Many athletes, whether they play at the college or professional level, are automatically assumed to be tough guys. And, more often than not, they probably are to some extent—some to a further extent than others.
Of course, we all know that even the toughest tough guys are usually scared of something. Except for Chuck Norris, who doesn’t have any fears. Fears have Chuck Norris.
A lot of athletes claim they’re not afraid of anything, which is ridiculous. Being afraid to admit at least one weakness technically counts as a fear. Generally when pressed, though, they’ll cop to at least one thing that terrifies them.
And that’s a good thing. Anything an athlete can do to humanize himself will ultimately decrease the chance of him getting pegged in the dome by an errant beer or plate of nachos at some point in his career.
That being said, let’s take a look at a few things that terrify athletes—or at least kinda scare them.
In an interview with Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was asked what is his biggest fear on Earth.
His response: “People. You can’t trust people.”
Sabres backup goalie Jhonas Enroth is like countless people in the sports world, and the world at large, with his “irrational” fear of flying.
MLB pitcher Sam Fuld told ESPN The Magazine that he’s absolutely terrified of roller coasters. On them he said specifically:
“Roller coasters. I’ve never been on one. I realize that millions of people do them and survive them, so it doesn’t make sense, but I won’t ride one.”
What a baby.
The Kings’ Matt Frattin is terrified of a very specific kind of shark—it’s geographically specific. Frattin says he’s afraid of the sharks in South Bay.
I’m assuming San Francisco’s South Bay, but I could be wrong.
Heat superstar Dwyane Wade confessed his fear of birds on Instagram in October 2013. Wade posted a video of him quietly lamenting a flock of seagulls sitting out on his dock, obviously just waiting to make their move.
Birds are pretty shifty.
NASCAR great Jimmie Johnson is straight up terrified at the prospect of randomly forgetting how to drive a race car. He’s probably safe on that one.
Unless it’s me on a bike. That whole thing about never forgetting how to ride one is total garbage.
Todd Spitzer, a former quarterback at Western Carolina University and the University of Cincinnati, is one of a surprisingly large number of people who suffer from achondroplasiaphobia. Which you may or may not (probably not) know is a fear of little people or dwarves.
The Raiders’ Khalif Barnes told Athlon Sports that the one thing that terrifies him most is disease. Any and all disease.
MMA fighter Rashad Evans is obviously a tough guy, which is why he wasn’t afraid to tell sports reporter Kavita Channe that ghosts scare the bejeezus out of him.
In a recent interview with the Houston Texans, Louisville quarterback draft prospect Teddy Bridgewater said his biggest fear was just simply letting people down.
Most people would agree that calling Bengals linebacker James Harrison one of the scariest people in the world isn’t a gross exaggeration. Turns out, Harrison is terrified of the one thing on Earth more terrifying than him: Clowns.
Nothing could be more perfect.
No joking about this one. Like many of us, retired Dolphins defensive end Jeff Cross’ biggest fear in life is cancer.
Nothing scares Russian tennis goddess Maria Sharapova on the tennis court—she’s comfortable with all the various surfaces. One surface that really scares her though? A red carpet.
That’s actually got to be quite difficult, given what a fashion…monger…Sharapova is. Yeah, fashionmonger.
At some point in time Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson told ESPN The Magazine about his ridiculously easy to avoid “fear.”
Said Wilson, “Jumping out of a plane. I could never do that.” Yeah…neither could most of us. Way to really explore your boundaries, bro.
If you’ve seen him ball, you probably already know that nothing scares Heat superstar LeBron James. Well, nothing except failure…which he really doesn’t have to worry about.
Must be nice.
It’s surprising to learn that anything scares notoriously tough Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. The only “irrational fear” he has is breaking a knee.
Doesn’t sound too irrational to me. Sounds just about right, actually.
Royal pitcher James Shields has the most irrationally hilarious of irrational fears. He told ESPN The Magazine his most irrational fear is:
“I’m always scared I’m going to lose my shoe on the mound. A shoe coming off while pitching is pretty irrational, considering they’re laced up. But I really need my shoe, man.”
Arkansas stud running back Alex Collins was the standout star on an otherwise very bad team last season. That doesn’t mean he thinks he’s invincible; Collins' biggest fear is death.
Tigers pitcher Joba Chamberlain told Sports Illustrated, “I’m not a big heights person. I can get through it, but I don’t like heights.”
So maybe he’s not terrified, but it counts.
Back when he was playing for the Nuggets, the Knicks Kenyon Martin said his biggest fear was: “Motorcycles. I don’t fool with motorcycles.”
Good call, boss. Very good call.
Niners running back LaMichael James is terrified of Disneyland’s Space Mountain. Yeah…him and everyone else in the world.
Sorry, but roller coasters are scary.
The Flyers' Hal Gill was asked what his biggest fear is by Athlon Sports back in 2012. His response: “Bats, I don’t like bats. I’ve never been comfortable with them. They don’t know where they’re going. They’re blind. They just come by and get in your hair. They’re nasty.”
They really are nasty.
WNBA player Tammy Sutton-Brown has to deal with one of the greatest fears of all females (and maybe even some fashion conscious males) who travel frequently, which is losing your luggage.
“I’m afraid of my bag not making it when I travel, so I always pack a pair of @VictoriasSecret in my purse.”
It probably doesn’t sound terrifying unless it’s actually happened to you.
This one may not count as a persistent fear, but Marty Simpson, former University of South Carolina kicker and the team’s first High School USA-Today First Team All American football player ever, gave the best answer of all the athletes I asked personally.
Simpson's biggest fear is a recurring dream in which he has to kick a field goal during a game, but he’s wearing church shoes and a suit! Apparently he still has that dream today, more than 15 years later.
Apparently Tiger Woods is a practicing germaphobe. He’s so concerned about germs that he even makes his own beds in hotels to avoid the grubby mitts of strangers contaminating his sleeping space.
NASCAR driver David Ragan took a page right out of Ricky Bobby’s book when asked what his greatest fear is. Not much scares Ragan, except the possibility of never winning again.
If you ain’t first, you’re last.
You probably wouldn’t know it to look at him, but the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph is terrified of cats. In an interview with Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine, Randolph confessed: “I’ve got a crazy phobia about cats. For some reason, I’m always thinking they’re going to scratch me. If a cat walks up, I’m going, ‘Oh no, this dude about to scratch me—I know it!’ Cats scare the hell out of me.”
Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper can deal with NFL defenders climbing all over him, but he would freak out if snakes were crawling all over him.
Awhile back Broncos safety Michael Huff was asked about his biggest fear by Patrick Snow of Athlon Sports. His response was classic and probably pretty relatable to other reformed troublemakers: “That would be my mom. Oh yeah. I was an only child, grew up with my mom. I don’t know if I can say this, but she beat me a few days when I was a bad little kid. I deserved it, obviously. Yeah, mine would be my mom.”
To be fair, Huff's mom does sound pretty scary.
Many people out there think nothing scares MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, but they’re wrong. According to her, there is at least one thing that scares her. Sayeth Rousey:
“I am really scared of getting camel toe on national television. That just scares the crap out of me. If you notice, I’m constantly pulling my pants down when I fight, because those are some tight little spandex shorts.”
Apparently during a Fox Sports North broadcast of a Timberwolves game last October, the broadcasters mentioned the fact that Kevin Martin is afraid of buildings.
There wasn’t really any additional information offered up, so feel free to speculate.
In January 2013 American snowboarder Travis Rice told ESPN The Magazine that his most irrational fear was: “Anything form paralysis to confined spaces, but they’re pretty rational.”
They are, in fact, pretty rational. Particularly paralysis.
Retired NFL linebacker Jordon Dizon, who last played for the Lions in 2009, is very understandably afraid of car accidents.
By the way, no one was seriously injured in that insane car crash pictured.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry has a well-known fear of horses, which makes things complicated when the mascot (which is obviously a horse or this wouldn’t be relevant) takes the field at Arrowhead.
There are only two things that scare the fastest man in the world, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt: Deep water and African killer ants.
Bolt may be afraid of African killer ants, which actually makes a whole lot of sense, but NASCAR driver Dexter Stacey is afraid of regular old ants.
Individually they aren’t very intimidating, but in groups they’re horrifying.
Sexy tennis star Rafael Nadal may be a beast on the court, but he’s a bit of a scaredy cat in his everyday life. Apparently Nadal is scared of dogs, spiders, storms, motorcycles and even the dark.
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton has been afraid of spiders since the day he was old enough to recognize they have way “too many legs.”
Arachnophobia is one of the most common of the many phobias and the only one (that I know of) that's been turned into a major motion picture.
Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman has had a serious fear of elevators ever since he got stuck in one at the dentist office.
Said Freeman, via Adrian Asis of TheRichest.com, “It was only like five minutes, but it felt like forever. Yeah, the elevator is horrible.”
Spurs big man Tim Duncan was actually a pretty impressive swimmer in his youth, but he had to give it up when practices were moved from a pool to the ocean following a hurricane.
Duncan’s extreme fear of sharks made it prohibitive. At least the whole basketball thing worked out.
Golfer Keegan Bradley’s greatest fear is being average. Specifically, he doesn’t want “to go through [his] career without being noticed.”
He’s fighting an uphill battle there, but best of luck to him! Golf needs more stars.
The Williams sisters, particularly Ms. Serena, are two of the toughest women in sports. Good luck trying to terrify them…unless you have a horror movie!
If only Sharapova could get them to play The Exorcist during a competition, she might actually beat Serena someday.
The fact that Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez is afraid of needles is one of the many things to be learned from the Biogenesis investigation.
Apparently A-Rod had to be injected with…what have you…by noted slimeball Anthony Bosch.
When asked by the Los Angeles Times about his greatest fear in December 1993, Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky said, “I don’t think there’s any question my biggest fear is that I can’t protect my kids.
So it’s safe to say that daughter Paulina is, officially, his worst fear. This is why parents always want to have boys—which I can say, being a girl.
Way back in August 2002, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told Bill Beuttler of Boston Magazine: “My biggest fear is to end up being a one-hit-wonder.”
Well, looks like everything is coming up Brady…as usual.
The Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard has a fear of historical statues that he traces back to his college days at Weber State.
He visited a wax museum, and the room of political figures just really freaked him out.
In April 2012, Ilya Bryzgalov, then with the Flyers, was asked if he was concerned about facing off against the Penguins. He made it clear that there’s only one animal out there that scares him—and it damn well isn’t a penguin.
Said Bryz, via CBS Sports, “I’m only afraid of bear, but bear in forest.” Apparently he knew someone who was once mauled to death by a bear…a bear in the forest. Russia is so scary.
In March 2013, Lakers great Kobe Bryant was asked about the team’s struggles and whether or not he was afraid of failure. Lakers beat writer Dave McMenamin tweeted Bryant’s response: “Kobe when asked about ‘fear’: “I don’t f- -k with bees, man. Other than that, I’m not afraid of nothing.”
Nothing except bees.