10 Most Misguided Bromances in Professional Sports
Sure, now you say something, Dirk Nowitzki. It’s just a good thing you waited until after you won that championship for the Dallas Mavericks to tweet Tony Romo, “Dear tony romo. Don't worry abt all the critics. I heard that same garbage for a long time. Keep working hard and keep improving."
Could this be simple words of encouragement or the start of a misguided sports bromance? It’s easy to see how Romo and Dirk were very similar: both were stat stuffing, good to great regular season stars who faded away in the big games/playoffs with questionable leadership abilities.
The thing is, Dirk’s abilities can no longer be questioned after leading his Mavs to an unexpected championship over the Miami Heat. Romo, on the other hand, will always be questioned until he wins it all. No longer is Dirk just a great regular season player, no longer is he the questionable leader with a soft streak, no longer is he the “Romo."
Dirk, trust me, it’s not the time for a bromance with Romo; it will turn out bad for the both of you. You will just overshadow him in height and in Dallas sports stature. You’ve passed him by; don’t go back.
Here’s a look at some other misguided sports bromances in no particular order that probably started out with the greatest of intentions but ended badly. Maybe you guys/girls can rank them or tell me who I missed.
Mike Ditka/Ricky Williams
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What wasn’t to love about Ricky Williams going into the 1999 NFL Draft? In his senior year at Texas, he became the NCAA Division I-A career rushing leader in 1998 with 6,279 yards (broken one year later by University of Wisconsin's Ron Dayne).
Williams had a monster senior season, starting out like a beast in his first two games, rushing for nine touchdowns and 385 yards. Williams also had two 300+ yard rushing games against Rice, where he went for 318 yards and six touchdowns, and Iowa State, where he went for 350 yards and five touchdowns. In the great Texas/Oklahoma rivalry game, he rushed for 166 rushing yards and two scores.
Williams finished up his senior season with eye-popping stats. He carried the ball 391 times for 2,327 yards while recording 29 TDs. He averaged six yards a carry and 193.9 yards per game.
The question was, would a team give away their whole draft, plus two picks in the next draft for the great Ricky Williams? Yes and yes.
Then New Orleans Saints head coach Mike Ditka gave away it all, and with a smile while smoking a celebratory cigar. Ditka even took his bromance for Ricky to the next level, posing with him as a married couple on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Hey, at least Ditka wasn’t wearing the dress.
Needless to say, this misguided bromance did not work out for the best. In a strange move, Williams hired rapper Master P as his agent to negotiate his contract. He was standoffish with the media, later being diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety disorder. Any outsider looking in could see it was the wrong move.
In the end, Williams wound up spending only three seasons with the Saints, putting up average numbers while not living up to expectations. Ditka was fired for the team's poor performance.
Minnesota Vikings/Herschel Walker
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A lot of teams and both the NFL and USFL were crushing on Herschel Walker as he was turning heads with a brilliant college career at the University of Georgia. After rushing for 1,752 yards and scoring 15 TDs, Walker decided to go for the money and come out after his junior year.
Walker could only accomplish this one way. With the NFL still banning underclassmen at the time, his only choice was to sign with the USFL. He chose the New Jersey Generals in 1983, thinking it was the best place to get endorsement deals.
In his first year in the USFL, Walker won the rushing title. He also won the rushing title in 1985 while also gaining over 4,000 yards in total offense. In his three-season USFL career, Walker rushed for 5,562 yards in 1,143 carries, averaging 4.87 yards per carry.
Believing correctly that the USFL was doomed to fail, the Dallas Cowboys made a brilliant move and drafted Walker in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL draft. By acquiring his rights, the Cowboys just waited two years for the inevitable, the collapse of the USFL.
When Walker finally came to Dallas, he registered two back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in 1987 and ’88.
Then, in 1989, in an unprecedented move of misguided bromance, the Minnesota Vikings made a Ricky Williams type trade, except this trade was on steroids. The Vikings traded a total of five players (LB Jesse Solomon, DB Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson, LB David Howard, DE Alex Stewart) along with six draft picks (which led to Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodson).
This trade made the Dallas Cowboys a dynasty.
For his part, Walker only spent two and a half seasons in Minnesota, never going over 1,000 yards rushing. Although, there was no Sports Illustrated cover to come out of this debacle, two years after the trade, in 1991, there was a change in team management, the head coach Jerry Burns retired and the team’s ownership structure was reorganized. Now that bromance had a hell of a break up.
James Dolan/Isiah Thomas
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Man, if I was a New York Knicks fan, these two would drive me mad. I got to know, what can Isiah Thomas possibly have on James Dolan? Scandalous pictures? Bank account numbers? Talk about your misguided bromances.
After running the Knicks into the ground and leaving them in salary cap hell, Dolan still claims his undying devotion to Isiah. Maybe Thomas was Dolan’s favorite athlete growing up. Maybe Thomas can still do no wrong in Dolan’s eyes. Maybe Dolan is just hypnotized.
Thomas’s record speaks for itself; here are just a few of his brilliant moves: signed Jerome James and Jared Jeffries both to full mid-level exceptions, traded for ball hog Stephon Marbury, traded Trevor Ariza for Stevie Francis, used first round picks which later became LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah to get the great Eddy Curry.
To be fair, and if you are stupid enough to believe Isiah, it was him who brought Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to New York. It had nothing to do with the money for Amare or Anthony’s wife’s influence for signing off on a trade to New York. Nope, it was all Isiah’s doing, his behind the scenes recruiting. Hey, at least that’s what Dolan believes.
Isiah is like that girl/guy in a relationship always taking advantage, while the person getting taken advantage of, Dolan, does absolutely nothing to stop it. Everybody on the outside of the relationship, Knicks fans/NBA fans, sees how wrong the pairing is, but no matter how much the loser in the relationship is told, they don’t want to hear it.
Even when somebody much better comes around (Donnie Walsh) who treats the person so much better, got the Knicks out of salary cap hell and gets them two stars and into the playoffs for the first time in a long time, the idiot, Dolan, still flirts and wants the wrong person back, Isiah.
And so goes the misguided bromance between Isiah and Dolan.
Al Davis/JaMarcus Russell
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First off, rest in peace, Al Davis; you truly were great for the NFL and all of sports. You had your time in the NFL, won three Super Bowls and you were a great innovator for the game.
“Just win, baby.”-Al Davis
With that being said, man, I feel like I’m in a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. The game had passed Davis by. This fact is clearly seen through his recent drafts and erratic hiring and firing of coaches.
Now, while there are a few, scratch your head at Al Davis draft picks to choose from, I’m just going to focus on two pretty recent picks that Davis developed a bromance for.
The first was JaMarcus Russell, the big-armed quarterback out of LSU. If there was one thing that Davis always loved in a quarterback, it was a canon for an arm. Al liked going long, and when he saw how far Russell can throw the ball, supposedly 60 yards while sitting down, it must have been love at first sight. Still on the board, to name a few, were: WR Calvin Johnson, RB Adrian Peterson, CB Darrelle Revis, S LaRon Landry.
Russell turned out to be one of the NFL’s biggest busts. He showed up overweight for training camps and had an, “I don’t give a damn attitude” once he got his guaranteed money. The honeymoon did not last too long between Russell and Davis. From what seemed like one minute of Davis defending him and the pick, staying on the “he needs time stance," to the next minute, of cutting him. JaMarcus Russell only spent three seasons with the Raiders, playing a total of 31 games.
Al Davis/Darrius Heyward-Bey
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The next notable Al Davis pick was Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, out of the University of Maryland. Heyward-Bey had Davis at his 40-time. As much as Davis loved his strong-armed QBs, he loved his speedy WRs just as much.
Davis had a long-running history of getting world class sprinters onto his team and getting them to play WR or CB, but he would do this usually by just signing them, not drafting them high in the first round.
For example, in 1993, Davis had a team that included James Jett, a gold medalist on the 1992 4 x 100 meter Olympic relay team, along with CB James Trapp, who was an alternate on that relay team. Then there was Willie Gault, who made the 1980 Olympic team as a sprinter, along with Sam Graddy, yet another gold medalist in a 4 X 100 meter relay in the 1984 Olympics. Graddy also got the silver in the 100 meters finishing behind just Carl Lewis.
Davis was always enamored with speed, and hence, his bromance with Heyward-Bey. The problem was, for speed to translate to the NFL, you also need guys who can cut, run routes and, oh yeah, catch. What good is having a receiver who is always able to get open, but when the ball gets to said receiver, he drops it.
Davis' misguided bromance can be seen on Sundays while watching Heyward-Bey. Just watch, Heyward-Bey will out-run coverage, but then watch as he’ll drop the ball. What compounds the mistake of drafting Heyward-Bey was that a linebacker in the Raider mold, Clay Matthews, was still on the board, along with WR Hakeem Nicks. Matthews went 26th and Nicks went 29th. I ask you, Raider Nation, would'nt you rather have traded down instead of picking up Heyward-Bey with seventh overall pick?
Dan Snyder/Joe Gibbs
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Now 46 years old, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder grew up watching them as a youth and was a devoted fan. He was able to experience the Golden Age of Redskins football lead by head coach Joe Gibbs. Snyder must have had some kind of man crush on Gibbs when he basically turned over the fledgling team to him in 2004.
Gibbs impressive resume included four trips to the Super Bowl, three Super Bowl championships, a 16-5 playoff mark and a 140-65 record in 12 seasons. The problem with this misguided bromance was the small fact that Gibbs resigned in 1993, and was out of football entirely for a decade in favor of running a NASCAR racing team.
It was pretty clear to see that Gibbs was not really interested in the long hours of the NFL and was content with his new, successful career path. This did not deter Snyder with romancing Gibbs. Snyder was intent on bringing him back to his beloved Redskins and was not going to take no for an answer.
When Snyder landed Gibbs, the controlling owner, who some would call an interfering owner, relinquished power to Gibbs.
In his first season back, Gibbs went a disappointing 6-10 and it looked as if the game had passed him by. In his second season back, Gibbs went 10-6, making the playoffs, and things were looking up in Washington. Third season back, Gibbs went backwards, going 5-11.
Then in 2007, the Redskins went 9-7 with a playoff appearance. However, after an ugly loss in the first round against the Seattle Seahawks, Gibbs had had enough and announced his retirement two days later.
Gibbs' reasoning was that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Leaving Snyder high and dry, Jim Zorn took over as coach and the Redskins continued their downhill path.
Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco
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Two loud-mouth, primadonna wide receivers on the declining side of their careers on the same team? What can possibly go wrong, right? This was a disaster waiting to happen, and everyone knew it.
The funny thing was, Terrell Owens actually had a very productive season. Even with missing the final two games, Owens was the team’s leading receiver, finishing with 72 receptions for 983 yards, along with nine TDs. Chad Ochocinco took a little of a secondary role, finishing with a respectable 67 receptions for 831 yards, along with just four TDs. Ocho’s numbers were not up to his standard.
They just did not work well together on the field. I would have liked to be in the locker room to hear them after a game where Owens was targeted more than Ocho, or the other way around. I can only imagine the horrific season that Carson Palmer must have had with Owens in one ear and Ocho in the other.
One has to wonder if the horrible 4-12 season coupled with the teaming of Owchens (yeah I did it, I coupled their names together like a gossip rag) played a large part in the retirement of Carson Palmer.
This misguided bromance of Owchens even continued off the field. They teamed up for their own show. On Versus, The T.Ocho Show focused on highlights from their respective VH1 shows and Owchens discussing their view on the NFL.
Here are two little gems from the Sporting News;
“This is coming from the perspective of two professionals. We play the game, we live the game and viewers will get to live it through us week in and week out,” Chad Ochocinco said in a news release. “Versus is taking a big risk giving us this show. It's gonna be dangerous. Watch with care.”
“This show will be an open forum for me and Chad to talk about things that don't get talked about in the mainstream media,” Terrell Owens said in a news release. "It’s an opportunity for two of the biggest loudmouths that have been in the league the last decade to voice their opinions and poke our chests out a little."
Did anyone watch this show?
Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretzky/Bo Jackson
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I know it isn’t a misguided bromance but I had to put this threesome on the list. In 1991, NBC convinced Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson to use their images for a Saturday morning cartoon titled ProStars. Hey, at least they didn’t voice the characters themselves. But they did, however, appear before the show, telling the kids about the upcoming episode, dealing with morality.
The premise of the show was Jordan, Jackson and Gretzky teaming up together to fight crime and help children, often to protect the environment as well. The idea of the series was to showcase the best athletes of all four major American professional sports in the early 1990s.
While Jordan and Gretzky were easy choices for their sports, Jackson was chosen because he could represent both baseball and football. Bo Jackson’s popularity was at an all-time high at the time due to his "Bo Knows" Nike ad-campaign, which was worked into almost every episode.
Jordan’s character was the leader of the group. He was the really smart one and would tell children to study science and math. Gretzky was the comic relief and Jackson was the really strong one.
Episodes usually focused on villans who were damaging the environment through deforestation of the rainforest and pollution.
This ridiculous show lasted only 13 episodes. I have to admit, I watched.
Roger Clemens/Andy Pettitte
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When Andy Pettitte was on the New York Yankess in the 1990s, he was the unknown, no-name pitcher who was part of a rotation that included highly popular players with huge personalities like David Wells and Roger Clemens.
Roger Clemens, a fellow Texan, took the shy Pettitte under his wing and became a close friend and mentor. After the 2003 season when Clemens retired, Pettitte decided to sign with the Houston Astros. To honor Clemens, Pettitte switched his number to 21. Then, in a true brotastic move, Clemens came out of retirement to join his buddy.
In 2005, behind the strong performances of Clemens and Pettitte, the Astros made their first trip to the World Series.
In 2007, when Pettitte headed back to the New York Yankees, once again, Clemens followed him.
I always wondered if Clemens was following Pettitte around in order to keep a close eye on him. Was Clemens so worried about Pettitte fessing up about his alleged steroid use so much that he wouldn’t let Andy out of his sight? If this is true, it was crazy, because it was what actually happened. Pettitte was called to testify in federal court.
In late 2007, Pettitte admitted to using the HGH on two occasions in 2002. He claimed he used to help heal an injury so he can return to the team as soon as possible. He said it was not used to enhance his performance. He denied any other occasion where he used HGH during his career; he also denied use of steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug. He lied.
Next, in 2008, according to an affidavit made public, Pettitte admitted to another occasion where he used HGH twice in one day in 2004. He claimed that he got the HGH using a prescription that was for his seriously ill father.
Then, and here comes the kicker, also in this affidavit, Pettitte recalled being told by former Yankees teammate Roger Clemens in 1999 or 2000 that Clemens had recently received injections of HGH.
Clemens’s explanation was that Pettitte "misremembered" Clemens's 1999/2000 HGH remark. Clemens’s story was that what Pettitte really heard was not Clemens talking about his HGH use but rather his wife’s HGH use at the time.
Before the 2008 season, Pettitte reported to Yankees spring training and gave an emotional apology to fans for his past drug use. During the same press conference, he said the performance-enhancing-drug scandal has put a "strain" on his misguided bromance with close friend and former teammate Roger Clemens.
I don’t know, it might just be me, but I don’t feel like Roger Clemens was the best person to be a mentor. Hopefully the two kissed and made up.
Matt Millen/William Clay Ford Sr.
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This is the James Dolan/Isiah Thomas misguided bromance of the NFL. However, it may be worse.
Did Matt Millen and Isiah Thomas go to the same school of mind control? Were they both calling each other, giving the other tips and advice on what to say to the dumb owner to keep them happy?
I like to picture Thomas and Millen playing a game of “Who can mess up their team more?” Or maybe a game of, “How many bad moves can I get away with?”
I, like many other NFL fans, just cannot explain the Fords' fascination with Matt Millen. How can the whole family sit back, watching the demise of their team while just being OK with it? Did they believe it was everybody else’s fault but Millen’s? Did they believe Millen was having just a string of bad luck with his draft picks?
Here are just some stats from Millen’s reign over the Detroit Lions, which began in 2001, and oh yeah, Millen had no prior player development or front office experience at the time. In seven full seasons as the Lions CEO, the team had a record of 31-81; that’s a .277 winning percentage. Only two NFL teams were worse than that in the entire history of the league.
Millen also drafted horribly. Some of his choices included fragile Michigan State WR Charles Rogers, Oregon QB Joey Harrington and USC WR Mike Williams. All of these high picks turned out to be busts.
How did owner William Clay Ford, Sr. deal with Millen’s failures? He rewarded him with a five-year contract extension at the start of the 2005 season.
In turn, Millen gave him a 3-13 season. And yet, this still was not enough to fire Millen. After the 2006 season, Ford told the media that Millen would remain the team’s general manager for at least one more season. In 2007, the Lions went a surprising 7-9.
In 2008, Millen was finally let go. He quickly landed on his feet, getting an analyst job. I wonder what the last straw was. I wonder if Millen gave back the Ford family member he was holding for hostage during his tenure.
I even feel sorry for Lions fans. At least he got them Calvin Johnson?