10 Athletes Who Get Unjustified Hate

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

10 Athletes Who Get Unjustified Hate

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Everything's a lot more fun with a great villain.

    How much would we care about Batman if the Joker wasn't around? Who would read the Superman comics if there was no threat of Lex Luthor getting in the way? What would SpongeBob SquarePants be without Plankton?

    The same goes for sports—it's the villain that makes things worth watching. It's the villain that creates the drama. It's the villain that turns the game into a story.

    And yet sometimes, it's important to take a step back and examine who it is we've chosen to be the villains.

    Do we sports fans hate the right people?

    Do all of the athletes on whom we focus most of our scorn and derision actually deserve it?

    Far too often, our hatred toward athletes has really no justification at all.

LeBron James

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    LeBron James is the face of antagonism in the NBA.

    While Michael Jordan was basketball's great hero, LeBron James is its great villain.

    He's hated with a fiery passion by virtually every fan living outside of South Beach. There are as many people who identify as "anti-Heat" or "anti-LeBron" as there are actual fans of most other teams.

    And for good reason. LeBron James did, after all...



    What? Exceeded the impossible expectations that were forced upon him as a high school student? Brought Cleveland from the depths of the earth to the top of the NBA, including a trip to the NBA Finals? Stayed out of trouble off the court with the whole world watching his every move?

    Look, I get it. The Decision was a bad idea.

    But LeBron didn't flee Cleveland early, he finished out his contract. He took less money for a better chance at winning a title, which is what we're always saying athletes are supposed to do.

    He made a poor decision as a 25-year-old kid.

    But who wouldn't? The world made his decision the most important news story on earth, so why not make a TV special out of it and raise some cash for a good cause?

    LeBron James is going to go down as one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA. You can either resent it, or sit back and enjoy watching history every single night.

Tim Tebow

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    Never has a man who has done so little wrong been so hated by so many people in the history of sports.

    No, Tim Tebow is not a good NFL quarterback. He doesn't have the skills to cut it, and he never will.

    But neither did Brady Quinn or Tim Couch or Akili Smith or Vince Young or David Carr or the other million first-round QBs who ended up being busts.

    Tim Tebow is hated for being unhateable. He's hated for being so loved.

    The media obsessed over Tebow, and sports fans did the same. Because of this, he became a polarizing character.

    Why is there a story on Tim Tebow throwing a pass in practice?! Why are people giving credit to Tim Tebow for winning that playoff game?!

    People seem to forget: Tebow didn't ask for any of this. He went about his business, he never did anything remotely wrong, he played his hardest, and then he was gone.

    Don't hate Tim Tebow. Hate the people who put him under a spotlight that he never should have been in.

Tony Romo

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    What do Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler all have in common?

    They all had a lower passer rating than Tony Romo's 96.7, the product of another excellent season that included 31 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and a whopping 3,828 passing yards.

    Not bad for a guy that every Dallas Cowboys fan in the nation would happily see beheaded.

    Tony Romo has made a lot of mistakes. He's made some pretty awful plays in the postseason and generally disappears once December rolls around.

    Tony Romo is also, however, one of the best quarterbacks the Cowboys have ever had. He's never had a passer rating under 90. He's thrown for at least 4,000 yards in four of his seven complete seasons as a starter and tossed at least 25 touchdowns in six of them.

    The issue, of course, is his 1-3 playoff record.

    But how much of this should we really pin on Romo? And how much can we thank the QB for getting the Cowboys that far in the first place?

Johnny Manziel

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Johnny Manziel quickly became the bad boy of college football after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman launched him to an unprecedented amount of bad press.

    He embraced his new celebrity status and used it to live the lifestyle of the rich and the famous: meeting Hollywood stars, sitting courtside at basketball games, golfing at Pebble Beach and the list goes on.

    Then there was the autograph scandal. (Was this really so wrong?)

    The immature tweets. (OK, so he needs to learn when to keep things private, I'll give you that.)

    The party photos. (Raise your hand if you went to parties in college. Thought so.)

    The Vegas trip. (Shame on you for using your money and your free time to do something fun with your friends...)

    I mean, Manziel was acting like a complete child, which is totally unacceptable, considering the man is—

    Ah, that's right. Twenty-one years old.

    Here's why you shouldn't hate Johnny Manziel:

    He's an electric player, and he's fun to watch. Most of the mistakes he makes are blown way out of proportion. Most of the mistakes he makes are no worse than the mistakes any of us made at that same age.

    With time, Johnny is going to learn the "rules" for living the celebrity lifestyle. If he never does, bring on the hate.

    Until then, let's cut the kid some slack and have fun watching him play.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

    Cristiano Ronaldo gets a lot of boos, and he know exactly why.

    According to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, Ronaldo had a very simple explanation for the negative reception he received during a game back in 2011.

    "I think that because I am rich, handsome and a great player people are envious of me," he said. "I don't have any other explanation."

    I mean, he's got a point.

    He's the richest athlete in the entire world. He's got movie-star looks. And he's probably one of the top two footballers on the planet.

    Ronaldo has definitely got a reputation for flopping—but who doesn't? Isn't it really just part of the game?

    So maybe he's not the most humble athlete in the history of sports, but I'm just saying: Don't hate on a guy for having everything you've ever wanted.

Chris Bosh

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Why do people hate Chris Bosh?

    I mean, literally, what's the point of hating Chris Bosh?

    Since joining the Miami Heat, Bosh has heard choruses of "overrated" and "soft" and "incapable of being an NBA big man." Fans laugh at him and criticize him and make fun of him, and reporters don't care about him.

    Sure, he hasn't exactly been a superstar on this Miami team, but how could he be in a lineup with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? In fact, despite never getting the spotlight, he has arguably been the most important piece of Miami's four consecutive runs to the Finals.

    At the end of the day, I just don't see the point in hating a guy like Chris Bosh. He's the third-best player on his team. You aren't going to see his face on commercials. He doesn't make an obscenely high amount of money.

    He's just a pretty good basketball player trying to do his part for a really good team. Nothing to hate about that.

    And besides, what other player in the NBA can turn any game into the experience of watching Jurassic Park?

Eli Manning

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    In his 10 seasons in the NFL, Eli Manning has become one of the most hated players in all of football.

    Ever since he whined and pouted and refused to play in San Diego after being selected first overall, thus forcing them to move him to New York, Manning has been viewed by all as a great big baby, an awful human being and an awful quarterback.

    But is he really all that bad?

    First of all, a decade has passed, and the kid has grown up. Are we really gonna hold a grudge on the guy for a temper tantrum that he threw way back when he was an immature college student?

    And as far as the on-field criticisms go, save for last year's disaster, Manning has turned in an impressive career. Maybe not quite up to his brother's standards, but who is?

    Besides, little Eli, amidst all of the hate and scorn, has two Super Bowl rings.

    Guess who can't top him in that category?

    I'll give you a hint—he's got the same last name and a much better reputation.

Tom Brady

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffers from what I like to call "Cristiano Ronaldo Syndrome."

    He's got it all.

    The looks. The beautiful wife. The money. The fame. The success.

    And so, because we envy him, the easiest thing to do is hate him.

    In fact, Brady was voted by fans as the most hated quarterback in the entire league.

    His response?

    "I live a great life."

    Yes you do, Tom. And boy, do we detest that.

Bryce Harper

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Washington Nationals phenom left fielder Bryce Harper was recently voted by players as the most overrated player in Major League Baseball. 

    Fans think he's cocky. Other players just don't think he's that good.

    All of the above are, for the most part, wrong.

    Harper's big league success has been almost entirely overshadowed by the emergence of Mike Trout, who entered the league around the same time and turned in two of the best seasons ever—not by a rookie, not by a player under the age of 23, but two of the best seasons ever, period.

    Harper, who came in with even more hype, batted at least .270 and belted at least 20 home runs in each of his first two seasons. And for those of you who like advanced metrics, his 5.0 WAR as a rookie is borderline superstar status.

    This year, he's battling through injuries and hasn't had much of a chance to show off what he's got yet, but as soon as he's back on the field, expect a breakout year. And remember, he's only 21 years old.

    Harper works hard. He has no off-field drama. The biggest issue he's had in Washington was getting called out for not hustling during a game, more a sign of his youth and immaturity than his character.

    He's a great ballplayer and a great kid and has never done anything to earn a negative reputation as a ballplayer or a man.

    Five years from now, the kid's going to have a great resume and an even better reputation, and fans and ballplayers alike will realize they never had any reason to doubt that.

Richard Sherman

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    Richard Sherman rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with his over-the-top postgame rant after last season's playoff victory against the San Francisco 49ers, during which he proclaimed himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL.

    People had a lot of bad things to say about Sherman:

    Arrogant. Cocky. Obnoxious. Trash-talker. Thug.

    These people don't know the real Richard Sherman.

    They don't know the Richard Sherman who grew up in Compton, infamous for its crime rate and gang violence, and graduated at the top of his class. They don't know the Richard Sherman who got a degree from Stanford University. They don't know the Richard Sherman who still takes trips back to his alma mater, Dominguez High School, to talk to students about the importance of education.

    Sherman is one of the smartest, most passionate players in the NFL.

    He talks because it gives him the confidence to succeed.

    He's cocky because nobody else has ever believed he was good enough, so he has always needed to believe he was the best.

    He's over-the-top on the football field because he so intensely loves the thrill of competition and the glory of victory.

    Hate Sherman all you want. It won't faze him.

    He already knows he's better than you.

    Think I'm a genius? An idiot? Let me know on Twitter


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