Sports Schadenfreude: Guys We Love to See Fail
For some reason, every year during the Emmys it always makes me laugh when Jon Hamm gets snubbed ye again.
I have nothing against Hamm. I would even venture so far as to say I like him. But for some reason, watching him fail every single year—watching him lose out on Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series to Bryan Cranston or Damian Lewis or Jeff Daniels (!!!)—is just funny. It's kind of weird to say that I like watching him lose, but…I kind of like watching him lose.
In the wide world of sports, there are countless people for whom we share this sentiment. There are countless people who fill us with strange, nonsensical pleasure every time they screw up, muff a play, blow a big game.
What is it about these people whose ineptitude fills us with such amusement? In the cases of some, it's obvious; in the cases of others, it will forever remain a mystery. But one thing is certain: We will always revel in their defeat.
Success breeds jealousy. Success breeds loathing. Duke has had a lot of success in basketball over the last several decades, so it only stands to reason that for every Duke fan out there, there are about 100 haterz.
Any time a team gets accustomed to winning—a lot—we, as fans, get accustomed to being unapologetically thrilled when that team loses. Duke's men's basketball team has won four NCAA championships, all in the last 25 years. The Blue Devils have played in an additional six NCAA championship games. For them, missing the Big Dance happens about as frequently as a Bachelor marriage succeeds.
Simply put, the Blue Devils are used to being one of the baddest teams in the nation, year in and year out. Therefore, having the opportunity to witness one of their rare bouts of ineptitude becomes cause for celebration.
I understand that people in Pittsburgh adore Sidney Crosby. I also understand that Sidney Crosby is perennially one of the most valuable and most exciting players in the NHL.
But I also understand that pretty much anyone who's not a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins detests him anyway.
Crosby is talented, but he is insufferable. He is the player who expects special treatment from the linesmen because he's Sidney Crosby. He is the player who will initiate a witch hunt against one of the best defensemen in the league because that defenseman dared to hold him accountable for his ridiculous shenanigans. He is the player who will bark at the smallest and least-intimidating player on the ice before scampering off to the safety of his bench.
Crosby is whiny, grating and conceited. He may be one of the best players in the game, but for all those reasons, watching him lose makes a lot of us smile.
There are coaches who never show emotion. We like to rag on them.
And then there are coaches who become borderline apoplectic at the drop of a hat (or flag). We like to rag on them, too, when their name is Jim Harbaugh.
You know that kid on the playground who blatantly fouls you during a game of pickup basketball at recess and then throws an absolute conniption when his comrades call him on it? That's Harbaugh, but 35-40 years younger. You can appreciate the fact that the guy hates to lose (and to his credit, he's done a lot of winning lately, leading the Niners to their third consecutive NFC Championship Game)—but there's something called "losing graciously" that is utterly foreign to Harbaugh.
We look forward to his sideline tantrums every week, but at the same time, when another team finally gets the best of him, we look forward to that, too.
Early in his career, people really wanted Michael Vick to succeed. And early in his career, it looked like those people were going to get their wish.
The Virginia Tech product was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, and in 2002—his first season as a starter—he suggested that the Falcons made the right call, getting the team into the playoffs. In 2004, he took the Falcons all the way to the conference championship, which they lost, but hey, he was still young, and look how good he was!
Then, of course, this happened, and everyone in the world hated him.
There are lots and lots of people out there who would like nothing more than to watch Vick continue to fail. Right now, they're getting their wish. Dude got usurped by Nick Foles and is now jobless.
So much for that first overall draft pick.
In the case of Lane Kiffin, there's a very clear reason why people love watching him fail: Because they want to believe that what goes around comes around, and Kiffin, it seems, has long operated on a me-first philosophy without really thinking at all about anyone else.
In 2007, Kiffin—then the offensive coordinator at USC—was hired by the Oakland Raiders, becoming the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era at age 31. Al Davis showed some faith in the young up-and-comer; it backfired, as Kiffin went 4-12 in his rookie campaign. Davis had seen enough, and even though everybody knows you're not supposed to break up with someone over the phone, Davis did it anyway.
It was OK, though, because Kiffin quickly found employment at Tennessee, leading the Vols to a meh 7-6 record in 2009. He then made headlines for accusing Urban Meyer of violating NCAA rules (which is hilarious, in light of the Reggie Bush fiasco, which hadn't yet come to light). He also reportedly insulted South Carolina and decided he didn't like Tennessee anymore, ditching the Vols for USC after one measly season.
So basically, there were a lot of people out there who were pumped when the Trojans fired Kiffin after his team allowed 62 points to Arizona this season.
It's pretty simple. When you act like the world revolves around you, people tend to not like you that much.
People used to like Dwight Howard. A lot. When Howard was in his very early 20s and leading the Magic to the playoffs every season, there wasn't much to dislike. Especially when he took the team all the way to the Finals in 2008-09. People really liked that.
But then, Superman became kind of a jerk, and he took it out on his head coach. As his impending free agency loomed, Howard decided he was going to mess with the Magic. According to popular folklore, Howard demanded that Stan Van Gundy be fired if the Magic had any hope of retaining their prodigal big man. Of course he denies that, but what do you know? Van Gundy got fired.
And then Howard was like, "Haha just kidding, I'm leaving, too," and he orchestrated a trade to the Lakers.
The Lakers then had one of their worst seasons in years and absolutely nobody outside of LA was upset.
Last week, a friend of mine described himself as "the only person on the planet who actually likes Philip Rivers."
And it got me thinking: He was right, but why? Why do people share such unabashed vitriol for King Bolo?
Well, for one, perhaps it's the fact that he wears a bolo. Or perhaps it's the fact that he has never won anything meaningful in the NFL. Perhaps it's the fact that he has made it past the divisional round of the playoffs only once in his career.
Maybe it's because GIFs like this exist:
Or maybe it's because he talks smack about opponents promptly after losing to them and loves making excuses.
Yeah, some people think he's tough because he played on a torn ACL once. But when you're a winning combination of whiny and unclutch, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when people enjoy watching you fail.
So obviously, when the world finds out that your entire career was a sham, you're going to be hard-pressed to find fans.
Lance Armstrong isn't just an epic cheater. He's an epic cheater who shamelessly bullied anyone who ever accused him of cheating (which, again, he did. A lot). At one point, Armstrong was a terrific story and an even better role model. But then, allegations started to crop up that he doped his way to the top, using performance-enhancing drugs to win his seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong denied, denied, denied. Then, he denied some more. He denied with the fury of a zillion suns. Finally, about a year ago, Armstrong finally came clean in an interview with Oprah: His accusers were right all along.
It's not that people dislike Andy Reid. It's just that, for some reason, it's funny when he fails yet again.
Reid is not a bad coach. As a head coach, he has a 141-98-1 overall record in the regular season. He's won an NFC Championship and has taken a team to the Super Bowl. It's not his fault that he had Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick as quarterbacks. It's not his fault that he was saddled with the impossible task of dealing with Terrell Owens.
But it kind of is his fault that no matter how good his teams are, he just cannot seem to coach them to wins when it counts. Take this year, for example. Nobody really expected much of him when he took the reins in Kansas City and put Alex Smith under center. Yet somehow, Reid's Chiefs got off to a 9-0 start and looked like one of the toughest contenders in the AFC.
But then, the Chiefs lost three straight games in the second half of the season and finished 2-5. They blew a 31-10 first-half lead against the Colts in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. And everyone was kind of like, "Haha, of course, Andy Reid, of course."
Anytime you're among the best at what you do, people are going to love to see you fail. It's just the way it works. People always end up rooting for the underdog.
That doesn't mean that Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't have fans. He has a lot of them. He has a lot of people who will cry right along with him when he wins the Ballon d'Or award. But there are also a lot of people who will revel every time he and Real Madrid and/or Portugal experience defeat. There are people who will rewatch it over and over again on YouTube if his shot goes wide or if he muffs a play.
Sometimes, people like Ronaldo seem invincible, and when they prove that they aren't, it can make the rest of the mortals feel a whole lot better.
It's the face. It has to be the face, right?
Objectively, Jay Cutler seems like he has it all. He's a quarterback in the National Football League. He just got paid a very, very large sum of money. He has an awesome wife who is about 400 times out of his league.
It stands to reason, then, that when things don't go quite right for good old Jay, people rejoice.
A lot of that is because Cutler isn't all that likable. Again, part of it is the face. There's also the fact that no matter how good his teams are during the regular season, they always, without fail, blow it in the postseason. Fans don't like that. Another part of it is that he's not an awesome soundbite, and he doesn't seem to care at all whether anyone likes him or not.
Well, guess what, Jay? People don't. So there.
When you're a big, whiny baby who is perpetually unsatisfied, people love watching anything and everything go wrong for you.
Therefore, people who hate Andrew Bynum are pretty darn happy right about now.
Nothing, it seems, has gone right for Bynum since about 2010, when he and the Lakers won the NBA title. Since then, he's constantly been the subject of trade rumors, and it seems like he's constantly been injured.
In summer 2012, the Lakers finally pulled the trigger and sent Bynum to Philly as part of a four-team deal that brought Dwight Howard to LA. Bynum spent the entire season on the bench, recovering from various knee ailments. He didn't play a single game for the Sixers and signed with Cleveland in July 2013.
But things didn't go well there, either, and after he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, he was traded to the Bulls and promptly released. Now, he's jobless, which is probably just fine with him because he allegedly hates basketball anyway.
I'm sure Eli Manning is a great guy. But any time your last name is "Manning," people are going to be pumped when stuff hits the fan for you.
Especially when you're a Manning with two rings to your name.
Even though Eli seems to have escaped his older brother's shadow (he does have two championships, both of which have come at the expense of perennial Manning nemesis Bill Belichick), he still can't quite escape the perception that he's kind of a joke. Like Cutler, part of it is the face. Part of it is the fact that he distributes the ball pretty evenly among his own receivers and his opponents' defensive backs.
But mostly, it's just the Manning thing. Because of that name, he's football royalty, so when he starts approaching the NFL record for the most interceptions in a season, it's going to be like Christmas every day for the haters.
For a while there, Nick Saban seemed like he was utterly unbeatable.
Then Auburn happened to him. And Oklahoma. And many people laughed and rejoiced.
Saban is unquestionably one of the best coaches in college football, but he's never been able to escape a reputation for being rather slimy. There are always rumors about him jumping ship from one place to the next—some of which come into fruition—so people don't really seem to trust him.
But mostly, people in SEC country don't like him because he and the Crimson Tide won pretty much everything for almost three years. And as we've discovered, people don't like Goliath. They like David.
So when Auburn toppled Alabama from its throne with one unlikely touchdown in December, and when Oklahoma finished the job by destroying the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, people were pumped.
When you've been accused of hating your own team, it's safe to say that fans might be tough to come by.
Hockey players are usually celebrated for being the least flashy and the least showy of their major-sport brethren. Not P.K. Subban. His reputation suggests he's too cocky for his own good and doesn't seem to have any respect for the game or his fellow players. Plus, he and the Canadiens had trouble coming to terms on a new contract, and whenever you're an athlete holding out for more money, it doesn't tend to sit well with the fans.
There was also that infamous report on Hockey Night in Canada that claimed even his own teammates hate him, and on the day Subban's new contract was announced, the mood in his dressing room was described as "surprisingly chilly."
The Habs are already considered one of the most hated teams in the NHL. So when you're the most hated player on the most hated team…yikes for you.
Tim Tebow is kind of a joke. It's not that people don't like him; it's just that his life is kind of a circus and it keeps getting weirder and weirder, and the weirder it gets, the more entertaining it is for those of us watching at home.
It's hard to remember now, but there was once a time when Tebow was one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in the game. College game, that is. He won the Heisman and two national titles at Florida before going to the Broncos in the 2010 draft. Once he got the chance to start in Denver, he led the team on a shocking run that took them to the divisional round of the playoffs.
And that's pretty much where everything good in Tebow's life stopped.
The Broncos got rid of him when Peyton Manning came to town, and from there, he couldn't secure a starting job. He still hasn't. Even his biggest fan, Josh McDaniels, couldn't justify keeping him on the roster. And for some reason, with every week that goes by that Tebow cannot find a job, people seem to find it funnier and funnier.
Also, there's this commercial, so I take it back. Maybe it's just that people don't like him.
It seems like life should be pretty good when you're part of a team that's won two straight NBA titles and is probably on its way to a third, barring an unforeseen disaster.
So stop complaining, Dwyane Wade. You literally have nothing to complain about.
When someone complains about being on the perennial best team in the NBA, you love nothing more than seeing him get what's coming to him. When that person is also regarded as a dirty player—even better.
Wade spends most of his days insisting that he's not a dirty player, and yet most consider him to be the very dirtiest in the NBA. Sure, he's a good player, but YouTube is filled with compilations of his dirtiest plays.
So just once, it would be nice to see him fail after he kicks Ramon Sessions in the groin. Just once.
This one's a gimme. Mark Sanchez is just so easy to laugh at.
Let's review: Mark Sanchez was the fifth overall selection of the 2009 NFL draft and was sent to the Meadowlands to become Rex Ryan's personal experiment. Early on, it looked like that experiment was going to be a success: Sanchez went 8-7 in his rookie campaign, completing 53.8 percent of his passes with 2,444 yards and 12 touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie, right?
Sanchez then became the toast of the town. He started dating celebrities. He started modeling for GQ. Life was good.
The problem was, Sanchez never got better. By the time he butt-fumbled on Thanksgiving 2012 against the Patriots, the writing was on the wall: Sanchez was a liability. He was so bad, in fact, that the team considered replacing him with Tim Tebow.
Maybe Sanchez got a bit too big for his britches too early, and that's why it's so funny to see what he has become: imminently unemployed.
Objectively, there is no real reason to hate Tom Brady.
I said no "real" reason.
By all indications, Brady is a terrific guy. His teammates all love him. They worship him. He always says the right thing, he always does the right thing. On days off, you can find him at the playground, hurling snowballs with his perfect family.
But people hate Brady because he's a little too perfect. He's ridiculously good-looking. He's married to the highest-grossing supermodel on the planet. He has three championship rings. He has giant homes in several states. For a very long time, it seemed like he was invincible on the football field.
Yes, Brady is perfect. That's good enough reason for anyone to despise him. Or good enough reason to party like it's 1999 when he loses a precious Super Bowl ring to Eli Manning. Twice.
Objectively, Alex Rodriguez is a terrible human being. We love to see him fail for the complete opposite reason we love to see Tom Brady fail.
First and foremost, Alex Rodriguez is a cheater. He cheated in order to become the best player in baseball, he lied about cheating, he got caught cheating, he admitted to cheating, and now, he's back to denying again.
There's something to be said for being a good teammate, for doing whatever you can to help your team win instead of doing whatever you can to distract every one of your teammates from the goal at hand. Being a good teammate is a concept that is utterly foreign to A-Rod. Never has there been a more selfish player.
He is also desperate. He is also obsessed with being well-liked (welp, that backfired). He also has a centaur painting of himself in his home.
He is like Lance Armstrong multiplied by a billion. And if he never has another opportunity to step foot on a baseball diamond ever again, it's hard to believe that anyone in the world would be upset.
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