When we ran down our list of all-time sports villains, we talked about guys we love to hate—stars who, for all their faults, still garner just enough grudging respect to keep us halfway reverent in our rancor. Now, though: now we're dealing with a different sort of jock, and what can only be called a very different sort of spite. The athletes who made this week's dubious cut are the worst of the worst, the Ashlee Simpson's, if you will, of the modern sports universe; they're loathsome beyond all repair, unlikable to the point of physical revulsion, so irritating that, well—
They make you want to throw things at your television set.
The crew at the Spot has never actually acted out our angst heave-ho style, but we've certainly had the urge—with remote controls and foot-long hoagies and just about anything else that's been handy in moments of particularly choleric spectating pique. So it goes with these irksome idols: you can't see them without getting just, well...there's not really a word for it, is there?; there's no describing the affective state produced by watching a cat you can't stand chase fame and fortune through the impenetrable medium of satellite TV, which maybe has more than just a little something to do with the projectile-launching impulse. Impotence is a pretty unpleasant emotion, is the thing, and if you can't even say how you feel, much less do anything about it—
The least you can do is inflict some pointless damage on an unsuspecting inanimate object, right? If nothing else, it sure does beat kicking the dog...
Number Five: Tim Duncan
Duncan is just like that asthmatic egghead who sat behind you in calculus class: he might be good at what he does, but it's miserable to be around when he's doing it. And yeah, we know we're hardly singing a new tune here, but seriously—would it kill the guy to be anything other than clinically boring from time to time? Bottom line: nobody likes a cadaver...especially when that cadaver goes for twenty and ten every night while flashing all the pulseless verve of a PBS programming director. Then again, we should probably be careful what we wish for, because spunk works best in controlled doses, and anyone who says you can't have too much of a good thing has obviously never had to endure...
Number Four: David Eckstein
Do us a favor and dial it down a notch, huh Sparky? The Hey-look-Ma-a-manic-midget! schtick was cute for awhile, but Eckstein's gung-ho routine has grown stale to the point of intolerability—not least of all because the national media insists on casting the little guy as a latter-day Horatio Alger protagonist. Tim McCarver can talk all he wants about hustle and intangibles; we can't look at the pint-sized shortstop without thinking of Eddie Gaedel on Ritalin. If nothing else, though, here's hoping that Eckstein can at least serve as an example for all those impressionable young ballplayers out there: remember kids, just because you're small of stature doesn't mean you can't grow up to be an enormous pain in the ass.
Number Three: Peyton Manning
Right, right, we got it Meat—the cat calls his own plays...and if he could just do something about the acne and that Gomer Pyle drawl, he'd be in business. Pointless personal digs aside, the gawky Colt makes the list for one very simple reason: he's a huge dork. Quarterbacks, in a word, are supposed to be cool; they date hot chicks and swagger with authority and generally carry themselves like they know exactly how good they've got it. Which is certainly detestable, in its own cliched way, but it's nowhere near as bad as Manning's hokey stumblebummery...because if you're lucky enough to be blessed with megastar talent, the least you can do is act like you appreciate it. So for godsakes, Peyton, please: don't waste what you've been given. Get out there and wreck a motorcycle. Or wax a supermodel. Or, if you're really feeling saucy, maybe even win a big game for once. That we'd pay to see...
Number Two: Roger Clemens
Forget the annual retirement spectacles. Forget the self-righteous hauteur, the absurd contract stipulations (sorry, no road trips), the woefully undignified fawning from the stiffs at ESPN. Hell, even forget the fact that, for all the hullabaloo, we're still talking about a guy who's spent the last two decades consistently wilting in high-pressure situations. There's plenty to pick on with Clemens, but there's only one thing that really gets us—one thing that has us itching to cut loose every time his mug shows up in our living room: the names. Koby. Kory. Kacy. Kody. Roger, good Christ—are you really so lame? Is your ego really so fragile, your psyche really so twisted, that you had—just had—to go with the K motif for all your kids? K for strikeout, because you've been such a badass power pitcher over the years. K for strikeout, because you've got nothing to offer your progeny besides a legacy founded upon a game invented for schoolchildren. If you ask us, big fella, that isn't anything other than pathetick.
Number One: Phil Mickelson
Never has finally winning the big one done so much to sully an athlete's public image. Before Mickelson's 2004 Masters triumph, he was, simply, Lefty, the lovable loser who always seemed to be just a few agonizing steps short of finally clearing the Major hump. Now, though—now the endearing hard-luck aura has fallen away, and all that's left is Phil as he actually is: an arrogant, oafish butterball. In the interest of full disclosure, the Spot staff hereby admits, on record, that we're incredibly jealous of the dude's smoking-hot wife—but that bias doesn't dilute the power of what is an otherwise dispassionately objective disdain. From the puerile tiff with Tiger to the Van-de-Veldian collapse at Winged Foot, Mickelson has been just plain grating in the last two years, and his stubbornly oblivious demeanor certainly hasn't helped his cause. More than anything else, in fact, we're tempted to chuck sofa cushions at TV Phil on the dim chance that it might somehow snap him out of his perma-stupor. Constructiveness is the name of the game, after all, and far be it from us to degrade ourselves and our art by resorting to petty potshots, even if, you know—
Man boobs. Soft sloppy udderous man boobs. There: we said it. Christ, talk about a load off the ol' chest...