Professional athletes are usually pretty competitive individuals. If they weren't, they probably wouldn't be professional athletes to begin with. A serious competitive drive is one of the fundamentals of the job.
Another characteristic most of them share is a healthy ego. A very healthy ego. They're rich and famous and constantly being propped up by an army of adoring fans.
That kind of positive reinforcement is good to a point. But if an athlete is constantly being fed a steady stream of BS, eventually high self-esteem will give way to clouded delusions of grandeur.
The next thing you know, he's challenging a kangaroo to a pay-per-view boxing match. Or throwing down with a with a hostile weasel, before being sliced up by its razor-sharp teeth.
Every now and again an athlete has a very public tangle with a wild animal. Sometimes it's a carefully planned event and other times it's more of an unpleasant surprise. Either way, the animal usually wins.
Let's take a look at some athletes and animals who have gone mano a...animal.
In June 2007 [then] Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson recycled an old stunt to drum up publicity for…well…Chad Johnson. Obviously that was a slow sports month because it received far more attention than it deserved.
Many of the headlines read something along the lines of "Bengals Star Chad Johnson to Race Horse on Foot" or "Chad Johnson beats horse in race." Unfortunately those don't really tell the whole story.
ESPN had it right with "Bengals' Johnson given lead, easily outruns horse at charity race." Johnson received a 100-meter head start, which was half the length of the race.
How ridiculous. I could fight an elephant…if you gave me a gun.
In July 2012 Minnesotan Ironwoman triathlete Leah Prudhomme was attacked by an otter with a few screws loose while training in a lake near Duluth. She was wearing a wetsuit at the time, but many of the 25 bite wounds pierced the suit and the skin underneath.
Prudhomme was prepared for beavers or muskrats, but the flesh-eating otter was a complete surprise. In fact, she said the mere presence of an otter in Duluth was almost as stunning as the attack itself!
The incident left everything below her neck covered with nasty puncture wounds and in need of rabies shots. Proving she is truly an Ironwoman, Prudhomme didn't even consider dropping out of the Duluth Triathlon, reasoning "it's not like [she'll] be bitten by another otter."
Solid reasoning. That being said, I still think she's crazy! Look at those Jekyll and Hyde little monsters...
In the fall of 2009 former NFL wide receiver Dennis Northcutt was lured into a race with an ostrich, all in the name of science. He and the bird (named Thelma) were both outfitted with some type of electronic monitoring device and then let loose.
Northcutt easily bested the ostrich in the first race, in which their running lanes were divided by a sturdy fence. It isn't until he agrees to race Thelma without the fence that we see how truly overmatched he is.
Apparently Ms. Thelma just needed some extra motivation—like a football player chasing her down from behind—to really get moving.
Ultimately Northcutt proved no competition for the wild-eyed bird, but you've got to give the guy credit for crossing that fence line.
Recently Titans running back Chris Johnson and Bears punt returner Devin Hester raced a cheetah, which will air as special on Nat Geo Wild in November. Seriously though, don't get your hopes up.
This kind of stunt is always good for publicity, but anyone who is legitimately super excited about this whole thing is going to be supremely disappointed.
The cheetah is the fastest animal on the planet. Johnson and Hester are talented athletes, but what on earth would lead anyone to believe either of them had a chance against a cheetah?
I don't want to give it away or anything, so let's just say the ending was very predicable. Oops...I gave it away, didn't I? My bad.
In 2003 the Fox network aired six episodes of Man vs. Beast, which is exactly what it sounds like. The show featured animals and humans squaring off in various outlandish challenges.
One episode featured American sprinter Shawn Crawford competing in a 100-meter dash against a giraffe and then a zebra. He smoked the giraffe, but was no match for the zebra.
The loss must have really stung Crawford. A year later he was publicly calling for a rematch…even though the show had long been off the air by that time.
In February 2011 Panamanian footballer Luis Moreno proved himself to be a sadistic a-hole with no semblance of a soul. With just over 20 minutes remaining in a Colombian first division game, the opposing team's mascot (a helpless little owl) wandered out onto the field after accidentally being hit with the ball.
Enter Moreno, someone who gets his jollies from random acts of animal cruelty. Everyone looked in horror as he approached the dazed owl and booted the hell out of it. Initially the badly injured owl showed signs of improvement, but ultimately "went into a state of shock and died."
Naturally Moreno had a very innocent explanation for what happened. You see…it was never his "intention to hit the animal," all he wanted to do was "wake it up so it could fly." So disregard everything you see in this video, because it's not really happening.
So first he murders an owl and then he basically tells everyone in the world with eyeballs that we're stupid. You're a real prince, Moreno.
In March 2013 the most adorable animal ever invaded the pitch at a Swiss Super League match between FC Thun and Zurich.
The spotlight-loving pine marten, which looks like a cross between a sassy ferret and a bloodthirsty honey badger, immediately brought the game to a halt with its menacing presence.
In a move he would quickly come to regret, Zurich defender Loris Benito decided to take matters into his own hands and capture the scampering scofflaw.The marten was displeased, to say the least. It demonstrated said displeasure by viciously gnawing on Benito as he carried it to the sideline.
Something tells me this is a mistake you only make once in life.
Here we have another gem from Man vs. Beast! I actually don't have much information on this one, other than what you see on the video. Basically it's just a sumo wrestler in a tug-of-war battle with an orangutan...
Apparently they thought this guy's girth and sizable weight advantage would translate into a competitive battle. It did not. The orangutan looks like he's barely trying, while the wrestler grunts and groans while trashing around in his giant man diaper.
And boy does the ape look pleased with himself when he wins!
It should really go without saying that there is no swimmer in the world who can challenge a dolphin in the water. Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever and basically revolutionized the sport with his epic dolphin kick.
But in the end, of course, he still remains…not a dolphin.
Whatever though. Who needs science or reason when you can have a dude racing some dolphins instead? Italian swimmer Fillippo Mangini embraced that logic in September 2011.
Mangini raced some dolphins in a pool south of Rome, predictably losing to all of them. And losing despite the dolphins swimming twice the length as their hapless human challenger.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is a Batman, obviously he's not the Batman. He earned that nickname (which I don't think ended up sticking) during a game against the Kings on Halloween night in 2009. Late in the first period a bat came out of nowhere (spooooky) and descended on the court.
Ginobili, being a straight up gangster, snatched it out of the air with his bare hands—seriously one of the craziest things that has ever happened at a sporting event. He was rewarded for his valor with rabies shots.
PETA had a decidedly different take on the situation, proving one man's valor is another man's heinous act of cruelty. They released a statement which basically said that Ginobili was a terrible person and likened the incident to Michael Vick's dog fighting fiasco.
I'm not usually one to bash PETA—I think they have admirable intentions, but generally go about things the wrong way—but they were way off on this one. Ginobili acted on gut instinct, not a deep-seated desire to murder a freaking bat.
One final epic battle from the defunct Fox freakshow Man vs. Beast. Normally I don't consider competitive eating a sport—there isn't really anything all that athletic about suppressing your gag reflex and distending your stomach by stuffing it full of hot dogs.
That being said, I decided to make an exception for Takeru Kobayashi's head-to-head challenge with a Kodiak bear for hot dog eating bragging rights for life. There's just something really funny about a bear eating piles of hot dogs.
As for the actual competition? It wasn't even close! Kobayashi get his ass kicked by the bear, which ate 50 dogs to his 31. Way to suck, dude.
There aren't many people who come face-to-snout with an angry black bear and live to tell the tale. However, that's exactly what happened to former U.S. ski team member Ani Haas in the summer of 2011.
In an interview with NBC's Today Show days after the incident, she confessed that a wild animal attack had always been one of her biggest fears while growing up in Montana. Which is exactly why she knew what to do when a black bear chased her down from behind.
Many people would probably default to playing dead, but Haas knew that was actually a strategy for dealing with grizzly bears. Apparently with black bears you want to be "as large and aggressive as you can be."
Obviously it worked. Haas walked away from the incident with relatively minor scrapes and cuts on her chest and left arm. And the bear walked away with a bruised ego, feeling like a total failure.
Didn't I tell you Chad Johnson ripped this idea off? American track and field legend Jesse Owens pioneered the idea as a "runner-for-hire," trying to capitalize on his fleeting Olympic fame in the 1930s.
Owens raced against MLB players, motorcycles and, of course, horses. The major difference being that the only head start he received was a brief pause by a momentarily stunned horse after the pistol fired to begin the race.
Owens raced horses all the time and he rarely lost.