Some athletes rise to the top of their sports and stay in the spotlight seemingly forever, like Michael Jordan, David Beckham, or Butterbean. Even after they retire, many of these high-profile sports stars stick around as coaches, or do color commentary on a sports network, or maybe become the spokesperson for auto insurance or some really snazzy gloves. But that isn’t the destiny of every athlete. Some of them will take a step back from the limelight, and not always intentionally, because life can throw you a curveball, even if you’re a pitcher.
So what exactly happens to those sports stars who make a name but don’t stick around, who retire from their game of choice and go back to the regular world with the rest of us? Not all of them have all that sweet endorsement money to keep them afloat. Some of them need to get real jobs that are maybe a little less glamorous and a little more 9-to-5.
Tito ‘Your Homework is Due’ Santana
In the 1980s, Tito Santana was going toe to toe with the likes of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior in the WWF. In fact, along with Hogan, Santana is the only wrestler from the WWF’s extensive roster who made an appearance at each of the first nine Wrestlemanias. He made his mark as a tag team champ all the way back in 1979 and also reigned as intercontinental champ for a spell as well, proving to be a fan favorite and a guy who could get through a match with Doink the Clown without feeling ashamed.
Santana’s various gimmicks included El Matador and half of the Strike Force tag team with Rick Martel, and he was even immortalized in animated form in Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling cartoon.
After leaving the WWF and taking a spin on the independent wrestling circuit, Santana went back to living life as Merced Solis (his legal name) and semi-retired to New Jersey. According to ESPN, Solis currently teaches Spanish at a middle school in New Jersey, though he does make occasional ring appearances for special events. Maybe he bodyslams the odd kid who doesn’t turn in their homework.
America’s hardcore sweetheart, Kerri Strug
Kerri Strug’s performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics was iconic and unforgettable. After her teammate Monique Moceanu failed both her vault attempts, the gold medal that seemed so certain only a short time before was at risk of slipping through their fingers. Dramatic!
Strug’s first vault jump was not good, and she injured her ankle badly, as she told Huffington Post in 2015. But not making a second attempt would mean forfeiting to the Russians, so on a painful ankle she went all out and nailed it. Her landing was picture perfect and she sealed the victory for Team USA, becoming an instant hero in many people’s eyes. Her coach had to carry her to the podium to accept the gold as she was unable to walk by that point, her leg already wrapped and in a giant splint.
After the Olympics, Strug went to college, first UCLA and later Stanford where she earned a degree in sociology. After spending some time working as a second-grade teacher, she moved on to government work and is now listed as a grant manager at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Karl ‘Not Literally a Mailman But Maybe One Day’ Malone
Two-time NBA MVP Karl Malone was also a 14-time NBA All-Star and scored 36,928 career points , second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also holds a record for most free-throw attempts and most defensive rebounds in NBA history, and even won two Olympic gold medals. The man was just super good at what he did.
After retiring from the NBA, the sports star entered the business world and really spread his wings, becoming a kind of mega-entrepreneur who did just short of everything. He owns an Arby’s, three Jiffy Lubes, a Burger King, and numerous other businesses, which at first makes it seem like he’s still living a life a little more elite than the rest of us. But also consider how he lives it. For a time, Deseret News reported, he was even in the
trucking business . And he wasn’t just running the business, he was driving the trucks himself.
Now sure, Malone doesn’t need to drive truck to make ends meet, but he’s a man who likes to keep busy and who understands the value of a hard day’s work, so he drove the trucks for the fun of it. After all, someone needs to haul the timber. Why not him?
Giovanni Carmazzi, yoga goatherd
Though you may not recognize the name, in the 2000
NFL draft, Giovanni Carmazzi was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers. He was the second quarterback drafted overall, and was, as Business Insider points out, drafted ahead of the now-legendary Tom Brady , so he should be a big deal, right? Well, Carmazzi was on the roster as a backup QB for the season but didn’t even get a minute of regular-season play in the league. Despite that, he did play against Brady in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game where he completed a disappointing 3 of 7 passes according to the New York Times . Okay, so maybe not the biggest sports star, but at least he played.
After his time in San Francisco ended, Carmazzi left the NFL and went on to play in Europe and Canada for several years before retiring. Because he was drafted before Brady, ESPN looked him up years later for a documentary. Carmazzi, who doesn’t even own a TV, declined to be filmed for the documentary and told ESPN he’s a bit off the grid these days as a practitioner of yoga and a farmer who owns five goats. Truly, success comes in all shapes and sizes.
Vin Baker: From multi-millions to mochaccino
Vin Baker played in the NBA for 13 years and the
Washington Post notes he appeared at four consecutive All-Star games. What should have been a remarkable success story took a bit of a left turn, however. Unfortunately, myriad personal problems plagued Baker, not the least of which was substance abuse. He told Boston’s WBUR he played his first stoned game in 1996, smoking weed before the game and surprising himself by having the best outing of his career to that point. From there it was a rapid downhill spiral of substance abuse, both drug and alcohol, and financial irresponsibility. While he amassed a $100 million fortune, according to Forbes, he lost everything by the time he was done.
Baker managed to turn himself around on a physical level, getting clean and sober, but he was dead broke. He needed a way to support himself and those he cared about, so he called up Howard Schultz. Schultz was his former boss and owner of the SuperSonics, who also happened to own Starbucks. As Baker told Connecticut’s WNPR, Schultz offered him a job at the coffee chain and he took it. Baker was given his green apron and started doling out lattes to make ends meet. It may not be as glamorous as life in the spotlight, but it’s an honest day’s work and he can wow fans by spelling their names incorrectly on the side of cups now.
The Picture Pitcher, Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson holds the title of the oldest player to ever pitch a perfect game, and is one of only five pitchers to pitch no-hitters in both the National and American leagues in baseball, according to ESPN. Sporting News notes he had a career 4,875 strikeouts in his 22 seasons, ranking him second to only Nolan Ryan. Not too shabby and a decent legacy to have in the game.
After retiring from the big leagues at age 47, he fell back on an old passion –- photography . As he told WTOP, Johnson had been a photojournalism major back at USC so it’s a natural second career for him, and something that gives him not just a creative outlet, but a far less physically demanding and stressful one. Randy Johnson Photography is a fairly prominent business, and he’s known for some of his excellent concert photography, having taken pictures on tour with Metallica, KISS, and Rush, among others. Being a former pro ball player does open some doors for you. He’s also photographed USO tours and gone to Africa to capture images of wildlife, which sounds like a decent trade-off as far as careers go.
Maya DiRado got out before she got pruney
At the 2016 Summer Games, Maya DiRado took home
two golds, a silver, and a bronze in swimming, putting her at the top of her game and positioning her to become a legend in the sport if she chose to pursuit it. The options for continuing on competitively, going into coaching or getting endorsement deals must have been plentiful. She’d competed at the collegiate level at Stanford University, and in various mid-level games for several years before qualifying for the games in Rio, so it seemed as though chlorine might be in her blood. But hey, things happen.
Prior to the Olympics, DiRado and her husband, also a swimmer, had purchased a home in Atlanta where they’d planned to settle down. As mentioned in a
Washington Post profile, she’d already been offered a job as a business analyst with McKinsey and Co. as well thanks to her degree in management science and engineering. As far as swimming went, she’d accomplished the goals she wanted to accomplish and that was enough for her. Now she probably just smokes people at the public pool on weekends and spends the rest of her time taking it easy.
Mark Wohlers went off his mark
Mark Wohlers spent 12 years as a relief pitcher, mostly with the Atlanta Braves. He holds the record as the third-fastest pitcher in baseball history with a 103-mph fastball that he tossed out during spring training back in 1995. Seemed like he was definitely in the right industry, but it was not meant to be.
However, he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to colloquially as Steve Blass syndrome or the yips, which is what you call it when a pitcher seems to lose their ability to control the ball. Wohlers left the game for good. These days Wohlers can be found in Atlanta, where Realtor.com points out you can find the real estate business he runs with his wife and maybe get him to sell your house if you’re so inclined. The two of them are known as Team Wohlers and are doing well in their career together. Wohlers probably never has to hurl a rock through the window of a competitor’s property at 103 miles per hour. Ever.
LaRue Martin knows how to deliver
Back in 1972, LaRue Martin was at the top of his game and the biggest prospect in the NBA. He was taken first overall in the draft by the Portland Trailblazers, so this guy was on the money. But once he was in the big time, things didn’t go as planned for the Loyola star. The New York Post notes he averaged just 5.3 points in 14 minutes per game in four seasons which, if you’re not super into basketball, is pretty much the opposite of what you want a first round pick to be doing. He blames it on not getting enough playing time, while others thought he just couldn’t cut it, but it doesn’t matter anymore. His career was a little lackluster, something he readily admits, but past is past and he still needed to provide for his family.
After he left the game he snagged a job with UPS . As he told Northwest University’s Medhill Reports, he started from the bottom, driving a delivery truck and learning that UPS didn’t hand out a lot of its brown uniforms to 7-footers like him. From there he worked his way up to Illinois district public affairs and community services manager where he’s praised for his work ethic and the positive impact he’s had on the company.
Rick Steiner wrestles with real estate and school boards
One half of the legendary Steiner Brothers tag team from WCW and WWE wrestling, Rick Steiner was a powerhouse in the ring whose gimmick played off of him being somewhat beastly and animalistic –- they called him the Dog-Faced Gremlin. He managed to be an eight-time tag team title holder in the WCW and snagged it twice in the WWE, not to mention a run as WCW’s heavyweight champ.
After leaving the ring behind, he put those skills he used to sell a show to an audience to good use by selling real estate. He also serves on his local school board, where the Associated Press pointed out that despite being disqualified in 2006 for using his Rick Steiner stage name instead of his legal name, Robert Reichsteiner, he was still elected as a write-in candidate after running unopposed. He ran again for a third term back in 2014, and he won that one , too.
Don’t cross Adrian Dantley
With 23,177 points, six-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley was ninth on the all-time scoring list at the time of his retirement. A machine when it came to free throws, owing to an uncanny knack for getting fouled like people were out to get him, Dantley routinely averaged over 30 points a game during his heyday.
Unfortunately, a couple serious injuries slowed his pace, and after 15 years in the game he retired following his recovery from a broken fibula that had sidelined him for an entire year, according to NBA.com.
Dantley pursued coaching for a few years and then, in 2013, the Washington Post reported he was working as a crossing guard in Silver Springs for $14,000 a year. Of course, the story wasn’t what other outlets made it out to be — Dantley wasn’t in dire financial straits, he was just trying to be a good citizen. He likes working in his community and likes helping kids, so it fit into his routine and gives him a lot of time off. No weekend work and a summer vacation … what’s not to love?
Antoine Walker knows how to not spend your money
After being drafted sixth overall in the NBA’s 1996 draft, Antoine Walker filled the gap left by Larry Bird and led the Celtics in scoring in his rookie year. He went on to become a three-time All-Star and NBA champ, averaging 20 or more points in five of his seven seasons in Boston, according to the Boston Globe , and racking up over $100 million in his career. Fame and fortune are definitely not easy to manage, however, and by 2010 the sports star was forced to file for bankruptcy.
In so many words, Walker lost literally everything to the temptations of living large — helping friends and family, buying fancy cars and homes — until it was all gone. How do you blow through $100 million so quickly? Walker told Complex that one day he bought a Maybach Mercedes on a whim, setting him back around $400,000.
Now, in a unique position in life to understand what it’s like to be on top and fall, he works as a consultant with Morgan Stanley Global Sports and Entertainment, according to USA Today, helping young athletes learn how to manage money and not go down the same ruinous path he traveled, tossing out money like rice at a wedding.
Some athletes rise to the top of their sports and stay in the spotlight seemingly forever, like Michael Jordan, David Beckham, or Butterbean. Even after they retire, many of these high-profile sports stars stick around as coaches, or do color commentary on a sports network, or maybe become the spokesperson for auto insurance or some really snazzy gloves. But that isn’t the destiny of every athlete. Some of them will take a step back from the limelight, and not always intentionally, because life can throw you a curveball, even if you’re a pitcher.
So you’ve made it to the Olympics. No, not as a spectator, although getting tickets to the biggest events is a pretty impressive feat in and of itself, but as an athlete. You’ve worked your butt off for this. Suddenly there are TV cameras in your face everywhere you go and a ton of pressure on your back. You can do the right thing and train up until the minute your name is called out, or you can go a bit crazy. Why not get drunk, find a bed partner, and eat a bunch of fast food? And if you get too stressed there’s always a therapy dog to calm you. This is the sort of crazy stuff that goes on behind the scenes that regular viewers like us never get to see.
They eat a ton of McDonald’s
Olympians have to be disciplined in so many areas of their lives. They have to wake up early and work out numerous hours a day. They have to be available for random drug tests all the time. And, of course, they have to be fastidious when it comes to diet. That is until they actually get to the Olympics, when being careful about food seems to go out the window.
It all comes down to McDonald’s being a sponsor.
According to Eater , they don’t just get to set up a restaurant in the regular Olympic park for chubby punters to enjoy, they also have an outpost in the Olympic Village itself to cater to all those eight-or-more-ab-packed Olympians. And they want to give those athletes a reason to show up, so in Rio they offered free food to all of them. The problem was it became too popular, and it’s probably not shocking that people who work out all day without getting paid can really pack food away, so they finally had to add a limit of 20 items per order.
Mickey D’s can be a welcome sight in countries that don’t have Western food. Usain Bolt found that out when he was in China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
ESPN says his autobiography recorded him eating 1,000 McNuggets over 10 days of competition, as well as mountains of fries and the odd apple pie to sate his sweet tooth.
Everyone in the Olympic Village is boning
Some athletes have to compete repeatedly and stay totally committed to their sport, but some have more one-and-done events and find themselves with two weeks of time on their hands. And, shockingly, these people who have been working out every day for the past four years are in really good shape. Really good, really sexy shape. And they suddenly find themselves surrounded by equally athletic, attractive people with lots of free time. So they do what most anyone would do in that situation and start boning like their lives depend on it.
According to CNN , event organizers expected 2018 in Pyeongchang to be the sexiest Olympics on record. Only 100 more athletes competed than in Sochi, but 10,000 more condoms were shipped in for a total of 110,000.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Olympic Village is composed of nothing more than bedrooms and bored athletes. But in reality the participants have a lot of things they can do that doesn’t involve bedroom gymnastics (or bedroom luge, for the adventurous). They have food available 24/7, gyms they can work off that extra energy in, and even multifaith areas where they can go and pray for gold. How depraved are these people that they choose belly-bumping their sculpted abs over church?
It’s not just the athletes. While there are about 37 condoms per person to last them two weeks, media members get their own supply. Even spectators get some.
They get drunk and do interviews (as well as other things)
After you’ve proven to the world that you’re the greatest at what you do, you might think you deserve a cheeky drink. And that’s fine in theory, but you’re representing your country and sometimes alcohol leads to problems.
Take Hope Solo, the famous soccer goalie for the U.S. women’s team. According to Business Insider, she admitted in 2012 that her whole team went out celebrating the night after they won gold in 2008. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating your win, unless, that is, you know you have a TV interview early in the morning. Solo says the girls went out and got off their faces, then changed clothes and went on Today without any sleep. Fortunately, they hid their drunken drowsiness well, with only one slip-up when Solo called the Games the World Cup.
Athletes who talked to ESPN say some coaches do try to ban alcohol consumption before competitions, but it doesn’t always work. But once the closing ceremonies come around, everyone is finished with their sport and can completely let rip. One participant said, “They basically throw us all in a stadium and say, ‘Just go for it, party hard, get drunk, and do some groping.'” What you don’t see on TV is athletes arriving drunk, then sneaking away to get even more drinks before rejoining the scrum on the field. It’s the last chance for them to go wild for four years.
They get their dental problems fixed at the Games
There are a lot of perks to being an Olympian: the Wheaties’ box covers, the national recognition, the Olympic Village aggressive cuddling. Perhaps the most surprising is that if you have problems with your teeth you can get them fixed for free, but only once you get there.
According to the Spokesman-Review , being an Olympian does a number not only on your body but on your teeth. Or as the dental director for the International Olympic Committee Paul Piccininni put it, “They have bodies of Adonis and a garbage mouth.”
Dental problems get so bad that it can actually stop athletes from competing, which is why every games has a bunch of dentists standing by to fix any issues. And you don’t have to break your teeth slamming face-first into a wall on the skeleton; these can be problems that built up over time. Athletes spend their days training and drinking sugary sports drinks that do a number on their teeth. Mouth guards wear away enamel. Even dehydration from working out can affect your tooth health. It’s a perfect storm of problems, and since they don’t hold down normal jobs, a lot of participants don’t have good dental insurance. But they know if they can just make it to the games they can get all the necessary work done for free. It’s not weird to have an athlete come in in the middle of the night for root canal surgery.
They cost an absurd amount of money to put on
If you’re just a casual observer of the Olympics, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re great value for the money the host cities throw at them. Sure, they have to build a bunch of special stadiums, but they get so much free advertising for two weeks it might as well be millions in free travel advertising. Unfortunately, just about every metric shows that hosting the games is a money sink.
The Council on Foreign Relations cites Andrew Zimbalist, author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup . According to the book, every Olympics since 1960 has cost a lot more than expected and didn’t make any cash out of it. By 1972, Denver actually became the first selected host city to turn down its bid because someone realized how much it would actually cost. The 1976 games in Montreal were so costly it took three decades to pay them off, according to statistical blog FiveThirtyEight .
It’s gotten so bad that several aspiring host cities have pulled bids. Oslo and Stockholm both backed out of their 2022 bids, and Boston dropped the 2024 games, with the mayor saying he wouldn’t “mortgage the future of the city away.” And more are following suit. It seems the Olympics just aren’t a good investment.
‘Post-Olympic depression,’ for winners or losers
The buildup to an Olympics is long and intense. Some people have been working every day for almost their whole lives just to get there, medal or not. Competing leads to a huge adrenaline dump, and many people, if they placed last or came home with the gold, have a hard time coming back from that.
According to The Atlantic, Michael Phelps is perhaps the biggest example of this. He won a record eight medals in Beijing and then completely collapsed. He said he “barely trained” for the 2012 London games and in 2014 got a DUI. He said he fell into “the darkest place you could ever imagine.” But he is far from the only one. Mark Spitz, the Michael Phelps of the 1970s, had such a hard time moving on from his swimming fame that he tried to qualify for the Olympics in his forties. And there are dozens of others who have admitted falling into a deep depression after the Games.
Clinical sports psychologist Kristin Keim says the key is to build a personality off the playing field. Too many athletes throw themselves so into their sport that they don’t see how they’re important or worthy without it. Caroline Silby, a sports psychologist and former competitive skater, says a lot of athletes fall prey to something we can all have at times: “impostor syndrome,” where we think we’re just tricking everyone into thinking we know what the hell is going on.
Qualifying can be more stressful than competing (and therapy dogs help)
Most people don’t care about 99 percent of sports at the Olympics until the games actually start. Curling qualifiers aren’t exactly the Super Bowl when it comes to coverage. But the athletes are out there doing their thing week after week, and in some cases actually qualifying for the Olympics can be harder than finally being there.
In the run-up to the 2018 Pyeongchang games, People reported Lindsey Vonn didn’t go anywhere without one of her furry friends. While she has three dogs, the tiniest, Lucy, accompanies her everywhere as she trains and qualifies.
Petcha says it even goes beyond that. In preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the USA Swimming program brought in 30 dogs to act as therapy pals for stressed-out swimmers. It seemed to help, so they expect this trend to continue. Something about looking in a dog’s eyes and knowing he just wants petting and love helps create distance from the intense stress of the Olympics.
During the 2014 Sochi Olympics there was a bit of a stray dog problem, and lots of feral furry friends were euthanized. But when people heard what was happening many of them adopted the stray dogs. Slate even came up with creative ways you could add dogs to various winter events — wouldn’t having a pooch in figure skating be a huge step up?
Infrastructure is always a problem
The 2014 Sochi Olympics became famous for how crappy they were. Athletes showed up and soon started flooding Twitter with images of everything around them that wasn’t as you would expect. Sochi had years of preparation to get this done; surely doors should be able to close correctly! But the problems at Sochi were nothing new. According to GQ , the problems were par for the course at the Olympics. The 1900 games in Paris were so disorganized that some athletes competed and had absolutely no idea what they had just done, helped by the fact that there were no medal ceremonies.
It was so hard to get to the 1904 St. Louis Olympics (no highways to Middle America yet) that only 12 countries showed up. The 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid were also dogged by transportation issues, with just 80 of the 300 planned buses running. And public transport is terrible at the best of times.
Sarajevo’s 1984 Games were a complete farce, considering they were involved in an actual war at the time. The bobsled track was used as an artillery stronghold, among other crazy thing that would seem weird if you read them in a novel.
Then there was Sochi 2014, where lightbulbs became a bartering tool among athletes. People were especially desperate to trade for door knobs. Some had no pillows, and others found paint still drying in their rooms. Ahh, luxury and paint fumes.
They used to pay taxes on their winnings
There are very few things you can do to make your country look better than winning a medal at the Olympics. Unfortunately, the (U.S.) tax man doesn’t care about that, or he didn’t until very recently. He still wanted his cut of the money.
The problem was that Olympians get paid cash for winning by their national Olympic committees. Also, although gold medals aren’t pure gold and silver medals aren’t pure silver, they’re still worth something and therefore can be taxed. A gold medal is worth about $600, silver around $300, and poor lowly bronze didn’t get taxed because it was worth less than $5.
Then there’s the cash. The Olympics themselves don’t reward athletes, but their individual country’s Olympic programs do. According to Fox Business, an American gold medalist takes home $37,500, and gets taxed on it. In 2016 at the Rio Olympics, Michael Phelps was left with a $55,000 tax bill after winning six medals, according to Time .
Eventually, President Obama realized this was crazy and said only Olympians who make more than $1 million per year through sponsorship and whatnot have to pay taxes on their winnings ( via Yahoo Finance ). And since superstars like Shaun White are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to endorsements, that means most athletes no longer have to pay tax on their winnings. Just hope none of them go on to win a Nobel Prize, since that still gets a visit from the tax man.
It costs a huge amount to get there
Getting to the Olympics means you’ve beaten the best in the world, become superpowers at the top of your sport. Or it just means you can afford it. Plenty of talented athletes miss out on the gold because they can’t afford it.
Indian luger Shiva Keshavan has been training for years in the foothills of the Himalayas. Amazingly, according to CNN , he doesn’t actually get much snow and trains on a sled with wheels. And it has taken him to the Olympics every games since 1998 when he was just 16. In his 20 years of Olympics he has only been able to afford a part-time coach and had a regular job at a restaurant on the side. He barely made it to the 2018 Olympics because he couldn’t afford the flights needed to get the places where he would qualify. And training isn’t cheap. According to him it costs $100,000 a year, with a basic sledge costing $5,000 minimum.
Luge isn’t the only high-ticket sport. Time says figure skating is another one of the priciest, with coaches making $120 an hour. And these are kids that train many hours a day, six days a week. Parents have to really commit to their children’s Olympic success, with training, costumes, and various other fees costing $50,000 a year by some estimates.
And there are many more. If you want to be an Olympian, be prepared to give up years of your life and thousands of dollars to achieve your dream.
No one wants their sports heroes to be mere mortals. Not when they can be golden gods, capable of feats the rest of us lowly humans could only dream of. No mere mortal can stick that landing, run that 4.7 40, or hit that long ball 600 feet.
But behind the million-dollar publicists, watered-down personas, and endearing shoe commercials, athletes are still just men and women. Men and women who won the genetic lottery, for sure, but they often have deep, dark sides, and the money to keep those dark sides under wraps.
For every O.J. Simpson, there are ten athletes who did something awful and somehow seemed to just walk away. What makes these Teflon sportsmen so special? How did their time in the courtroom not affect our fandom in the living room?
Here are just a few of the athletes who’ve done horrible things, and somehow survived with their reputations intact.
Adrian Peterson exposed cultural fault lines after disciplining his son
Not that long ago, Adrian Peterson was considered the best running back in the NFL, racking up seven Pro Bowl appearances and being named first team All-Pro four times. Unfortunately, one fateful incident nearly derailed his career, his reputation, and his life.
On May 18, 2014, Peterson attempted to discipline his 4-year-old son for fighting with his brother. What he did next has been highly debated , often along lines of culture and class. While some parents may have chosen a timeout or just grounded the boy, Peterson used a switch, which is basically a light branch, whipping his son on the back, legs, arms, and behind.
When the boy returned to his mother, a doctor claimed the wounds were evidence of child abuse, resulting in
an indictment for misdemeanor reckless assault and a lost year in the NFL. Peterson would come back the following season and win another rushing record, but his reputation has never been quite the same.
Kobe barely escapes rape trial
For Kobe Bryant, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, which might explain why he’s still a free man. Younger NBA fans may not remember the Laker legend’s brush with the law, but back in the summer of 2003 it was the biggest story in sports.
Bryant, already a three-time NBA champion, was staying at The Lodge & Spa in Cordillera, Colorado, prepping for off-season surgery, when a hotel employee claimed the Lakers icon raped her. According to her interview with the police, Bryant choked the 19-year-old front desk attendant before forcing himself on her. The case was brought to trial and quickly turned ugly. Her reputation savaged in court, the accuser announced she wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution, pursuing a civil trial instead.
The two eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, and Kobe continued his career, winning two more titles, countless accolades, and a freakin’ Oscar. These days, most fans don’t like to dwell on how close the all-time great came to spending the rest of his career behind bars. It’s more convenient to think about the good times.
Peyton Manning apparently couldn’t handle rejection
Whether he’s winning Super Bowls, hosting awards shows, or pushing pizza, chances are Peyton Manning’s doing it in some sort of aw shucks, non-offensive manner. This guy has made bank by being bland, and yet even one of the most market-tested athletes of our time can have a skeleton in the ole’ closet.
Back in 1996, while Manning was still a student at the University of Tennessee, he apparently asked out a female personal trainer, Jamie Ann Naughright, and was quickly rebuffed. Unhappy with her answer, he proceeded to drop trou, shoving his nether bits into the woman’s face. But here’s the thing, Manning was the school’s star QB at the time, so his punishment was mild, losing dining hall privileges and being forced to do some early morning runs. Naughright, unsurprisingly, wasn’t satisfied with Manning’s dinner dilemma as punishment, and sued the school for $300,000.
All seemed settled until Manning wrote about the incident in his book, Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy, calling Naughright a “vulgar woman.” Thus, another lawsuit, and another settlement, which put a gag order on all parties involved.
That is, until Manning again brought up the incident in an interview with ESPN Classic Sports Century: Peyton Manning, forcing Naughright to go back to court one last time. Being a champion is one thing; knowing when to keep your mouth shut is another.
Jason Kidd tormented ex-wife
No one has ever played basketball exactly like Jason Kidd, the pass-first point guard whose leadership made up for his lack of a jump shot. Over his nearly two decades in the NBA, he racked up records like a hipster in a vinyl shop. Unfortunately, there’s another side to this b-ball lifer, according to his ex-wife.
She says Kidd isn’t the likable superstar fans see on TV, but a serial adulterer and abuser who made her life a living hell. According to documents Joumana Kidd filed during her divorce from the NBA superstar, he was sleeping with half the Western hemisphere while keeping her on a short leash using violence. She says he hit her while pregnant, once kicked her in the stomach, and attacked her with everything from a rock to a cookie.
Kidd’s counterclaim accused her of domestic violence and claimed she was “increasingly controlling and manipulative,” but a 2001 arrest for punching Joumana in the mouth seems to substantiate her story. The couple have been divorced since 2007, with Kidd going on to win an NBA championship and become a coach in the league, but the tabloid stories surrounding this nasty divorce will last a lifetime.
NFL player Kellen Winslow got turned on at Target
For some brands, the type of publicity that Kellen Winslow Jr. brought them back in 2014 would be worth millions, but for the NFL journeyman, it nearly cost him time behind bars.
It all began with Winslow’s arrest for possession of synthetic marijuana in a Target parking lot. Probably not the high point of the Pro Bowler’s life, but certainly not a career killer. That is, until NJ.com’s Dom Cosentino started digging around and found out that smoking counterfeit kush was just the tip of the icky iceberg.
Apparently, Winslow’s arrest came after a bystander noticed the tight end enjoying his Cadillac Escalade for more than the leather seats. That’s right, according to the police report he could have been flagged for holding his own miniature football player. By the time the police showed up, Winslow Jr.’s Junior was put away, and he was insistent there had been no public polishing of the helmet.
Instead, he said he was just looking for a Boston Market, which is a funny thing to call it. While the officer never witnessed Winslow in the act, the two open containers of Vaseline didn’t exactly scream a craving for rotisserie chicken.
In the end, he was only charged with possession, but that doesn’t mean all was forgiven. The locker room never forgets. Just ask his former teammate, Antonio Cromartie, who needled him via Twitter in 2015, asking if he’d been to Target lately.
Ben Roethlisberger twice accused of sexual assault
Ben Roethlisberger will never have to buy his own beer in Pittsburgh again. He’s a legend for life, and apparently nothing can change that. Any player that’s been accused of rape not once, but twice, and still gets to suit up every weekend is clearly untouchable.
The first accusation came from a civil suit filed by Andrea McNulty in 2009, claiming that the Super Bowl-winning QB forced himself on her at a Harrah’s hotel in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. She eventually settled with Roethlisberger out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Roethlisberger was again embroiled in a scandal in 2010, when an anonymous college student alleged he raped her in a bar bathroom in Milledgeville, Georgia. She eventually wrote a letter to the prosecution, asking them not to prosecute, not because she was recanting her story, but because she was afraid of the personal toll a trial would take on her.
Roethlisberger was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and lost a slew of endorsements. But, because if you can win on Sunday all is forgiven, Nike stood by him, and he eventually signed a record-breaking four-year contract with the Steelers, making him one of the richest players in football.
Jim Brown has been accused of attempted murder and rape
Jim Brown is celebrated for many things — his legendary career on the gridiron, his film stardom, and perhaps most importantly, his activism. He’s been at the nexus of sports and politics for decades, helping pave the way for stars like LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick. He’s also been charged with beating or raping women six times, including assault with intent to commit murder. As he told Inside Sports in 1981 after beating up a couple police officers who once responded to a call, “You got to have something, goin’ out dealing with 270-pound lineman for a living. You quit playing, but that doesn’t just go away.”
Over five decades, he’s been accused of beating a girlfriend nearly unconscious, beating and then throwing two women down a flight of stairs, and forcing himself on a woman in his home. His wife accused him of threatening to murder her, and he even served nearly four months in jail for refusing to attend domestic violence counseling.
In his memoir, Out of Bounds , the former football star
denied a number of the accusations , but did say he had slapped women. “And I never should have,” he wrote, “I don’t think any man should slap a woman. … I don’t start fights, but sometimes I don’t walk away from them. It hasn’t happened in a long time, but it’s happened, and I regret those times. I should have been more in control of myself, stronger, more adult.”
Alex Rodriguez was once the face of steroids
Whoever Alex Rodriguez paid to rehab his image over the last few years has more than earned their money. These days J-Lo’s better half is best known as the face of baseball on Fox, back in good graces with the Yankees, and was even floated as a possible manager for the team. That’s a world away from where he was a
few years ago, an unlikable clubhouse cancer, and the face of the sport’s steroid epidemic.
For years, A-Rod denied he ever took a banned substance, calling the rumors a ” witch hunt” and fighting tooth and nail to overturn his suspension for the entirety of the 2014 season. In a statement at the time he said, “The deck has been stacked against me from day one. … This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test.”
Meanwhile, behind closed doors, and under oath, prosecutors forced him to admit the truth . That he’d paid $12,000 a month for two years to a fake doctor in exchange for performance-enhancing drugs.
He told Joe Buck in 2017 that he would often lay awake at night, wondering, “How the F did I get myself in this position?’ I’m the only jackass that has pocket aces and figures out a way to lose the hand.” Well, if his beautiful girlfriend and charmed life are any indication, it looks like he got those pocket aces back.
Jameis Winston has repeatedly been accused of sexual assault
Jameis Winston is one of the NFL’s more promising young quarterbacks, helping to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to relevance. Unfortunately, his story is a lot more complicated than his Sunday celebrations would have you believe.
Winston’s issues began during his time at Florida State University, when he racked up a laundry list of infractions, from stealing $32 worth of crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix to stealing soda from a Burger King. He was also suspended one game for yelling vulgarities in the middle of a campus dining hall. And, sure, these mistakes may all seem within the bounds of a typical college kid acting out, but what happened in December 2012 surely wasn’t.
According to Erica Kinsman , a fellow student, Winston raped her and then worked with the school and local police to obstruct the case . The two would eventually reach a settlement, but Winston would win a Heisman Trophy and become the face of an NFL franchise. If a recent accusation of groping an Uber driver is any indication, Winston still has a long way to go to clear his name.
Ray Lewis was once accused of murder
These days, Ray Lewis is one of the faces of football on Fox, a broadcaster who opines every weekend and gets paid millions for doing it. Back in January 2000, he was still a star for the Baltimore Ravens, and about to take part in one of the darkest days of his life.
It was the night after Super Bowl XXXIV. Lewis and friends were leaving a nightclub in Atlanta when they got mixed up in an altercation that left two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, dead.
Lewis was originally charged with two counts of murder, but pleaded down to obstruction of justice after providing testimony against two of his companions that night, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. According to a witness the night of the murders, Lewis fled the scene, muttering, “I’m not trying to end my career like this.” And he didn’t, receiving one year of probation and a $250,000 fine.
Lewis insists that night is never far from his mind,
telling the Baltimore Sun, “No day leaves this Earth without me asking God to ease the pain of anybody who was affected by that whole ordeal.” Still, he’s gotten the chance to finish out his Hall of Fame-worthy career, which is more than most with a murder charge on their rap sheet could hope for.
Dez Bryant attacked his own mother
When people think of troubled NFL players, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott often comes to mind. But few remember that his teammate and
staunch defender Dez Bryant has also had a run-in with the law.
Back in 2012, Bryant was arrested for attacking his mother during an argument, hitting her face with his baseball cap and tearing her shirt after she tried to break up a fight between the wide receiver and his brother. In a police interview, Bryant’s mother said he “started talking about how he’s going to knock me out.”
While Bryant’s arrest could have resulted in a fine of up to $4,000 or a year in jail, he cut a deal with prosecutors, promising to stay out of trouble for the next 12 months. Bryant has gone on to become a three time Pro-Bowler and does seem to have stayed out of trouble. In 2013, he even spoke at a “Men Against Abuse” rally in Dallas, declaring, “I’m done with domestic abuse.”
Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson headbutted wife
In the end, it was a box of condoms that set him off. Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson has been a superstar receiver in the NFL, a reality show fixture and one of the most tenacious tweeters in football, but when Johnson was arrested in August 2012, he was a jealous husband wondering why his wife had bought a box of condoms.
What began as an argument quickly turned physical. According to a police report filed at the time, Johnson grabbed his then-wife, Evelyn Lozada, and headbutted her. By the time the cops had arrived, a three inch laceration was visible on her forehead.
Johnson ending up pleading no contest to misdemeanor domestic battery and was sentenced to probation. He and Lozada divorced shortly after the incident , having been married for only 41 days.
Johnson did end up serving time, though, after
celebrating his plea deal in court by patting his lawyer on the butt. The presiding judge was unamused, to say the least, and sentenced the football star to 30 days in jail, of which he served seven.
Ah, race car driving. The gasoline-powered sweet science. America’s favorite pastime to experience at 200 miles per hour. All the best left turns you could ask for. If competitive sports are an amusement park, then racing is the treacherous-looking Tilt-A-Whirl in the back corner that keeps throwing bolts and washers every time you turn it on. As such, it can attract some really odd ducks. “But how?” you may ask. “How could a world dominated by ludicrously high speeds and repetitive actions attract the quirky, the half-a-bubble-off-plumb, as race car drivers?” Yes, it’s a complete mystery.
Be that as it may, over the years, the field of ultra-fast vroom-vrooms and crash-bangs has brought in its fair share of irregular produce, psychologically speaking. It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Some of the world’s most interesting people are bananas. Let’s take a look at a few of the nutrageous bars who decided they wanted to go fast.
‘Tiger’ Tom Pistone: King of Atlantis
Retired NASCAR driver Tom Pistone would know a few things about cautionary measures. Pistone says when he started out, he raced on a seedy track run by a man named Andy Granatelli who hired race car drivers specifically to crash the other cars on the course, hoping to give the audience a thrill. Coming from a place of extreme showmanship would be enough to make anyone nervous, but even by those standards, Pistone may have taken things a bit far.
See, in 1960, during a qualifying run at the Daytona Speedway, fellow driver Tommy Irwin lost control of his car and crashed it into Lake Lloyd, the man-made lake at the center of the track. Did he drown? No, he did not. “And neither,” one assumes Tom Pistone shouted with his finger pointed heavenward, “shall I.”
So during Pistone’s race, he drove wearing a life preserver and an oxygen tube. You know, in case the worst happened to him. Even odd ducks gotta float.
Ryan Blaney desperately wants to be a Jedi
As the Star Wars universe continues to expand and slowly envelop everything in existence like heat death scored by John Williams, questions remain that keep many of us awake at night. Questions like “How many parsecs would it take for a stock car to make the Kessel Run?”
For the answer to that, consult Ryan Blaney. He’s, well, he’s not just a Star Wars fan. He may be the Star Wars fan.
The driver of the Number 12 Penske car has a deep and abiding love of a galaxy far, far away, and it’s a light he won’t hide under a bushel. The banner art for his podcast, ” The Glass Case of Emotion,” features an artist’s depiction of Blaney as Luke from the poster for A New Hope . He celebrated the release of Rogue One by
tweeting a picture of himself posing with a lightsaber and staring into the camera, unashamed. He even
attended the red carpet premiere of The Last Jedi, which is basically the Wonka Factory tour of nerdiness.
And in case you were wondering, he disliked that scene where Luke drinks milk out of a space aardvark just as much as you did. Ryan Blaney just loves Star Wars so much, you guys.
Jules Goux is not your role model
There are rules that are easy to take for granted, that we just assume have always been in place. They are the unspoken laws of the social contract: Don’t punch the petting zoo animals. No hoverboards on the escalator. Don’t down four bottles of champagne while you’re driving in the Indy 500. But it’s a tragic and — at least in the case of the hoverboard thing — hilarious truth that rules only exist because they have, at some point, been broken.
In 1913, during the third Indy 500 in history, Jules Goux was having a mighty fine day. He was in the lead after only five laps. During a pit stop on Lap 15, he ordered some chilled wine. Records vary somewhat, but historians broadly agree that over the next three pit stops he consumed between four and six bottles of champagne, or roughly four to six more bottles of champagne than a person is supposed to drink when driving a car with no safety features as fast as they can.
The end result? Race car drivers could no longer drink alcohol during races. Oh, and Goux won. By a ridiculous 13 minutes.
Jim Rathmann lied royally
Who hasn’t lied on a job application? Who hasn’t exaggerated a little bit about their skill set or claimed that they had more experience than they actually had or stolen their older brother’s identity and kept it for over 60 years?
Well, maybe that last one is more of a niche category.
The racer you might know as Jim Rathmann fits that niche. When he was young, Rathmann was still going by his given name, Royal Richard Rathmann. Royal wanted to go fast, but age restrictions prohibited him from doing so. So Royal did what any of us would do: According to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s website, he swapped IDs with his older brother Jim and entered a stock car race. The change stuck, and the newly christened Jim Rathmann debuted in the Indy 500 at 20 years old, and later became an Indy 500 champion and one of the most influential racers of his generation, albeit one with the wrong date of birth listed on his records.
Tom ‘The Gasman’ Sneva advocates for disappearing
Good luck finding Tom Sneva. The man is a human disappearing act.
You could say the trick goes all the way back to his infamous 1975 crash at Indianapolis, where he opened his magic routine by touching wheels with another driver, turning his own car into an automobile-based variation on the “cut a lady in half” illusion.
It was in that crash that he first started his vanishing act, losing, as Sneva himself told the Indianapolis Star, “a set of lips and a nose … but they grew back, bigger than ever.” Facial features weren’t all Sneva wanted to lose that day, though. He wanted his consciousness gone, too. He was later quoted as saying “In a situation like that it’s important to talk to yourself: ‘Faint, you coward, faint!'”
Today, Tom continues his journey into invisibility. He doesn’t own a cell phone or an email address. His reasoning? Then “people can’t find you.” Five bucks says he never needed an ice pack for those burns. He’s plenty chilling as is.
Bobby Unser really wants his $75 back
How far would you go for $75? Probably not as far as Bobby Unser.
In 1996, Unser underwent a harrowing ordeal. He and a friend were out snowmobiling in New Mexico when their vehicles broke down. They battled the elements for two days, essentially embodying the Liam Neeson spirit animal that lives in all humans faced with death by Mother Nature . Then they found a barn and hung out until they were rescued.
When they were rescued, it was discovered they had been snowmobiling in a designated wilderness area, which is a no-no at a federal level. They were charged a $75 fine. No big deal, right? If you go out on a quiet night in the canyons of New Mexico, you might still hear Unser replying with a bellowed, echoing “NO.”
Unser fought the fine, which again, was cheaper than some parking tickets, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. You’ll bounce back, Bobby. Uber is always hiring.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. shoots dead cars
At some point or another, we’ve all had a special collection of things near and dear to our hearts. Millenials had Pokemon cards. Their parents had boxes of bottle caps and notebooks full of stamps. And with greater financial stability comes the ability to amass more colorful trophies.
Enter Dale Earnhardt Jr. While your standard gearhead might have a project car or two and maybe a shelf covered in Hot Wheels, Earnhardt prefers a more life-sized and objectively weird hobby: He owns a car wreck graveyard, according to USA Today.
Yes, Dale Junior’s equivalent to a stack of comic book is a stretch of land called Dirty Mo’ Acres, containing dozens of dead race cars. In it, you can find the remains of such vehicles as a Jimmie Johnson #48, Will Power’s #12 Indy car, which now resides in a tree , and one of Earnhardt’s own #8 cars, which he told NASCAR.com he uses for target practice . No respect for the dead.
Junior Johnson’s family gig
A lot of families enjoy the occasional holiday get-together over a couple drinks. If you’re like Junior Johnson’s family, you enjoyed running an illegal moonshine operation and based your livelihood on cosplaying a shirts-and-skins reenactment of the Volstead Act.
Yep, Junior Johnson’s father ran a whiskey still back in the ’50s. Junior was a runner, transporting that smooth North Carolina jet fuel from place to place. While he was never caught making deliveries, the future Indy 500 winner was arrested in 1956 at his pa’s still when federal revenue agents ambushed him, according to the
Associated Press. He was charged with the production of “non-tax-paid whiskey” and spent 11 months behind bars. When he was released, Junior pursued a successful career in stock car racing. They even made a movie out of his story in the ’70s called The Last American Hero.
Thirty years later, he was granted a retroactive presidential pardon by Ronald Reagan. Oh, and in 2007, he became the co-owner of a moonshine distillery . But all legal-like this time.
Dale Jarrett basically lived an Aesop’s fable about laziness
Dale Jarrett started his career in racing from the proverbial mail room. His father managed a race track in North Carolina and gave a teenage Dale a job running errands and performing menial tasks around the property. One of his chores: cutting the lawn on the makeshift grass parking lot.
Dale, disinclined to spend his days pushing a mower up and down a field, made what we can all agree was his only logical decision: He traded a golf club for a couple of goats and set them loose on the grass. The problem was, the goats weren’t into grass. They had more exotic palates. What these goats wanted, you see, was to eat big chunks of cars. You know. Goat stuff.
The animals apparently went wild for the upholstery inside a series of decorative wrecked jalopies left in the lot. According to Dale , they wouldn’t eat grass “if you put it in their mouths.” We all learned an important lesson here today.
Tim Flock beats Friends to the punch by 40 years
Who hasn’t wanted a pet monkey at some point? Tim Flock certainly has. But what separates the greats like Flock from the rest of us? Flock does something about it.
According to Fox Sports , for eight glorious races in 1953, Tim Flock drove with a rhesus monkey named Jocko Flocko as his copilot. What does a monkey do in a race car, you might wonder? You know, monkey stuff. Hop around, probably. Maybe look for ticks. Oh, and find the trap door installed in the floor of the car to more easily spot tire damage, open the door mid-race, and go full Tasmanian Devil inside the speeding vehicle,
screaming and tearing at Flock’s face.
Flock was less than enthused about this pragmatic style of high-speed monkey shenanigans and retired Jocko at his next pit stop. No solid evidence on where the mad primate wound up, but all signs points to him being in the back seat of your car right this minute, waiting for his moment to strike.
NBA action, it’s fantastic!
That’s one of the league’s old catchphrases from the 1980s, and it still rings true. In addition to being fantastic, things in the NBA can also get pretty dang strange, especially once the players leave the court, the crowds go home, and the lights in the arenas are switched off. Many eccentric guys have filled various starting lineups over the years, and have gone on to become downright legendary for their weirdness. They’ve drawn lots of attention for their bizarre spending habits, odd personal behavior, and, well, there’s Dennis Rodman’s whole persona, which probably belongs in a category all its own. He’s still making headlines even though he retired from the NBA after the 1999-2000 season.
Here’s a rundown of several of the oddest players that have appeared in the league in recent years, along with a few others that helped set the bar when it comes to NBA eccentricity. Whether they’re still playing or have since retired, these basketball stars are really weird people off the court.
Don’t ask Russell Westbrook about his left hand
Russell Westbrook has spent his career playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s also demonstrated some truly peculiar habits. That’s one of the reasons the New York Times described him as a “misunderstood genius” in a 2017 profile written by journalist Sam Anderson.
As Anderson revealed, Westbrook writes with his left hand, but shoots hoops with his right. Ambidexterity isn’t all that odd, but Westbrook became angry when Anderson noticed this while he was signing a stack of documents. “Don’t put that in your article,” Westbrook told him. When Anderson jokingly tried to make a bargain with him so he could publish what seemed like a pretty insignificant detail, the point guard cursed at him. “[It was] with so much venom it made me laugh out loud,” Anderson wrote.
In addition to being sensitive about his writing hand and getting into weird feuds with the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant, Anderson is very particular about when the Thunder start their practice layups before each game. They must start when the pregame clock strikes exactly 6:17, but he has yet to explain why. Westbrook, who made $26 million during the 2016-’17 season, also insists on paying all of his bills himself, and has been known to bring them into the Thunder lunchroom — and quibble over any amounts he thinks are incorrect.
The sugary sweet weirdness of James Harden
Along with owning a closet stuffed full of some pretty wild and stylish clothes, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden has a face that’s currently home to one of the most famous and downright craziest beards in NBA history. He’s grown it long, and his career has grown along with it. The beard has helped him land lots of endorsement deals — one of which is pretty sweet, literally as well as figuratively.
According to a 2016 article in Forbes, Harden signed a deal with Ferrara Candy’s Trolli brand that kicked off with an odd advertisement revealing the contents of Harden’s brain. Spoiler: the primary thing on his mind at the time was, apparently, the company’s Sour Brite Crawlers. He also stores candy in his basketball and digs into it while driving towards the hoop, if this follow-up is to be believed. Later, his beard landed its own
digital video and got to participate in a mock press conference, sans Harden. It even has its own line of gummi candy called Trolli Sour Brite Weird Beards, James Harden Edition.
This all makes sense since Trolli’s catchphrase is “Weirdly Awesome.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Harden’s promotionals are dubbed “Beardly Awesome.” His weirdness doesn’t begin and end with candy commercials, though. He speaks a “secret language” with his close friends that includes words like “fa’lo.” It means “excessively flashy,” apparently. They’ve been
speaking it with one another since high school.
Obsession, by J.J. Redick
J.J. Redick likes to stay organized. Really, really organized. The Philadelphia 76ers’ oddest shooting guard has turned this intense habit into something of an obsession.
Redick metiously plans his naps, which socks he’s going to wear, and his meals. His intense pre-game routine includes eating roasted chicken, a baked potato, asparagus or broccoli, and washing them down with a cup of coffee. While being profiled for the New York Times in 2018, he discussed one disastrous meal on March 22, 2013, when his dinner arrived 20 minutes late and “completely threw me off.” The team lost that night by 24 points, and he missed ten of his 11 shots.
As gametime approaches, his warm-up routine begins exactly 90 minutes before opening tip-off. It involves a series of stretches, practice shots, and eating exactly the right type of granola bar. At home, his closet must stay organized with “military-grade precision,” and he seems to derive little joy from all that extra effort. As he told the Times, “You know what it is? It’s exhausting.”
But not everything in his life is planned down to the second. While vacationing with his family in North Carolina, he somewhat spontaneously decided to join his grandmother on a journey to a tattoo parlor. She got a butterfly put on her shoulder. Redick, meanwhile, picked out a design that featured a reference to a Bible verse and the Japanese word for courage.
Jason Terry and his shorts
There are short attention spans and there are short s attention spans. One of Jason Terry’s routines might be best described as the latter. The night before each game, the shooting and point guard, who often goes by the nickname “JET,” wears the shorts of the opposing team. The tradition began during his college days, when he and teammate Mike Bibby wore their uniforms to bed in order to calm down and get some shut-eye before an important game. As Terry explained, he got bored with wearing his own gear, and this keeps him entertained. His wife, however, isn’t a huge fan of this routine.
The Times also noted that he used to obsessively eat fried chicken fingers before every game — another routine, this one supposedly inspired by Wade Boggs. As he’s gotten older, though, Terry has switched over to a healthier rotisserie or grilled chicken. “I can’t deviate from chicken,” Terry said. “It has to be chicken.”
During games, his rituals include imitating an airplane if he lands a series of three-pointers and changing his sneakers if things aren’t going well during the first quarter. Nevertheless, Terry knows his behavior is at least a bit strange. As he told the Times, “my daughters say I’m a weirdo.”
Sometimes Stephon Marbury gets carried away
Stephon Marbury had a career in the NBA that ran from 1996 until 2009. He made the All-Star team twice and
co-wrote a children’s book. Sadly, it all began to unravel after his final season.
In July of 2009, Marbury went online and began what would become a 24-hour long tirade that he
livestreamed for his StarburyTV web show. During the stream, he took questions from viewers; when asked if he believed in aliens, Marbury said that he didn’t know and added, “But I believe in Jesus because I saw him in the shower the other day.” He also said that he was looking forward to meeting the spirit of Michael Jackson and ate Vaseline on camera.
That last bit was particularly strange, but Marbury explained that it was his grandmother’s old remedy for curing a sore throat, according to a rundown on the incident that later appeared in The Los Angeles Times. Marbury clearly wasn’t in a good place at the time of the unusual broadcast, but he went on to a successful post-NBA career in China.
He helped the Beijing Ducks, a Chinese Basketball Association team, win three championships between 2012-2015. He also popped up in a Chinese musical about himself, titled I Am Marbury. As of September of 2017, he was reportedly mulling over returning to the United States for an NBA comeback or a spot in rapper/actor Ice Cube’s Big 3 league.
DeShawn Stevenson may or may not be able to feel his face
DeShawn Stevenson had a 13-year career in the NBA; along the way, he earned a reputation in the league for some pretty peculiar behavior. One of his quirks included doing a strange gesture every time he made a three-pointer, waving his right hand in front of his chin while he headed back across the court to play defense. He even gave the gesture the nickname “I Can’t Feel My Face.”
One collection of potential interpretations from the Washington Post suggests that it all had something to do with a neurological disorder, a reference to the 2000 Johnny Depp film Blow , a tribute to the dance moves of rapper Tony Yayo, or possibly all three. Whatever the reason, the “I Can’t Feel My Face” gesture spawned t-shirts.
There’s also the tattoo on his neck of Abraham Lincoln — and the ATM Stevenson keeps in his kitchen. According to TMZ , he was inspired to install one next to his fridge after he found out former professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek had one added to his own house during the production of an MTV reality show. Stevenson apparently paid $3,500 to have it put in, and charges a pretty steep $4.50 transaction fee. Oh, and a few times a year he restocks it with $20,000 in cold, hard cash.
The explosive life and times of Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas played for multiple NBA franchises before he went to China to join the Shanghai Sharks in 2013. Prior to leaving the States, he shared his tips for avoiding traffic tickets on his Instagram account — his favorite was leaving the dealer plates on his vehicle. As
The Bleacher Report explained, it once helped Arenas run 60 red lights in four months and not get caught. Needless to say, he shouldn’t offer driving lessons anytime soon. Along with blasting through red lights, he also once got caught speeding in a truck filled with fireworks — and without his driver’s license.
Along with getting a Barack Obama-themed tattoo on his left hand, Arenas’ other eccentric behavior during his NBA days included a 2009 incident with his former Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton. After the two got into a disagreement over a card game, Arenas showed up in the team’s locker room at the Verizon Center with four guns and threatened Crittenton, who then turned around pointed his own gun at Arenas.
Fortunately, no one was injured in a standoff that, as their teammate Caron Butler later quipped , could have led to a much different “shoot-around” than usual at the arena. The two were booted off the team, and Crittenton was later sentenced to 23 years in prison for a shooting gone wrong.
Give Metta World Peace a chance
This peculiarly named former NBA star was anything but peaceful during much of his NBA career. After a 2003 loss to the Knicks, the player formerly known as Ron Artest destroyed a $100,000 TV camera and a monitor in Madison Square Garden. The camera’s lens alone reportedly cost $60,000, according to the Washington Post.
Years prior, the small forward also decided to get a job at Circuit City during his rookie year in the league. He wasn’t hard up for cash after a season that netted him a $1 million salary. He was merely bored and worried that he’d been partying too much. World Peace only worked a single shift, though.
Maybe it’s for the best. Customers can get awfully cranky at times and World Peace didn’t always get along with NBA spectators and his fellow players. His clashes included a fight — infamously dubbed “The Malice in the Palace” — that spilled out into the stands during a game in Detroit and led to him being suspended for much of the 2004-2005 season. To take the edge off, he also used to drink French cognac during halftimes while he played for the Chicago Bulls. He’s much more laid back these days, after legally changing his name to his current peaceful moniker in 2011, and currently works as a player development coach for the South Bay Lakers.
The world according to Dennis Rodman
No list of weird NBA players would be complete without the man who could one day prevent (or cause) a nuclear war with North Korea. Before he started hanging around with Kim Jong-Un during his “basketball diplomacy” treks to the closed-off kingdom, Rodman was widely considered one of the most eccentric guys to ever play professional basketball.
The former power forward announced he was getting married to an unnamed person during the 1996 offseason. This sparked countless rumors , among them that he was getting hitched to Princess Diana, Julia Roberts, Cindy Crawford, or Oprah Winfrey. When his wedding day finally arrived, Rodman instead rode around New York City dressed in a bridal gown and announced that he had decided to marry himself before attending a book signing for his first autobiography,
Bad as I Wanna Be .
As The Fiscal Times recounted in 2014, Rodman’s other antics included dating the equally eccentric Madonna, dying his hair tons of different colors, kicking a cameraman in the crotch, co-starring in a Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick along with a follow-up, and wrestling alongside Hulk Hogan in the WWE. He’s spent at least one portion of his retirement years working as the commissioner for something called the Lingerie Football League. Rodman made his first trip to North Korea in 2013, after which he called Kim Jong-un “a friend for life.”
The sound of Chocolate Thunder
Once upon a time, Darryl Dawkins made smashing backboards during his super awesome dunks a fairly regular habit. It was one of the things that helped him earn the nickname “Chocolate Thunder.” Strangely enough, it was coined by Stevie Wonder — who, for obvious reasons, never actually saw him play.
Okay, Dawkins only smashed a few backboards. However, it did lead to the league replacing their fairly fragile hoops with ones that had breakaway rims and shatter-resistant backboards. Dawkins’ exuberant personality and weird behavior made him hugely popular in the 1970s. He gave his dunks names like “The Look Out Below” and “The Yo-Mama.” Shaquille O’Neal once described him “as the father of power of dunking,” adding “I’m just one of his sons.”
Dawkins also still holds the top spot in the record books for most personal fouls in a season. While that isn’t too weird, he also routinely claimed he was actually a space alien from “The Planet Lovetron.” The strange persona and interstellar lifestyle he created along with it included frequent “frolicking” with his girlfriend, nicknamed “Juicy Luicy,” and spreading the gospel of what he called “interplanetary funkmanship.”
Dawkins, who passed away in 2015, is sadly no longer with us. But before he left the realm of earthly mortals, one of his weird post-basketball forays included guest judging a boxing match between Mr. T and Rowdy Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 2 along with jazz legend Cab Calloway.
Athletes: Perhaps they are our greatest natural resource. Perfect specimens of humanity, physicality, and athletic prowess, we are entertained, amazed, and bewildered by sports stars’ superhuman feats of strength, speed, and agility regardless of the sports-ball field, track, court, diamond, rink, or gridiron upon which they choose to impress.
While they seem immortal when flying through the air to slam dunk a basketball held aloft with a single hand, or hurling a ball 300 feet while giants try to tackle them, or somehow hitting a ball traveling 100 mph with a small wooden stick to make it soar hundreds of feet away, the sad truth is that athletes actually are, at their core, regular human beings subject to the same laws and principles of the universe as the rest of us. That means they die. Athletes are people, often wonderful, remarkable people, but people nonetheless. Here are the sports stars both young and old that left us in 2018.
There are several sports that involve racing cars very fast, but they’re all actually very different and there isn’t a lot of overlap between these different types, even if they look basically the same to the non-fan. To start with, there’s the NASCAR circuit, IndyCar, and Formula One. Drivers by and large train for just one of them, and stay loyal to the brand. And yet there are historical curiosities like Dan Gurney. Not only is he one of the few drivers who was good enough to race at the top circles (or ovals) of NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula One, but he’s the first person to ever win a race in all three, creating a previously nonexistent Triple Crown for himself. And for good measure, he won the insane Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race in 1967 with team member A.J. Foyt — which is where he started the now common trend of celebrating a big win with a spray of champagne. Gurney died from complications of pneumonia at age 86 in January 2018.
The 1970s were one of the wildest eras ever in Major League Baseball, perhaps a little because of the hair. Sure, you had Rollie Fingers’ silly mustache that made him look like he was going to tie a woman to train tracks in a silent movie, and Pete Rose’s assortment of little-boy Supercuts classics, but Yankees power hitter Oscar Gamble had the best hair of all, hands down. Cam Martin of ESPN said the outfielder/designated hitter “looked like he’d been dropped off by the mothership of Parliament-Funkadelic,” which is to say that the man rocked one of the best afros this side of Billy Preston. That huge dome of hair spilling out of a cap, along with his actual hitting statistics, made Gamble one of the most iconic baseball players of the ’70s. Gamble’s career stretched from 1969 to 1985, and he racked up a devilish 666 RBIs, nearly 1,200 hits, a respectable .265 batting average, and exactly 200 home runs while playing for a number of teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, and the New York Yankees. Complications from a rare jaw tumor ended the 68-year-old Gamble’s life in January 2018.
In the 2017 college football regular season, Washington State finished with an 8-4 record, good enough for third place in the highly competitive Pac-12 North and a spot in a Holiday Bowl (where the team lost to Michigan State). Star quarterback Luke Falk lead the way, with some impressive play from backup Tyler Hilinski. He threw more than 200 passes as a freshman and sophomore and started in the Holiday Bowl, as Falk was injured. He was a virtual lock to become the Cougars’ first-string QB after Falk’s impending graduation. That’s a future that will never come. Just a few weeks after the Holiday Bowl, on January 16, 2018, Hilinski missed a team practice , prompting police to stop by his Pullman, Washington, apartment to see if anything was amiss. That’s when the body of Hilinksi, only 21, was discovered. He’d apparently administered a self-inflected gunshot wound to the head. A note was found nearby, leading the coroner’s office to rule the death a suicide, but the reason for the suicide is unclear.
Scott did what no one else did before 2005: won a women’s basketball national title with Baylor University. Scott, a native of the Houston area, played at the school from 2002 to 2006, and averaged about 8 points and 4 rebounds during her junior year (2005) for the Lady Bears, when the team won the championship. (The next year, she got even better, with 9 points and 6 rebounds or so per game.) She parlayed that success into a pro career, both in the WNBA and internationally. Unfortunately, she had to retire from sports early, as the rigorous work of a professional athlete just couldn’t be sustained after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Scott then became a performance coach, which is a great job for a retired athlete. Then sickness reared its ugly, nasty head again for Scott — in 2015, doctors discovered a cancerous blockage in her colon. Everything malignant was removed, but the cancer came back, as it often does. The disease took Scott’s life in January 2018.
Jo Jo White
Jo Jo White accomplished just about everything a world-class basketball player can accomplish. He was a standout at perennial college ball powerhouse Kansas, where he was a two-time All-American and three-time team MVP. He was selected for the 1968 men’s Olympic team and won a gold medal. Then the Boston Celtics drafted him with a high first-round pick in 1969, and White delivered on that promise, leading the dynastic team to NBA championships in 1974 and 1976; in the latter, White was named NBA Finals MVP. The Celtics traded him in 1979 after 10 seasons, and he wrapped up his career with stints with the Golden State Warriors and Kansas City Kings … but returned to Boston to have his jersey number (10) retired in 1982. White’s career stats — 17.2 points, 4.9 assists, and 4 rebounds per game — were good enough to get him into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. White died at age 71 in January 2018. According to White’s daughter, Meka White Morris, the death was due to pneumonia and dementia, complications from the removal of a benign brain tumor in 2010.
Sports star Rasual Butler was a journeyman player in the NBA, posting a lengthy 13-season career that included stops with the Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets, Chicago Bulls, and San Antonio Spurs. His best season came in 2009-2010, when the small forward/shooting guard averaged 11.9 points per game for the Los Angeles Clippers. Butler retired at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season and resided in Los Angeles with his wife, R&B singer Leah LaBelle, best known as a finalist during American Idol ‘s third season back in 2004. Shockingly, both Butler, 38, and LaBelle, 31, died in a single-vehicle crash. At about 2:30 a.m. on January 31, 2018, Butler lost control of his Range Rover, and it plowed into parking meters and a wall at a very
high speed before finally rolling to a stop in a parking lot. Butler’s former boss, Heat president Pat Riley, released a statement in which he called Butler “one of the greatest people we have ever had play for us; a great player, teammate, and better person.”
Edwin Jackson was only just getting started in the NFL.
A two-sport star as a young ‘un — he lettered in football three times and was a state wrestling champion finalist for Westlake High School in Atlanta — Jackson played linebacker at Georgia Southern. But he went undrafted, eventually singing with the Indianapolis Colts and playing in eight games in 2016 , where he recorded 42 tackles. The Colts placed Jackson on their injured reserve list for 2017, which set him up to make a big splash in 2018 … which sadly won’t happen because he was killed in a horrific roadside accident. Police believe that around 4 a.m. on February 4, 2018, Jackson’s Uber driver, 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, pulled over on Interstate 70 in Indianapolis because Jackson was feeling sick. While standing on the side of the road, both men were struck and killed by a pickup truck. Previously convicted drunk driver Manuel Orrego-Savala faces 20 years in prison on charges of causing death while driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident. His blood alcohol level: 0.19, twice Indiana’s legal limit. Edwin Jackson was just 26.
It’s obviously sad when an older, beloved, and groundbreaking athlete dies, triggering a time for sentimental reflection on their accomplishments. But when a young athlete dies basically before their life can even get started, it’s downright tragic, just because it’s awful when anyone dies before their time, and because it leaves us wondering what could have been. Zeke Upshaw played college basketball for Illinois State and Hofstra before turning pro for leagues in Slovenia and Luxembourg. In 2016, he got very close to the NBA, signing with the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League (later known as the NBA G League). In his second season with the team, Upshaw contributed 8.5 points per game, helping the team score a 29-21 record and a playoff spot. Tragically, during the team’s final game of the regular season, against the Long Island Nets in March 2018, Upshaw collapsed on the court. The 26-year-old was hospitalized locally and died two days later. (A specific cause of death was not released.)
The Montreal Expos don’t have as storied a history as most other Major League Baseball teams. They never went to a World Series, their best season was shortened by a strike, and they struggled to exist until a move and name change made the team the Washington Nationals.
Rusty Staub, however, was the team’s very first star and still one of its most beloved people. He landed with the Expos in 1969 , the team’s first season in the majors, and thus the birth of the MLB in Canada. Staub hit .302 with 29 home runs that year while also serving as a de facto ambassador for Canadian baseball — the man even learned French to endear himself to Quebecois francophone fans, who affectionately nicknamed the redhead “Le Grand Orange.” Staub was a six-time All-Star (including all three years he played for Montreal), and he later played for a few more teams, notably the New York Mets. He died of a heart attack at age 73 on April 1, 2018. That just so happened to be baseball’s Opening Day, and the Mets paid tribute to him with a moment of silence.
Hal Greer was a sports star in the NBA just when it was starting to get popular — in part because of Greer’s on-court heroics. He played his entire, 15-year career (1958–1973) with the same team, the Philadelphia 76ers (including when they were the Syracuse Nationals). Despite some major stars on the team through the years, such as Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and Manute Bol , after all this time Greer is still the all-time franchise leader in points scored, games played, and field goals. The league recognized Greer, too, naming him to 10 All-Star teams and including him on its 1996 list of the 50 greatest players of all time. The first Sixer to have his number (17) retired, he led the team to the 1967 NBA championship and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Greer passed away in April 2018 at the age of 81.
Pep Guardiola is ready to sanction the sale of John Stones this summer, with Liverpool and Arsenal among the clubs thought to be keen on signing him, according to reports.
The English centre-back has found himself further falling down the pecking order since the arrival of Aymeric Laporte in January, having already been behind Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi.
City splurged £47.5million on the centre-half two years ago and would expect to recoup all of that fee with a sale but Guardiola is reluctantly willing to let him leave.
While he has talked up the 24-year-old regularly, Guardiola does not believe Stones has progressed enough to warrant a first-team place and he does not want to hinder the former Everton defender’s development, according to the Sun.
One stumbling block in any potential sale would be the cost of the deal for other clubs.
While Stones is keen to leave in search of first-team football, most teams would struggle to finance a move.
Arsenal are thought to be keen to land him, but are expected to only have a transfer budget of £50m.
Zverev up to third in ATP chart
Germany’s Alexander Zverev moved up a place to third behind Rafael Nadal in the latest ATP rankings published yesterday.
The 21-year-old displaced Marin Cilic after his progress to the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals won on Sunday for the 11th time by Nadal.
In the final Nadal beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who jumped 14 spots to 22nd.
Swiss player Roger Federer is now second ranked player, Alexander Zverev is third, Marin Cilic is fourth, while Grigor Dimitrov completes the top five.
Arsenal chief want Manchester City coach as replacement for Arsene Wenger
Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis – the man who will ultimately recommend a new head coach to owner Stan Kroenke – believes Mikel Arteta could be the man to replace Arsene Wenger, according to Sky Sports News.
Gazidis said the club needed to be “bold” in its search for a new manager and he believes that despite Arteta’s lack of managerial experience, the former Arsenal midfielder has the credentials to succeed in the role.
Arteta, a former Arsenal club captain, has a growing reputation as an innovative coach after working alongside Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Arsenal are yet to comment but Gazidis on Monday briefed 200 members of the club’s staff at the Emirates, explaining how the painstaking global search to find Wenger’s replacement will be carried out.
Arsenal, as a show of respect, avoided approaching potential candidates to succeed Wenger before his own announcement he would step down at the end of the season last Friday.
However, Gazidis, along with head of football operations, Raul Sanllehi and head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, will this week begin discussions with potential candidates.
Sky Sports News understands Sanllehi, the former director of football at Barcelona, favours his former colleague Luis Enrique as the man to take over from Wenger.
Enrique won two La Liga titles as well as the Champions League as head coach at the Nou Camp and is known to want to return to management at a top club as quickly as possible, ideally in England.
Arsenal’s third kingmaker, Sven Mislintat – who joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in November – is reportedly keen on Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann and Schalke’s Domenico Tedesco.
Thomas Tuchel, who last month was the bookies’ favourite to replace Wenger, now looks set to join Paris Saint-Germain as Unai Emery’s replacement.
At this early stage, both Brendan Rodgers and Rafa Benitez are not thought to be strong candidates.
The management of Plateau United Football Club of Jos has condemned in strong terms an alleged physical assault meted out to its players and officials by the supporters of Heartland of Owerri after their Week 18 fixture which ended in a 1-1 draw at the Dan Anyiam Stadium on Monday.
Champions League Preview: Liverpool take on Roma at Anfield
Tonight, Liverpool will take on Italian side, AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League last four encounter at Anfield. At the start of the season, it was almost inconceivable they will reach the Champions League semi-finals. They actually did without suffering a single defeat so far in the competition.
The Romans benefited from away goal advantage to get past Barcelona in the quarter-finals and Liverpool should be weary of allowing them get that dangerous away goal.
Edin Džeko, with whom Salah will be very familiar, since seven out of Salah’s 15 assists last season were made to the big man, already scored a brace against Chelsea and grabbed a goal in both games against Barcelona.
Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren will need to be on high alert for set pieces and crosses from the wing, which is how Eusebio Di Francesco’s men get their joy exploiting teams.
Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah both started in Liverpool’s weekend match against West Brom. Mané was substituted out at 66’ while Salah played pretty much the whole game. Roberto Firmino, on the other hand, along with likely midfield starter Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, only played the last 30 minutes against the Baggies. Three out of the four likely Liverpool starting defenders also got a break, with only Dejan Lovren making a short cameo at the end of the match.
While Salah has ran away with the goals record in the Premier League, Champions League statistics have been much more balanced for the team. Salah and Firmino both have eight goals to their names, with Mané right behind them with seven. Big James Milner leads the whole competition in assists, having set up his teammates seven times. Firmino is tied for second place with four, which, when added to his eight goals scored, means he’s been involved in twelve goals so far in Europe.
Liverpool likely Lineup (4-3-3) Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Maybe there’s an argument to be made for Gini Wijnaldum to start in the midfield, but otherwise, Klopp’s side pretty much picks itself. With Joël Matip, Adam Lallana, and Emre Can all out for the rest of the season, Klopp’s choices are somewhat limited. Captain Jordan Henderson is thankfully available again after missing the away leg of the quarterfinals due to yellow card accumulation.
It will be another huge game for the fullbacks who have really proved their worth over the course of the season. Alexander-Arnold and Robertson seem set to start this one again, with Clyne still not quite ready. Alexander-Arnold, after taking care of Leroy Sané in the quarterfinals, will now be charged with nullifying the threat of Aleksandar Kolarov and cutting off his service to Džeko, likely with the help of the disciplined and enterprising Milner on the right.
Rick Karsdorp and Gregoire Defrel are injured for Roma, but Kolarov, Džeko, Alessandro Florenzi, and Daniele De Rossi were all rested at the weekend in preparation for their England trip.
What the Managers had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “If anybody thinks this is the easiest draw, then I cannot help this person. They obviously didn’t see both games against Barcelona. In the first result, 4-1 was not how the game was – it was Lionel Messi genius against a good side of Roma.
“The second leg was outstanding, it was outstanding what they did. They should have probably won 4-0 or 5-0 – I was really impressed. It is just the draw and I know it is very exciting, but it is good because the most important news is we are still in the competition.”
Eusebio Di Francesco: “[Salah’s] qualities are very clear. Don’t forget that I prepared games against him in Italy, too. But the fact lots of our players know him well, that can be an advantage.”
The Olympic games are a triumph of peace, harmony, and sportsmanship. All the problems individual countries might have with each other are left behind, and the only competition is between the athletes. In theory, it’s a beautiful way of looking at the world, but the problem is not everyone is squeaky clean when it comes to the Olympics. Everyone from the athletes to the bureaucrats can make mistakes, and sometimes the games turn into a hotbed of bad or even tragic decisions. Still, they’re a beautiful idea, and maybe the next games will be the one where everybody behaves themselves and the Olympics lives up to its ideals. Or not.
The terrorist attack at Munich
Overall the Olympics are a celebration of sport and peace. But every now and then something truly tragic mars the games, and nothing has been worse than the terrorist incident at Munich in 1972.
According to History , on September 5, a group of Palestinian terrorists did a pre-dawn raid on the Olympic village. They targeted the Israeli athletes and managed to take nine of them hostage. The group was called Black September, which would make a cool band name if it wasn’t attached to something so horrible. (It also explains why they waited until halfway through the games because Black August doesn’t have the same scary ring to it.)
They held nine Israelis hostage and demanded that in exchange for their lives, over 230 Palestinians be released from Israeli jails. Unfortunately, negotiations between the two sides broke down, and the ski mask-wearing Black September members took off for the airport, hostages in tow. Once they got there a fight broke out, and all the hostages were killed. Some of the terrorists managed to escape but were eventually tracked down by Mossad.
Despite the tragedy, it only disrupted a couple days of the games. A memorial service was held and the IOC president Avery Brundage called for the Olympics to continue, just to prove the terrorists hadn’t won. And some of the feats recorded that year, like swimmer Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals, proved that even out of terror, good can triumph.
Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed
It must be great winning an Olympic medal. And afterward you probably want to go out and get pretty drunk. That’s what swimmer Ryan Lochte and some friends decided to do in Rio in 2016. The problem was they got a bit too excited and ended up on the wrong end of a police investigation.
According to USA Today, it started when Lochte gave an interview to NBC saying he and three other members of the U.S. swim team had been robbed at gunpoint on their night out. He even said a gun had been held to his forehead. Of course, the local authorities looked into this, since such a high-profile crime was going to look bad after all their Olympic safety preparations. What they found was … nothing. Lochte had made the whole thing up.
They may have concocted the story to distract from the fact that they had been involved in some criminal damage, vandalizing a gas station restroom. The cops were not happy and called them all in. Some were ordered to pay a fine before they could leave Brazil, but Lochte saw the writing on the wall and had already gotten the heck out of the country.
The charges were eventually dismissed against Lochte, but not before he had been outed as a liar and lost some of his sponsors. He admitted he had been a little tipsy on the night in question. Hey, you try staying sober next time you win an Olympic medal.
Member of the IOC scalps 1,000 tickets
Unlike other some other sporting bodies (like FIFA), the International Olympic Committee isn’t known for being very scandalous. The 15-member body does its thing bringing the games to places around the world and is mostly disgrace-free. But there’ll always be one bad guy, and in this case it was Irishman Patrick Joseph Hickey who saw his career come crashing down around him just because he wanted to use his powerful position to skim a little off the top.
According to the BBC, Hickey was an Olympic judo competitor in the 1970s who rose up the ranks of various Olympic committees until he finally reached the top, joining the IOC in 2012. But during the 2016 Rio games he was involved with a scheme to sell 1,000 tickets at a steep markup, making some money from his position, which is a big no-no.
Hickey was hardly a criminal mastermind. When the Brazilian police showed up at his hotel room, his wife told them he had flown back to Ireland. Amazingly, they didn’t take her at her word and after a short search found Hickey in a room booked under his son’s name.
NPR says he’d been so busy hiding from the police he hadn’t even had time to put clothes on, since he was buck-naked when first confronted. The cops were nice enough to let him put a robe on before hauling him off for an interrogation.
A bomb in Atlanta kills two and injures hundreds
The second worst act of terror at an Olympic game after Munich was the explosion at the Atlanta games in 1996.
According to the BBC, it happened at 1:25 p.m. in the Centennial Olympic Park. Up to 100,000 people a day came there to chill and listen to some music, but that day their buzz was definitely harshed. Even the dulcet tones of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack couldn’t overcome the power of a 40-pound pipe bomb.
The bomb was placed near a sound tower and the carnage definitely could have been worse. CNN reported the culprit had placed it and then called the police saying they had half an hour before it went off. The area was able to be partially cleared before the bomb exploded 22 minutes later. One woman was killed by the actual explosion while a cameraman died of a heart attack while running to film the scene of the crime. Over 200 people were injured by the flying nails and screws.
Despite fears of a second bomb going off, visitors didn’t let it keep them away from the events. And President Bill Clinton didn’t want to let the terrorists win either, saying the games should go on.
A security guard was first suspected of planting the bomb but was cleared a few months later. It would be two years before the right person was found, and he wouldn’t be convicted until 2005. He is now serving four life sentences for Atlanta and other bombings.
Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee
Perhaps no drama surrounding the Olympics has been more of a soap opera than when Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a baton-wielding thug. Once the dust settled, everyone learned the world of ice skating was a lot more cutthroat than they ever imagined.
According to History , it all started with the ex-husband of Kerrigan’s great rival, Tonya Harding. Jeff Gillooly met up with some guys who were willing to injure Kerrigan in exchange for some dough. The actual attack was carried out on January 6, just two days before the Olympic trials.
No one involved in the plot was even close to being a Mensa member, so they didn’t cover their tracks very well. Soon the FBI was arresting everyone. This didn’t help Kerrigan, who was injured too badly to skate. Still, she and Harding were both given spots on the Olympic team. Harding was almost kicked off as evidence poured out, but she successfully sued to keep her place.
Once the Olympics started, the drama grew. Ratings were high because everyone wanted to see the rivals skate against each other. The Washington Post reported there were 700 journalists packed into the ice rink. One estimate said Kerrigan and Harding passed within 31 inches of each other during their practice sessions. The world was obsessed with every detail. In the end Harding would only come eighth and was charged with hindering prosecution. Kerrigan was well enough to skate home with the silver.
Dance teacher cons 75 students
For a performer, there are few platforms as huge as the opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Only the best are selected to perform, and they’re watched by possibly billions of people worldwide. So how crushed must 75 British children have been when they were told they would get to dance in the 2012 London closing ceremony only to have it cruelly snatched away?
According to the BBC, it all started when a man named Stephen Moonesamy approached three dance schools and told them he needed 25 children each for the big project. The children had to go through auditions to get a spot, as well as pay £60 to participate. They ranged between 9 and 19 years old but they took it very seriously despite their youth. One kid gave up the chance to be on a vaulting team to participate, while another actually put off spinal surgery.
The weird part was Moonesamy seemed deluded enough to think it was actually going to go on somehow. He held rehearsals and even went on the radio to tell everyone about this great thing that was totally going to happen and not just a figment of his imagination.
In the end, someone thought to contact the official Olympic people and discovered it was all a big con. The kids were crushed and the judge who sentenced Moonesamy to two years in jail for fraud said he had “dashed more hopes than Simon Cowell.” Ouch.
Everyone wants to grab the Olympic torch
Even before the Olympic games start, the world is greeted with a sign of their importance and unity with the torch relay. The torch travels thousands of miles once it’s lit in Athens to whatever city is hosting, always burning and showing that even when we compete against each other, we are one. Or at least it would say that if people didn’t keep trying to steal the darn thing.
Sometimes it’s just an innocent diversion by some kids. Like in England in 2012, when Fox Sports reported a 17-year-old ran through the security cordon and tried to grab the torch before being quickly hustled away and arrested. Or that same year when two actual children decided they wanted to be part of the fun and managed to touch the torch, according to Deadspin .
Other times it’s more serious. In 2008, Tibetan protesters disrupted the original lighting of the torch in Athens on its journey to Beijing. The Guardian says that they were upset that China was allowed to hold the Olympics since they have a horrible human rights record. No one in China actually got to see the protest, though, since the broadcast cut away. Sometimes people go for the torch to draw attention to something that has nothing to do with the Olympics. Another
Guardian article says that happened in 2016, when a group of striking teachers managed to make the torch go out. They were protesting that they hadn’t been paid for two months.
Ugandan athletes keep getting in trouble
Ugandan athletes have a bit of a history with getting in trouble at the Olympic games. In Atlanta in 1996, a Ugandan boxer was charged with circulation of illegal currency. He had managed to get his hands on some forged $100 bills and went on a bit of a spending spree with them. Did he shell out on fast cars, or diamonds, or designer clothes? Not quite. According to the
Washington Post, he spent his fake cash filling his cart with $500 worth of women’s underwear at Walmart. He also dropped $200 in bogus currency at a women’s shoe shop.
No, he didn’t have a thing for ladies’ clothes. He just wanted to sell the garments at a profit when he got back home to Uganda. Instead he found himself trapped in the athlete’s village long after the other entrants had gone home, though he did get released eventually.
But one of his countrymen did not learn from his mistakes. The BBC says he went further when it came to doing really bad stuff. The Olympic village is famous for its banging, with dozens of condoms being allocated to each athlete. But you still have to follow basic consent laws. In 2000, a Ugandan swimmer was arrested after forcing sex on a 17-year-old. Despite being horrible in and of itself, it was a scandal in his home country following on the drama from four years before.
The Russian doping scandal
It’s not uncommon for an individual athlete to use some performance-enhancing drugs to get an edge on the competition. What was unheard of until the 2014 Sochi Olympics, however, was a wide-scale state-sponsored doping program. But that’s just what the Russians got involved in, and they’ve been paying for it ever since.
According to CNN , some analysts and observers believe the majority of Russian athletes may have used illegal enhancers. The World Anti-Doping Agency called it “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games” and you can’t get much worse than that. Instead of having amateur individuals working their butts off to succeed in their sports, you have a whole country accused of doping in order to cheat its way to the top.
Eventually the mastermind of the whole operation came forward and admitted what was going on, and NPR says he is now in the witness protection program in the U.S. because Russian agents actually want to kill him for opening his mouth about what they were doing.
The people in charge were not going to stand for this cheating. Russian athletes were already banned from participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and recently they’ve been banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang games. The BBC says any athletes that can prove they are clean can participate under a neutral flag, but no one will be taking part under the Russian flag.
Brazilian Olympic Committee member used bribes to get the 2016 games
It was a big deal when Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympic summer games. For one, it was the first time a South American country had ever done the hosting. But sadly, it would emerge that the way Rio had gotten the games wasn’t completely on the level.
The Guardian says just two days before Rio was awarded the games in 2009, $2 million went from the account of a wealthy Brazilian businessman to that of one of the voting body, Papa Massata Diack, who in turn voted for Brazil to get the games. It would later come out that other Brazilians were hiding assets they may have gotten from iffy connections, including actual gold bars in a bank in Switzerland. It’s like shady accounting bingo.
According to Reuters , a man named Carlos Arthur Nuzman was arrested and found to have funneled another $500,000 to people in power in order to get Rio the games. He was lining the pockets of those people who were voting for where the Olympic games were held. When the scam was uncovered as part of Operation Unfair Play, which is a great name for a police raid, the whole ethics of who got to hold the games and when was thrown into disrepute.
Hello, friends. Even if you don’t give a hoot about golf, you probably know of the Masters. The beauty, grace, and pageantry — they’re difficult to pull off without coming off as over-the-top corny, yet the good folks at Augusta National manage to do just that. Every year in April is appointment viewing (or appointment sneaking a look at the live coverage on the official website when your boss isn’t looking) for golf fans.
How did we get where we are today? How did the third-largest city in the eighth-largest state end up having the premiere golf tournament in the world? If you think you know the story of Augusta National, you probably don’t. It hasn’t been a layup hole to get where they are today, but somehow Augusta National has made it out of some very tough (and very public) lies. Let’s take a look at the Masters, from Tea Olive to Holly.
Out of the rough
Azaleas used to be big business in the South. They still are the default go-to plant when you think “Southern living,” and it stands to reason that nurseries were abundant at one time. One such nursery, known for those beautiful pink buds, stood on a nice patch of land in Augusta, Georgia. According to Active, Fruitland Nursery claimed to be the largest nursery in the South. That’s a real nice piece of property … the kind that could fit a golf course.
Golf in America in the early days of the game meant only one name: Bobby Jones. Despite the fact that he never turned pro — keeping his amateur status his entire career — no one could come close to matching his game. Jones was thinking of designing a golf course, more specifically a country club of exclusivity and grandeur. All he needed was someone with deep pockets who shared his passion for the game. Investment banker Clifford Roberts fit the bill, and the two purchased Fruitland in 1931. When Jones saw the land, he said, “Perfect! And to think this land has been lying here all these years, waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course on it .” The club formally opened in January 1933, and a year later what we now call the Masters began, with co-founder Bobby Jones
playing and the main draw .
Looks good in green
Busting your clubs for four days against the most difficult competition imaginable and getting a jacket that makes you look like a colorblind garcon may be the lamest award in pro sports. Each winner of the Masters is presented with a green jacket, presented by the previous year’s winner. However, the prize is more symbolic of the ultimate exclusivity Masters winners share. According to Golf Monthly , co-founder Bobby Jones attended the Royal Liverpool in England and noticed club captains all wore matching jackets at a dinner to signify their position at the club. Jones brought that idea to Augusta National, so that during the Masters, club members would wear green jackets to stand out in the crowd. The exclusive green jacket extended to winners in 1949, with Sam Snead taking home the first green jacket as a non-member.
There is a catch, however. The winner only keeps the jacket for a year. They can wear it anywhere in that time but must return it to the club by the next Masters. The only jacket not returned was Gary Player’s. Player, the first international winner, took his 1961 jacket home to South Africa and accidentally kept it. The club struck a deal with Player, telling him he could keep it there as long as he didn’t ever wear it in public.
Despite all the hype and beauty there is to Augusta National, it’s kinda hard to watch on TV, especially the early rounds. Usually, a sport is at the behest of its network . Augusta National is the complete opposite of that and controls every single aspect of its coverage. Not every shot at this year’s (or any years) Masters will be televised. The Masters TV coverage is limited, by design. Golf Digest says Augusta National and CBS have signed a one-year deal every year since 1956! The first two rounds of the Masters were not televised until 1995, and are now limited to a mere 2.5 hours a day. ESPN picked up coverage of the first two rounds in 2008, but conspicuously left its best known face, Chris Berman, off the coverage. All the rumors point to Augusta National telling the Worldwide Leader to keep Berman back back back in Bristol.
Golf Digest estimated the Masters turned a $29 million profit in 2015. That number could be a lot higher if the club gave up some power, but that probably won’t happen. Tournaments are run with limited commercial interruption, leaving millions of dollars on the table. But you won’t find any golf fans complaining about that.
The price is not bad
Compared to other major sporting events, tickets to the Masters aren’t very expensive. They’re only $75 a day for the practice rounds — and a few years back the entire weekend set you back only $325 ; that’s less than half the price of the cheapest Super Bowl LII ticket. But in addition to a little cash, you also have to be the luckiest person on Earth to pick up a Masters ticket. Just about everyone registers online to enter a lottery to buy a ticket. The number of tickets available is limited to a relatively small number. If you don’t get the chance to buy a ticket legitimately, there’s always the scalper route, where prices can run from $1,500 to $12,000, but in 2018 Augusta National sent notices to some ticket holders who’d resold their tickets that their passes were invalidated and they were blacklisted from buying tickets for life. Risky business!
It’s the most difficult ticket to get in all of sports , but if you do ever get the opportunity to buy a ticket, it’s yours for life — you can purchase it every year after that. If you skip a year, you’re out — your tickets go into that super-limited lottery for another lucky bum to have the opportunity to buy them.
Par for the course?
Let’s do this the easy way: You know how in school you had that cool teacher that would curve your grade on a test? Golf has that too, but it’s called a handicap. Sometimes you just get a straight-up curve, but other times the test is so tough the teacher curves the grade based on the highest score in the class. Think of that really tough test like a really tough golf course. Course rating (for the pros) and slope rating (for the joes) tell you what your real handicap is for that course. Almost every course out there has a course rating and a slope rating, but the Masters doesn’t.
Augusta National has politely declined an official rating, stating, “Our members already know each other’s games.” That wasn’t good enough for the inventor of the slope rating, Dean Knuth. In 2010, Knuth rated the course on the sly, walking along with the regular patrons at a Masters, counting steps golfers took from the rough to the course to attempt an accurate measurement. So, how hard is Augusta National? Somewhere in the rocket science-taught-backward range. The average score for a pro would be around 76 — that’s 4 over par. As for the weekend hackers? Forget it — you’d be lucky to break 100.
Everything in the world of golf changed after Tiger Woods decimated the competition at the 1997 Masters and made Augusta National look like a putt-putt course. After that win, Jack Nicklaus — a six-time winner, told the New York Times that Tiger would win more than his six and Arnold Palmer’s four green jackets combined. The good ole boys down in Augusta weren’t going to sit back and let Tiger and his new brand of long drives and soft touch tear up the most famous fairways out there. They did the only logical thing; they Tiger-proofed the course.
Tiger-proofing generally means lengthening a course. And it’s true that Augusta National is now 500 yards longer than Tiger’s 1997 run, but it’s also loaded with a lot of trees, which makes it difficult for the long hitters to take shortcuts to the green. Lots of other courses have Tiger-proofed as well. The true effect hasn’t been to make it tougher for the long hitters, but rather to take out the shorter hitters. As Bleacher Report points out, the fellas who lack distance can’t even compete on courses where guys like Rory McIlroy are knocking it almost 350 yards off the tee. And that Tiger-proofing at Augusta? Woods still won twice afterward.
The true groundbreaker
Lee Elder had a great 1974 tour season — with a victory and three top 10 finishes. That all qualified him to earn an invite to compete in the 1975 Masters. That’s how it works, right? You play well, and you get to go. Thing is, Lee Elder is black.
That might not seem like a big deal today, but when you look at the history of Augusta National, it sure was. They didn’t invite their first black member to join until 1990, there was a time when all caddies were black by rule, and Augusta Chairman Clifford Roberts once claimed, “As long as I’m alive, the golfers will be white, and
caddies will be black .”
Well, Charlie Sifford was the first black golfer to earn a PGA tour card in 1961, Lee Elder was the first to earn an invite to the Masters, in 1975, and Roberts did live to see both of those events. The BBC reported that Elder received death threats before the tournament, but that didn’t deter him. Once inside, Elder said he got nothing but support from the Augusta faithful: “Every green I walked up on, the applause was tremendous.” Elder could tell stories from the tour that’d curl your hair, but Augusta National welcomed him with open arms in 1975. He missed the cut but returned five more times, with a best finish of 17th place in 1979 .
Clifford the big ole racist
You might know the name Bobby Jones, but unless you’re a pretty big golf fan “Clifford Roberts” probably won’t ring a bell. You can make the case that Roberts is responsible for everything the Masters is today by molding the tournament and the club to fit his wants. He designed the first tournament using Bobby Jones to draw both golfers and fans. The best way to describe Roberts is “complicated.” A Machiavellian perfectionist with his own demons, he had a number of odd quirks. No bark was allowed on the firewood, and he liked his office stupid hot to the point of uncomfortable. His lasting legacy is his most infamous quote about black golfers.
Ill health (cancer and a stroke) followed Roberts’ final years. In September 1977, Roberts walked out to the par 3 course, near the former cabin of President Eisenhower, put a .38 revolver to his head, and pulled the trigger . Sadly, his parents had both committed suicide as well. Even in death his perfectionist nature ruled — he did the deed around 3 a.m., which assured that the morning crew would find his body and quickly remove it without interrupting the day’s rounds. He even had a new haircut and new pajamas on under his trenchcoat.
A creek runs through it
In 1734, an Irishman named John Rae settled in Augusta and picked up a nice piece of property with some water, and promptly slapped his name on the cute little creek it had. All these years later, Rae’s Creek has been the downfall of many young and old golfers — and almost a president. The mud sucked Dwight Eisenhower in knee-deep, and Ike had to be pulled out by Secret Service, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal .
The creek obviously predates the course, and is more than just a golf ball depository for frustrated pros. Even without Augusta National, Rae’s Creek has an incredible feature — a pre-Civil War era aqueduct not too far from the course. So the beauty and majesty of Augusta National extends beyond the course, and the creek knows no prejudices. About 5 miles from the beauty that inspires hushed voices and flowery prose sits a trailer park with beer bottles and cigarette butts. It’s a nice reminder that outside the facade and the green jackets, life still flows in all its reality.