest-paid player on the team.
Floyd. You've made your excuses. There is only one fight the world wants to see: You vs. Manny Pacquiao. Boxing wants nothing else, yet you keep citing various, frivolous reasons to avoid a fight that would command an insane amount of cash.
Meanwhile, both you and Manny keep fighting lesser foes. Mayweather has given every excuse in the book. Floyd is an amazing boxer; he has nothing to fear.