Biggest Grinches in Sports
There are grinches in all walks of life.
But there are lots and lots of grinches in sports.
Grinches aren't limited to your token angry coach or surly superstar. Grinches take it a step further. They inflict misery upon everyone who comes into contact with them—media members, players, front office officials.
No, it's not always their fault that they're grinches. Sometimes, it's the circumstances. When your players or teammates cannot fathom the concept of winning, or when your front office continuously attempts to undermine you, it's understandably difficult to be jolly.
So here's to you, all of you sports people whose souls are appalling dump heaps.
In his defense, Tom Brady has had a right to be kind of a grinch this season.
Though it pains anyone who supports the Patriots to admit it, Brady's days in the NFL are numbered. He's 36. He only has a few good years left in him, and this is what the front office has given him this year: Kenbrell Thompkins. Aaron Dobson. Julian Edelman, who was once the poor man's Wes Welker but now has to be Wes Welker, simply because there's usually no one else for Brady to throw to. Brady is stuck in an offensive system built around two tight ends who are no longer there.
Early in the season, Brady's frustration was excusable. He is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and he's throwing to guys who are still proving that they belong in the league. When they dropped his passes, he was angry.
Since then, things have improved in Foxboro. But Brady has continued to be surly. He gets angry at the refs, for example. He gets angry on the sideline. He gets angry when he thinks about the fact that this is how he's spending one of his very last years of NFL relevance.
You'd be grinchy, too.
Like pretty much every other coach that will make an appearance on this list, John Tortorella's whole thing is that he's surly all the time. It's his personality. He hates everything.
This season, in Vancouver, he has picked up right where he left off in New York. Granted, Tortorella's breed of tough love has been known to work for some. He and the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, after all. But his breed of tough love did not work in New York, which is why he was excused at the end of last season.
In Vancouver, though, so far, so...decent. The Canucks are 18-10-5, Tortorella's system doesn't seem to be wreaking havoc (yet) and he's just as colorful as always. Maybe he'll be a good fit there after all, in all of his grinchy glory.
Because all Canucks fans need is someone to fuel their rage.
It is with a heavy heart that I designate Shawn Thornton as a grinch. Until now, he remained one of precious few enforcers in the NHL who had a pristine record and was generally regarded as a good dude.
But Thornton screwed up. He was trying to avenge a couple of his teammates last week and ended up knocking Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik out cold, sending him straight to the IR with a concussion. Thornton wanted to fight, and Orpik didn't, despite the fact that he cleaned Loui Eriksson's clock on the first shift of the game and probably should have taken what was coming to him. (P.S. Eriksson also has a concussion, for what it's worth.)
But still, the fact remains that if someone doesn't want to fight you, you aren't allowed to punch him in the head. And for that reason, Thornton will likely be suspended for at least 10 games, leaving his injury-depleted team in the lurch.
You're a mean one, Mr. Thornton.
Let us all celebrate the return of one of the biggest grinches in the world of sports by extending a warm and heartfelt "Welcome Back" to Stephen Jackson, who just signed with the Clippers.
In the NBA, grinches are far from rare. In some circles, they are celebrated. Grinches are astute at giving their teams mental edges by trash-talking the bejesus out of their opponents (see: Kevin Garnett). But alternately, when used improperly, grinches can become distractions.
Stephen Jackson, you could say, has been a distraction at times.
That could be why he was dispatched from the San Antonio Spurs one week before last year's playoffs. There was an alleged rift with head coach Gregg Popovich, which Jackson explained in very simple terms: "He wanted me to agree to players being better than me, and I didn't agree."
Here's hoping that he and Doc Rivers see things more eye-to-eye.
The New York Knicks
They're not quite as bad as the Brooklyn Nets, but that's not saying very much.
The Knicks, like their crosstown rivals, were supposed to be a strong contender in the East this year. Their performance thus far goes to show how much water preseason predictions hold. The 5-14 Knicks rank near the bottom of the league in every statistical category, and they're so bad that the Melo's-leaving-at-season's-end rumors have cropped up bright and early.
This is a team that got routed by the Celtics. Routed. By the superstar-less, rebuilding Celtics.
Still, it's only been about a month. Maybe once Christmas is over, Carmelo and his fellow grinches will go into hibernation and the real Knicks will come out to play.
Urban Meyer. Your team was so close to 24 consecutive wins. Two straight seasons of undefeated football and a chance to play for the national title—the chance that was stolen from you last season, when your undefeated team was not bowl eligible.
And then you had to go and blow it. Against Michigan State, no less! Why, Urban Meyer? Why?
I know what Meyer has managed to do at Ohio State is pretty remarkable. He took on a 6-7 team, turned it completely around, and posted just one loss in two seasons. It's just a bummer that the one loss came at literally the worst possible time.
Still, I find comfort in the fact that this grinch responds to heartbreak the same way most teenage girls do. See? Even the grinch is somewhat human.
I know. Bad timing, with the whole retired-jersey thing.
I get that this is Mike Ditka's personality. His entire reputation has been built upon the fact that he is surly. But he's retired now! Retirement is fun! Retirement is relaxing!
So can't Ditka give the enraged hard-ass routine a rest every once in a while?
No matter the topic, Ditka is angry about it. He loves to become enraged. Over anything. He loves to sputter and get red in the face and say terrible things about people when they're not there. Jonathan Martin, for example. Richie Incognito, for another.
I promise that no one will think less of you if you say something nice every once in a while, Mike. Or something neutral. Let's start with neutral.
Aren't we all a little tired of the tough guy girl act?
In every facet of entertainment, there is that person who builds his or her reputation upon being angry and petty. Pretty much everyone on any Real Housewives show ever, for example. In the world of MMA, that person is Ronda Rousey.
Rousey loves making people mad. Not just in the ring. In life, in general. She's kind of like MMA's version of Spencer Pratt: Whatever happens, she has something offensive to say about it. Kim Kardashian speaks? Ronda Rousey unleashes. She has a big match coming up? She will threaten to choke her opponent to death.
As Carrie Underwood once said, "Mean people need Jesus."
The Washington Redskins
The designation of the biggest circus act in the NFL this year goes to the Washington Redskins. And that's saying something, given what's going on in Dallas, Houston and Cleveland.
When the Redskins went 10-6 last year, and when Robert Griffin III looked like he really could live up to the hype, morale was high in Washington. Then, this year happened. RG3 either hasn't yet recovered from last year's ACL tear, or last year was a fluke. His designation as starting quarterback is now up in the air. Meanwhile, Mike Shanahan may or may not have attempted to quit last year, but regardless, his departure seems imminent. On top of it all, Dan Snyder refuses to change the team name despite the fact that pretty much everyone in the free world agrees it's racist.
The Redskins are just so full of grinches, it's impossible to determine which one is the biggest of them all.
Come on, Tiger. Relax. Have some fun. I dare you.
Actually, on second thought, don't. But maybe show a little bit of personality. It won't kill you.
Tiger Woods is one of the most beloved golfers in history because of his 14 major wins, his 79 tour wins and a demeanor that was once perceived as unassuming and wholesome. (Ha! That's funny.) Now, Woods is still revered and worshipped despite the fact that he hasn't won a major since 2008.
There's also the fact that Tiger just doesn't seem to be all that likable. It's not just because of this. It's also because when guys like Jason Dufner try to have a little fun with him on Twitter, he responds like this. Dufner, an Auburn alum, jokingly asked Woods to shorten the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge so he could watch the SEC title game.
Woods was not amused.
Come on, Tiger. Don't be a grinch.
It's been a rough year for Roger Goodell.
Finally, after years of suspicion and accusations, people are coming to a consensus that there's a link between CTE and concussions, and years of playing football and getting hit in the head. A damning documentary that aired on PBS in October was the final dagger.
And that documentary did not make the commish look very good.
For years, Goodell (who isn't the most-liked guy in the world to begin with) seems to have refused to acknowledge that football is dangerous—or that the NFL downplayed the peril that accompanies multiple concussions, most likely because the truth could threaten the multi-billion dollar enterprise that is the NFL. Finally, when Congress compared the league to tobacco companies in the '90s, he seemed to do an about-face.
But your true colors have already been revealed, Mr. Goodell. And as much as many of us love football, nobody likes a greedy, two-faced grinch.
It's hard for one of the most well-liked individuals in the National Football League to be deemed a grinch, but somehow, Adrian Peterson has accomplished it.
All it takes, apparently, is one unpleasant experience in Baltimore.
Peterson, who left Sunday's game against the Ravens with a foot injury, took exception to the behavior of the fans during his team's 29-26 loss. Apparently, you're "the worst fans in the league" if you throw snowballs when it's snowing. Clearly, Peterson has never seen a December game in Foxboro.
He also had some harsh words for the officiating crew, telling ESPN.com, "Some of the calls that were made, you just went, 'Wow. I can't believe that was called.'"
Sounds to me like someone's just irritable because his team is 3-9-1.
First, you fire your agent in favor of signing with Jay Z (who, mind you, has zero experience being a sports agent). Then, you demand an exorbitant amount of money from a team that is accustomed to overpaying players. But even that team is like, no way, bro.
So then you swindle the poor Seattle Mariners into paying you $240 million over 10 years—but not before a handful of stories pop up about how Seattle balked at your absurd request and was "turned off" by the behavior of your "agent."
Ladies and gentlemen, Robinson Cano!
It's not every day that you can say the Yankees made the right decision by refusing to pay up. So for that, we salute you, Robinson Cano. You out-grinched the Yankees.
When you lose a game, just accept defeat and walk away (unless you lose because of something like this, then, by all means, revolt).
If you lose fair and square to a team that is arguably one of the strongest in the league, be classy. Be a good sport. Take the defeat and move on. Don't be like Antonio Smith.
Instead of just accepting that his lowly Texans—arguably one of the worst teams in the league—lost to the Patriots a couple of weeks ago, Smith had to go and insist that New England somehow spied on Houston's D during practice the previous week because there's no way that Houston could have been thwarted fair and square.
Nope. No way the 2-11 Texans could have been beaten fair and square. No way at all.
Smith: You lost to the Jaguars. Accept it. Your team is bad. Stop whining and move on.
I know Peter King did his best to defend them, but there can't be anyone in the sports world who is less liked than NFL referees right now. Their ability to blow calls over the course of the last couple of months has been truly astounding.
There are the many trials and tribulations of Bill Leavy. There was Clete Blakeman's befuddling call-then-non-call on a blatant hold at the end of the Patriots-Panthers game last month. There was last weekend's phantom pass interference call on Cleveland's Leon McFadden against the Patriots.
Do they know the rules of football? Or do they just think it's funny to crush the hearts of many with their erroneous judgments?
At this point, they should just say that there's a conspiracy because the alternative—complete and utter incompetence—is worse.
There's no one who didn't see this coming. But that doesn't mean it's any less of a bummer.
It's true that there aren't a ton of people in Boston who would ever fault the Red Sox for refusing to pay Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million over seven years. His history with Boston is littered with long-term absences due to injury, and he's been plagued by a reputation of taking his sweet, sweet time to return to the playing field.
But immediately after helping the Red Sox win another World Series, you had to go to the Yankees? Really, Ellsbury?
Of course you did. That's exactly what the Grinch would do.
Alex Rodriguez is worse than the Grinch. He's the Grinch, with a heavy dose of sociopath mixed in.
A-Rod could go down in history as the person who single-handedly stole baseball from the hearts of millions. He's ruining it. He is a cheater who, by all indications, took steroids (he even admitted it), yet he still insists upon fighting a (well-deserved) 211-game suspension and accusing Major League Baseball of engineering a "witch hunt" against him.
Sorry, bro. You took care of your own reputation annihilation when you cheated. But by all means, keep blaming anyone and everyone else.
The Brooklyn Nets
What happened to the team that was supposed to be the toast of New York? What happened to the balanced, veteran squad that was supposed to topple the Miami Heat from atop the Eastern Conference standings?
Unclear. But we know for certain that team is not in Brooklyn.
The abysmal Nets are 6-14. They've been plagued by injuries and incompetence alike. They have a coach who will say or do anything to give his team a chance to win, including drop a cup of soda on the floor to force an undeserved and unofficial timeout, but the only problem is, it's not working. The Nets aren't winning.
KG and Paul Pierce are worn out and frustrated. Deron Williams is on the bench with a sprained ankle. Mikhail Prokhorov and Jason Kidd are equally clueless. Sorry, Nets fans. The Grinch stole your season.
We've spent a lot of time recently ridiculing NFL referees, but let's give the NBA guys a little bit of love, too.
Joey Crawford, it seems, is not a nice man. He doesn't like happiness, unicorns or little children. No, really. Last month, during a Sixers game, the infamously surly referee ridiculed a mop boy because he missed a spot.
Just for context, this is also the same guy who once ejected Tim Duncan from a game for laughing.
Happy guy, right?
Nobody in sports personifies the Grinch quite like Bill Belichick.
Does he have friends? Yes. Obviously. He and Brandon Spikes are bros, as long as it's not game day. Or practice time. Or film time. Or media availability time.
Maybe Belichick does it on purpose. Maybe Bill Belichick just finds it easier to be prickly. That way, people won't bother him as much, right? They'll be scared of him and intimidated by him. That works out nicely for Belichick. It means more time for him to think about the most important thing in the world: football.
In that sense, everyone in New England prefers Belichick to be as grinchy as possible at all times.