The Worst Kinds of People in Sports
There are a lot of awesome people in sports.
There are people who spend most of their time helping out in their communities and giving pro sports a good name. There are people who love nothing more than charming the media. There are people who work their butts off in the name of helping their city get another championship.
And then, there is the opposite side of that coin.
For every awesome person in the sports world, there is a terrible person. Probably several terrible people, actually. There are liars, cheaters, abusers, stealers. These are the people who give sports a bad name; these are the people who ruin the fun for the rest, for everyone out there doing it right.
Unfortunately, these people—the worst kinds of people in sports—are the ones you hear the most about.
There are a lot of different coaching styles out there. Some of the most successful coaches ever have very much adopted a strict tough-love approach. Bill Belichick, Bob Knight, Gregg Popovich—these are not the kinds of guys who are going to hold your hand and tell you how great you are.
But they're also not the kinds of guys who are going to throw basketballs at your head. Or hit you for performing poorly during practice.
Most recently, we've heard about Mike Rice, who was fired as head men's basketball coach at Rutgers after a video emerged of him physically and verbally abusing his players.
There's tough love, and then, millions of miles beyond, there's this.
If you hark back to the glory days of seven to 10 years ago, these people didn't even exist. Now, they have the grandest of all platforms.
Have you ever been watching a game, and an objectively terrible call is made—a call that nobody, not even the person who hates your team the most, could argue against—and you turn to Twitter for some moral support, only to find That Guy insisting that the call was right? That your team deserved it? That it was "karma," or "vengeance"?
Twitter trolls exist for the sole purpose of torturing you and your entire fanbase whenever something bad, or even something good, happens to your team. Your team won a close game? Didn't deserve it. The refs were favoring your guys. Your team lost in heartbreaking fashion? HAHAHA, SUCKERS!!!!!!
I'm not talking about the fans who bet from the comfort of their own living rooms, computers or local sports bars. I'm talking about the people who actually have a stake in the game and still wager.
There is little that is worse than finding out that a player, coach, referee or any other entity who had a hand in determining the outcome of a game bet on it. It makes you question the sanctity of the game and the sport. Pete Rose bet on his own games. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy did, too. Revelations like these make you question every whistle, every play, every ball and strike, every decision.
Once you find out that the people with actual pull were operating with a hidden agenda, how can you ever trust again?
Obviously, the sole purpose of some commentators is to make people angry. There is no way that guys like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless actually buy into what they're saying 100 percent of the time.
But I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about guys like this:
I turned on a sports radio station last week to find a player-turned-midday host talking about how the victims of CTE should keep their mouths shut and move on with their lives because they "took the paycheck" knowing the inherent risks of playing football.
Except they didn't. Most people developing CTE right now are guys who "took the paycheck" when research on the dangers of playing in the NFL was minimal. Sure, everyone knows there's risk of concussion. Common sense tells us that repetitive hits to the head mean bad news down the road.
But nobody knew how bad it was. Nobody. The research just wasn't there until very recently.
Also, it's worth noting that over the course of this particular former player's career, he started less than 10 games total and probably has a 0 percent chance of developing CTE. Bet this tough guy's tune would be different if it was his life at risk.
At this point, we all know that many things about the college football landscape aren't exactly fair. The whole Johnny Manziel autograph scandal made that pretty clear. As far as the NCAA is concerned, there is plenty to complain about.
We also know that there are certain programs that will always have a leg up on the competition because they have very wealthy people writing checks that help their alma maters bring in the very best of the best recruits.
Boosters are annoying, but they'll never go away. Boosters are so intent on making sure their teams stay competitive that they'll pay up, offering money and other tempting incentives to top-tier recruits in an effort to sway them away from the competition. It's bribing.
It happens, and it means schools with the most powerful boosters—schools like Texas and Alabama—are always going to have the opportunity to sway recruits with stuff plenty of other schools don't have.
I'm not going to spend too much time harping on this because I already did that, but fair-weather fans are awful.
There are so many diehard, passionate fans out there—rooting for good teams, rooting for bad teams, rooting for large- and small-market teams—and they are doing a fine job representing their favorite clubs. Fair-weather fans cheapen that. Fair-weather fans start paying attention when the stakes are the highest and often pretend that they've been there all along.
But they haven't. And most of the time, they don't care. Most of the time, they barely even know the rules of the sport in question. Most of the time, they can't name more than a couple of players on the team, but they still want to claim that team as theirs.
Part of the fun of sports is sharing in the excitement with people who feel just as passionate as you do. Fair-weather fans do not share that passion. So stop pretending.
It takes a lot of talent and hard work and, in some cases, torture to reach the mountaintop in professional sports. It takes blood, sweat and tears to earn that contract—and even more to keep it.
There are so many players on every single professional team who are working their butts off 100 percent of the time in order to keep their roster spots. So it stands to reason that those apathetic stars—the guys getting paid the most but seem like they care the least—are rather insufferable.
These are the guys who seem like they couldn't care less whether they play. These are the guys who will willingly take themselves out of a game—no matter how high the stakes—because they're a little banged up. Often, these are the guys who are raking in the most cash, too.
Not every team has one, but plenty of teams do—the guys who once carried the most hype, the most potential, the loftiest expectations, but then, just a couple of years later, seem like they're much more concerned with keeping their bodies at 100 percent than helping the team win a game.
At a certain point in the season, nobody is 100 percent. So just suck it up and play. It's what you're being paid millions to do.
In the world of show business, stage parents are very prevalent. They are the kinds of parents who force their children, from a very young age, into the spotlight, whether those kids want to be in the spotlight or not. They micromanage every aspect of their child's career, from wardrobe choices to salaries to sound bites during interviews. Sometimes, that child grows up to be Britney Spears, for better or worse.
Those types of parents exist in sports, too. They force their kids onto the court/field/rink at age 2 in the hopes of producing the next prodigy, and sometimes, they succeed.
But this type of parent never fades into the background. Ever. Even when it is completely inappropriate for that parent to still be speaking on behalf of his or her child. Last year, when the whole Manti Te'o's-dead-girlfriend-isn't-real scandal broke, who did we hear more from, Te'o himself, or Te'o's dad?
Of course, that fact became far less shocking when we learned that Te'o's dad had also once tried to start a boycott against the Honolulu Star-Advertiser because it printed a picture of his kid missing a tackle.
Players Who (Allegedly) Have Affairs with Their Teammates' Wives
So Player A and Player B were both members of Elite Team for several years. They were buddies, and both were prized by the front office.
Then, Player A had a thing with Player B's wife.
Now, neither Player A nor Player B is still a part of Elite Team. Player B was widely assumed to have interest in re-signing with Elite Team once his contract expired, but he blindsided his general manager by taking a deal from a far lesser team, in a far lesser market, because it was "a great fit for me and my family." Shortly thereafter, Player A was traded away in a shocking move that still hasn't really been explained by the front office.
This is not a rare occurrence. It's not exactly commonplace, either, but it happens far more than is acceptable.
Come on, Player A. Bros come first. Didn't you ever learn that?
Wreckless Athletic Directors
There are some athletic directors who are spectacular. There are some who took a college or university from nowhere and put it on the map—not just in one sport, but across the whole athletics spectrum.
Then, there are athletic directors who take a job at a school that's OK at sports, but not great, make several somewhat controversial coaching hirings and firings, proceed to run all of that school's major programs into the ground, and then leave.
Every AD isn't going to be a success. Every collegiate athletics program isn't going to be a success. But don't blow up every program at a school—many of which have had success in the past—and then just peace out after only a couple of years for a job that comes with "less pressure."
This one is unavoidable. For as long as celebrities exist, there will also be groupies.
And now, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, groupies have more power than ever.
Just so there's no confusion, groupies are people who aren't really interested in the sport at hand, but rather the person who plays the sport solely because that person plays a sport. To most groupies, the athletes themselves are pretty interchangeable; all that matters is that they're on a team and have at least some fame and notoriety.
Now, groupie conquests rarely stay under wraps because of social media. If you're curious about some of the conquests, check out this hilarious account on Deadspin.
Investors Who Steal Money
Lately, there seem to have been plenty of woeful stories about athletes who lost their money—but in the cases of many, it was through no fault of their own.
Take the story of Bryan Berard as an example.
Berard was one of the many alleged victims of Phil Kenner and Tommy Constantine, who apparently ripped off a collection of NHL players for more than $15 million, according to the New York Daily News. The players trusted the two to invest their money in real estate and other ventures, but instead, Kenner and Constantine allegedly just kept the money for themselves.
They both face at least up to 15 years.
We're finally entering an era of professional sports where homophobes, instead of being the ones who ridicule, are the ones who are ridiculed. We're not quite there yet, but thanks to people like Jason Collins, we're taking steps toward tolerance and acceptance.
So therefore, there's no longer any place in sports for the Chris Cullivers, Mike Wallaces and Chris Broussards of the world.
It was Culliver who used last year's Super Bowl Media Day to espouse his belief that there was no room on the 49ers for "gay people." It was Wallace who, after hearing Collins' coming-out story, took to Twitter to express his disbelief that any man could be gay with so many beautiful women in the world. It was Broussard who told all of ESPN's viewers that it was impossible for Collins to be both gay and Christian.
Come on, people. Times are changing. Keep up. Or keep your mouths shut.
As a fan, it's sometimes hard to accept it when your team loses. But let's be real, here. The chances that there actually was a giant conspiracy pulling for the other team are virtually nonexistent.
I'm talking to you, Ray Lewis.
Despite the fact that you want to make it seem like the Ravens had to battle every possible adversary en route to a Super Bowl victory, I'm going to have to stop you at claiming that the Superdome was pulling for the 49ers. There is an actual reason that the power in the Superdome went out. No one really knows what that reason is yet, but we can continue to call it an "abnormality in the power system" for now.
The reason is not, however, that a rogue electrician wanted to swing the momentum in San Francisco's favor, so he or she found a way to cut the Superdome's electricity for 34 minutes.
The reason is not, Ray Lewis, that "somebody [was] sitting there and [said], 'The Ravens [are] about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.'" I promise.
Referees Who Take Bribes
If there is one group of people that has to be completely, 100 percent morally sound during a game, it's the officials.
The game is in their hands. They can blow the whistle or throw the flag for whatever they want, even something that nobody else sees (or even something that they will later pretend they didn't see). So any time you hear about a referee taking a bribe—or an officiating crew being tipped off by someone with ties to one of the teams playing in the game—it makes you sick.
The refs are the people who are supposed to be above it all. They are supposed to be the judge and jury. They are not supposed to be corrupt, spineless sheep. That is how you ruin sports for the rest of us.
Everyone wants to think they have what it takes to run a professional sports franchise. We, as fans, all love to think that. It's why we play fantasy sports; it's why we're constantly opining on Twitter and blogs about what we would do if we were holding the reigns.
Fortunately, most of us never get the opportunity to try our hand at owning and managing a professional team. Unfortunately, some of us have broken through and gotten that opportunity.
Jerry Jones. Donald Sterling. People who like to think they have what it takes to run a team and yet they keep making the kinds of decisions that make you wonder if they've recently been lobotomized. At a certain point, sometimes, you just have to accept that you don't know what you're doing. It doesn't mean you have to quit your job. It just means you have to hire an "adviser" who will do your job for you and make you look like the genius you clearly think you are.
Bullies, Part I: On the TV
Clearly, bullying in sports still exists. Not a debate. A fact.
It exists in many forms, not just on the field or in the locker room (but we'll get to that).
One of the reasons victims of bullying are reluctant to come forward is fear of public backlash. We're seeing it right now with Jonathan Martin. Sure, there are plenty of people lauding Martin for his courage, but there are just as many people telling him he should have just sucked it up.
One of those people happens to be a Hall of Fame coach whom you see on your TV every Sunday morning.
Mike Ditka was a legendary coach, one of the greatest ever in the NFL. But when he goes on TV and says that he wouldn't want Martin on his team because he's a "baby," something's not right.
Surely, Ditka would be totally OK with his sister receiving this voice mail. And if he cared…well, guess he's just a baby.
Bullies, Part 2: On the Field
It's been driven into the ground at this point. We all understand that an NFL locker room—or any professional sports locker room, for that matter—is not your typical work environment.
But that does not mean that the people who work out of that locker room every day should have to exist in a work environment where harassment is acceptable.
I don't know what exactly people like Ryan Tannehill and Tyson Clabo are thinking, but what Richie Incognito did is wrong. He pushed his teammate over the edge. End of story. This is a guy who has a pretty well-documented history of bullying, and the Dolphins pretty much decided to just pretend it didn't exist.
But the jig is up, guys. Incognito would still be on the field if he was in the right.
Sports are all fun and games until someone's neck breaks.
Plain and simple, there are people on plenty of teams who just don't care about being safe. They don't care about the rules. They don't care about whether or not they have the potential to end an opponent's career. They just care about delivering the big hit, all consequences be damned.
John Scott is the poster boy of the Wreckless Enforcers. Here is a guy who can't skate, can't shoot, can't score. (No, really: In 190 career games in the NHL, he has one goal. One.) But then again, here is a guy who is 6'8", 270. Some coaches see potential there. He is a weapon. He is on the ice to take out the opponent's best player, and oftentimes, he succeeds.
No, it's not all his fault. There's someone above him calling the shots. But while Scott is busy rattling guys' brains with his girth and calling them princesses, there are actually players out there trying to do their jobs.
Baseball isn't as popular as it once was. There are plenty of reasons why. The games are too long. Young kids aren't getting into it as much anymore. Some of those kids who don't grow up playing baseball don't grow up loving it as much as their fathers and grandfathers did.
But another reason interest in baseball is waning is because some of the most prominent faces of the sport are also its most prominent cheaters.
Baseball isn't pure anymore. Who knows? Maybe it never was. But the superstars are cheating. Ryan Braun. Barry Bonds. Mark McGwire. Manny Ramirez.
And the king of them all, Alex freaking Rodriguez.
I don't want to end up like Don from The Newsroom, so I won't use the word that is very clearly applicable to this insane man, but it's obvious that A-Rod doesn't live on this planet. The only person in the world who doesn't realize that A-Rod cheated is, apparently, A-Rod himself.
But as long as people like A-Rod are around, shoving themselves in people's faces and refusing to just admit the truth, one of America's most beloved pastimes is going to continue to be destroyed right before our eyes.