In the past few years, we’ve seen some fantastic examples of men behaving badly in the sports realm. While many athletes maintain that they are not to be considered role models simply because of their physical prowess, a select few who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that parents tell their children not to be like them.
Some examples are a team effort: the Minnesota Vikings and the Love Boat, the University of Miami’s Seventh Floor Crew, the Duke Lacrostitute (or Lacostitute) Scandal (though the rape allegations look increasingly shaky, it’s nonetheless a bad situation).
However, since it’s a bit difficult for a single person to emulate a whole team, in the interest of this column we’ll be focusing on the biggest individual “do as I say, not as they do” losers in each of the four major sports, with the ultimate asshole being decided in a battle royale.
First, representing the NHL, hitman Todd Bertuzzi. You’ll have to go back two seasons to remember this incident (as with any incident in the NHL... badaboom!). Bertuzzi, an All-Star forward for the Vancouver Canucks, took it upon himself to suckerpunch Colorado Avalanche center Steve Moore. The catch? Bertuzzi’s punch landed on the back of Moore’s neck, breaking it, leading to a concussion and other minor injuries.
Next, representing the NFL, Terrell “it’s never my fault” Owens. Owens has a colorful history of clashes with opponents, teammates and management. Owens has pretended to dump on the star in the middle of Texas Stadium, and called out former teammates Jeff Garcia as gay and Donovan McNabb as responsible for the Eagles losing the Superbowl. Last season, after being unable to settle a contract dispute on a year-old contract, Owens sat out the season for the Eagles (partly at the behest of the Eagles).
Honorable Mention: Randy Moss, the Vick Family — Marcus and Ron Mexico
From the NBA (and a disputed call, I’m sure), we’re going with Kobe Bryant. A quick note on off-court activities: Even if the charges are dropped, you were clearly still there, and in an inappropriate situation. Lucky for Bryant, a rock the size of a golf ball heals all marital ills. Secondly, trying to deflect the blame by insinuating that all players (including your teammate Shaquille O’Neal) do it does not absolve your sin. In fact, it makes you worse. Moving back to basketball, Kobe’s massive ego was one of the biggest contributing factors to the break-up of one the dynasties of the last decade. Yes, Jerry Bus is partially to blame, and perhaps Shaq as well — but in the end, the Lakers were left without Phil Jackson, Shaq or a playoff seed. Hope you enjoy that scoring title.
Honorable Mention: Latrell Sprewell, Shawn Kemp, Stephon Marbury
Finally, MLB. Here’s where I’m sure to get the most hate mail, but Barry Bonds is my hands-down winner. I’ve haven’t seen a circus this big since PT Barnum. The man ignores teammates, cheats on his wife, uses steroids, skips every third game now that he can’t, lies to grand juries and has the cajones to host a reality show depicting his pursuit of the most hallowed record in sports. Yeah, I watch it, but it only infuriates me more as I think about such a scumbag taking the title from a wonderful ambassador of baseball like Hank Aaron. Don’t get me wrong — he’s good, great, legendary even. But then again, you don’t get hated if you’re a nobody.
Honorable Mention: Albert Belle and, to reach way back, Ty Cobb
On to the semi-finals. Bertuzzi v. Owens, it’s no contest. Bertuzzi was sorry immediately following his isolated incident. He apologized profusely for his actions, bawling like a baby on national TV. You ever seen an asshole cry? Todd’s ultimately not a bad guy, just a man who made a very bad decision. Owens, on the other hand, has a rap sheet reaching epic proportions. He’s pissed off the Bay Area, Philadelphia and Dallas, which consequently now owns him. Get ready for another boom...
Kobe v. Barry is a bit tougher, but you gotta go with Barry as the winner here. Kobe’s gotten back to the playoffs, and done quite well when he incorporates his teammates. He’s made up with Phil Jackson, and while he and Shaq may never see eye-to-eye, they’ve at least put it behind them. Barry, on the other hand, looks worse than ever. The wear-and-tear is clearly showing, and he’s not even hitting well. The Giants are languishing in the basement, and there are rumors in the clubhouse that the circus is driving his teammates crazy. He’s a detriment all around right now.
The final showdown: Barry vs. Terrell. In a tight race, you gotta go T.O. as the official Biggest Asshole in Sports. At least Barry still has the unwavering and ignorant support of his hometown fans. T.O has left a trail of destruction. Barry continues to play (at least eight innings every two of three games), while T.O. is just wasting everyone’s time. The icing on the cake?
“I left a lot, and I mean a lot, of touchdowns on the field over the past two to three years.” - Terrell Owens
Way to be, T.O., way to be.