Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The List: Most Despised Athletes - All-Time

Here's a list of my most despised athletes of all time.

1. Terrell Owens

Still active (sorta), Owens is a prime example of the diva athlete. Owens manages to make my blood pressure exceed normal limits, and produces my most vile diatribes in recorded memory - things I used to reserve for the deification of Pete Sampras, for example. The worst part is he doesn't understand why he's hated - that takes the cake for me. Tuh-rell, you are a terrible human being. You live your life for one person, yourself, and no, that is not ok. You live in a society, bud. There are other people around you, which you hurt with your bad behaviour. Grow up.

Worst part is, Nick Saban has expressed interest in signing Owens in the offseason. This will create one of my biggest dilemnas of all time as a sports fan: my beloved team, which I've loyally followed since the age of 10, turning to my most hated athlete for help. What to do? Can some Eagles fans weigh in on how to cope? Yankee fans probably felt similarly towards the signing of Mark Bellhorn, but at least he sucked.

2. Darcy Tucker (*ucker)

Somewhere inside Darcy Tucker, there is a human being. That is not always evident, mind you. Tucker is the perfect embodiment of Leaf Nation; crass, unsportsmanlike, dirty, whiny. Those of you who are Sens fans understand what a mongrel this character is. One time, Tucker got hit so hard he ended up over the boards and into the Sens bench. *ucker then decides to start a fight, right there and then! Some might call that courageous, I call it stupidity. He ended up having to get rescued by the officials, who must have done so with gritted teeth considering the amount of times Tucker tries to induce penalties by flailing about on the ice like a fish out of water.

Speaking of which, that's another thing for which Tucker is notorious - diving. It got so bad at one point that officials refused to stop play when he was faking an injury. Sheepishly, Tucker got up off the ice and headed towards the bench. What a disgrace.

Despite all of this, he is characterized by the Toronto-centric media as "gritty", "all-heart", "tough" and a "team player". In the rest of the country he is known for what he really is: a cheap-shot artist who dishes it out but can't take it. Here's to hoping he remains a Leaf for the rest of his pitiful career.

3. Pete Sampras

I understand it might seem strange to have a tennis player on the "most despised list", one who kept quiet for his entire career. If a tennis player were to induce venom, you would expect Yanick Noah, Jimmy Conors or Johnny Mac to make the list. Nope, I reserve my worst feelings for Pete Sampras, the Man Who Ruined Tennis.

Considered by some (including John McEnroe) to be the greatest player of all time, I'd rather have him remembered as the man who mercilessly drove a stake through the heart of tennis. In my eyes, "Pistol Pete" was nothing but a power player who lived off his big serve to pummel opponents into submission. By loading up on his powerful and accurate serve he would rake up ace after ace, or force weak returns which he could bury with overhead smashes. Nothing drove me crazy like hearing analysts drool over this style of play, as if he was this brilliant serve-and-volley maestro. Meanwhile, the popularity of the game plummeted because seriously, who wants to watch 3 second spurts of action rather than long, strategy-laden rallies?

Yes, Sampras dominated the game for a long time with this style of play, but I reckon he wouldn't have been able to do it with the old wooden rackets. That's what saddened me about Johnny Mac sucking up to him with those long, glorifying speeches he'd get into when analysing a Sampras match - McEnroe, in his prime, would have crushed Sampras if those old rackets were used. The proof is in the pudding: Sampras never won Wimbledon, on a surface that slowed his serve down.

More than any other sport, personality plays a big factor in tennis. Which is why Agassi, McEnroe, Connors, Becker and co. symbolize the golden age of the sport's popularity. When Pete came onto the scene and started serving his way to glory, he did it in a way that inspired no one. His body language during matches led one to believe he was nothing but a 200 pound gorilla, repeating the same motions over and over again. Even during his "epic" matches with Agassi, Pistol Pete rarely showed emotion. He was as bland a superstar as they come.

4. Jim Kelly

Four straight Super Bowl losses. Heck, if I was a BILLS fan I'd dislike him! Yes, I'm a Dolphins fan. Yes, Jim Kelly was a thorn in my side during my formative teenage years. but wouldn't you agree that there was just something tangibly loathable about Jim Kelly? He had such an arrogance about him, one of those guys that just makes one's skin crawl when he speaks.

The K-Gun offense was effective, but even the name makes me sick. The K-Gun. There was a point in his career where he and Marv Levy (class act) were feuding because Kelly wanted to call the offense from the huddle. Can you imagine that today? Right, his name is Peyton Manning. And he's America's Darling, right? For those of you who are reading this and are too young to remember Jim Kelly and the essence of futility that were the Buffalo Bills during the 1990's, imagine Peyton Manning's attitude, with half the talent.

Yes, Kelly got his team to the Super Bowl on four straight occasions, often at the expense of my beloved Dolphins. Perhaps I'm being too hard on him, but I can't help myself. Some things are beyond reason. be continued...