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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mike Bradley: Devendorf Syndrome: Players We Love To Hate

We are all guilty of it. No matter the sport, everyone has a player they simply love to hate. The trend can probably be traced back to its roots when Ty Cobb was the polarizing, racist, cheap, standoffish star that drew the ire of the country. Since Cobb's villain routine in the early 1990s, many other American athletes have taken his path (whether they wanted to or not). The player who draws boos wherever he plays; The guy who knows how to push the buttons of the average fan; The prima donna who simply has no time for the media or his devoted fans; Even the star that time and again sticks the dagger through the hearts of your favorite teams. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the amount of hatred felt towards them remains constant. With Laettner, Redick, Noah, and Hansbrough on the short list of the crowded college basketball hate wagon, the other sports don't get their due. So without further ado, Standing Room Only presents to you some of the most loathed active athletes in the other major sports. I look forward to the hate mail and the additions to the list I'm sure you will all provide me.


1. Alex Rodriguez - The biggest forgone conclusion on this list, A-Fraud has siphoned absurd amounts of money from his team while returning the favor with stellar regular seasons and more-than-forgettable postseason debacles. But thank God for his brand-new 10-year, $275 million contract. God only knows how he'd pay for his divorce, child support, and his next secret rendevouz with Madonna on his old, $252 million deal. 

2. Derek Jeter - No, this isn't a Yankee bias. Yes, many people do love Jeter. No, you can't find any of those people outside of New York City. In his younger days, Jeter probably deserved the praise he was given. However, its 2009, not 1999. "Mr. November" hasn't been playing in November (or late October, for that matter) since 2003. He's slower, his masterful glove work is no more, and he's not as reliable as the New York faithful would like to believe. He's the heartbeat of the most hated team in the sport, and you can bet it pleases more than a few people that this heart is starting to have a few clogged arteries.

3. Francisco Rodriguez - In my defense, K-Rod would have made this list even if he was still an Angel. If you put any other top closer in a position to save 70 games, chances are they would be able to save 60+ of them. The only difference is they would do so with much more class. If you're a major league pitcher, you should be able to strike out a batter from time to time. A slight fist pump or an acknowledgment to the man upstairs is justified, but what Rodriguez seems to do after each "big" strikeout is just unnecessary. Jumping off the mound, exaggerated fist pumps, battle cries, and general showmanship are all staples in K-Rod's classless routine. Add to that his brand new contract and his new residence in New York City, and you have a recipe for a big, boiling pot of hatred.

Dishonorable Mention: A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey, Jr. (Just kidding.)

1. Terrell Owens - Coming in 2nd in a photo finish with A-Rod for the overall Hated Championship is Mr. Terrell Owens. He insinuated his quarterback was gay while in San Francisco. He called his quarterback a choke artist in Philadelphia. He manufactured a sob session about his quarterback in Dallas. And he now has his third and possibly final "fresh start" with Trent Edwards and Buffalo. His reputation really precedes him, making anything I say either unnecessary or redundant (or both). So I'll just wait and see what the next chapter holds in the tragic comedy that is Terrell Owens' career.

2. Tom Brady - Three Super Bowls. GQ covers. Supermodel wife. How could anyone NOT hate this man? Bernard Pollard did what millions of people across the country wish they could have done when he tore up Brady's knee in the first game of the season. But, sure enough, even a year away from the game couldn't get Brady out of the limelight. From hour-by-hour rehab updates to wedding plans to the Cassel Controversy, the country got more news on Tom Terrific than they probably would have had he played the whole year. No one loves a sore loser, but a sore winner is even worse. Here's to hoping Brady's knee is never the same again.

3. Philip Rivers - Has anyone who has done so little ever been so cocky? A few playoff runs don't give you the right to do what Rivers does on a daily basis. His numbers are nice and the Pro Bowl nods are admirable, but running onto the field to taunt a dejected Jay Cutler epitomizes what kind of person Rivers is. It's hard to imagine all those numbers looking as good without LaDanian Tomlinson causing defenses to load the box and allowing Rivers to dump short passes over the middle to Antonio Gates. But the hatred for Rivers lies not in his numbers or his skill, but in how he carries himself as a person. Until he grows up, he will never mature into the quarterback he should be. And until that happens, there will always be a plethora of haters.

Dishonorable Mention: Ray Lewis, Shawn Merriman, Tony Romo, Chad Ocho Cinco


1. Kobe Bryant - No player draws the ire of opposing fans more than Kobe Bryant. His tenacity and his effortless ability to put the ball in the hoop are envious assets. Much of the hatred is rooted in his ability on the court. But he is equally hated for his issues off the court. Rape trials disappearing, throwing teammates and coaches under the bus, a general standoffish attitude, and the ludicrous Jordan comparisons have made Bryant one of the most polarizing figures in sports. Until he wins a title "on his own," both fans and Shaquille O'Neal will be content rooting against Black Mamba.

2. Ron Artest - Brawler, Technical Foul Extraordinaire, Rapper, Solid Basketball Player. That is most likely the order that Ron-Ron has gained his notoriety from in the eye of the public. From the Brawl at the Palace, to his uninspiring solo rap career, to his constant jawing on the court, Artest is about as likable as a case of gonorrhea. Despite his tenacious perimeter defense and steady scoring output, Artest has had a hard time avoiding the boo birds at any of his stops around the league. At least he can take in solace in the fact that he definitely got the better of that fan in Detroit.

3. Rasheed Wallace - The only man in the NBA who could out-talk Artest is Rasheed Wallace. The Walking Technical is a favorite amongst the referees of the league and the fans alike. Outside of Detroit, 'Sheed and his white spot of hair are the constant butt of jokes, jeers, and general disdain. With a South Philly background off the court to match his gritty style on the court, Wallace doesn't have much wiggle room in the court of public opinion.

Dishonorable Mention: Stephon Marbury, Gilbert Arenas, Nate Robinson


1. Sean Avery - From his fight-provoking on-ice antics to his off-ice callouts, Avery knows exactly what to do to get on a person's bad side. From the goofy looking glasses he sports to the little mohawk he occasionally sports, Avery even makes his appearance compatible to hatred. All I know is I'll be sure to avoid his "sloppy seconds." I wouldn't want a public airing-out like the one Dion Phaneuf received (Even though Elisha Cuthbert is smoking hot).

2. Sidney Crosby - While much of is haters simply hate his pure skill, his constant whining, nagging injuries, and "golden boy" aura certainly don't help things. You either love this guy or you hate him. Donned The Next Gretzky since his days in the junior leagues in Canada, Crosby has been coddled from day one. And no one likes an athlete that was fed with a golden spoon in his mouth.

3. Alexander Ovechkin - Much like Crosby, you either love Ovie, or you hate his guts. One of the best pure scorers to come along in quite a while, Ovechkin has made the Capitals relevant. The manner in which has gone about it, however, has drawn some criticism. The NHL isn't the NFL, and the league expects their plays to exemplify the "tough grinder" image that has always been associated with the sport. However, Ovechkin's "Stick on Fire" goal celebration was the closest the NHL has gotten to a Randy Moss-esque controversy. With his undeniable skill comes an equally undeniable ego. With a long future ahead of both him and Crosby, expect a lot more fireworks to come from this loathsome duo.

Dishonorable Mention: Martin Brodeur, Gary Bettman

Worst of the Rest

1. David Beckham - Supermodel good looks. Supermodel Wife. Illustrious European Career. Incomprehensibly large contract. David Beckham is an A-Rod/Brady hybrid. What makes it worse is that he plays a sport that this country couldn't care less about, making his absurd salary that much more anger-inducing. 

2. Tim Tebow - He's won two national champions. He's a Heisman Winner. He's gone on missionaries to underprivileged countries. And rumor has it he's solved world hunger, cured AIDs, and ended gang violence. Long story short, the quintessential Golden Boy is perfect enough to make any non-Gators fan sick to their stomach. I can hardly wait for his 2 year NFL stint before his inevitable concussion problems. 

3. Tony Stewart - Not that I'm well-versed in things NASCAR, but I do know Tony Stewart defines the term diva in the racing circle. Add to that his god awful Old Spice commercial, and it's enough for even a non-racing fan to hate his guts. *

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