What makes a great sports villain?
In sports, anti-heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s an athlete who purposely devises a divisive image for public consumption or it’s somebody who achieves greatness despite the public’s overwhelming favoritism toward another involved party, sports villains are everywhere.
Who are the athletes that you love to hate?
Here, we break down the types and give a few examples in this week’s North American Field Guide of Sports Villains.
The Rogue Agent – The Rogue Agent is one of the hardest villains to spot in the wild. The Rogue Agent does an expert job of achieving success using morally and legally questionable methods to attain this level of excellence. Generally, a reputation as a Rogue Agent can only be acquired through many years of torturing the competition. (Ex: Bonds, Barry; Clemens, Roger; Belicheck, Bill)
The Let Downer – This species of sports villain doesn’t identify itself right away. This is somebody who, despite the public’s overwhelming support toward wanting to see success by some other athlete / team, wins the event or championship. Nobody remembers them down the line, but they’ll always be trivia fodder when asked “You know who finished second, can you tell me who finished first?” (Ex: Da’Tara; 2006 Italy World Cup team; Beem, Rich; 2004 Detroit Pistons)
The Spoiled Brat – This is almost always the highest paid guy in any sport, but can also be somebody who whines too much to get what he wants. He or she can usually be seen calling out teammates, forcing a trade or not living up to lofty expectations. It can also be a mouthy owner, one who fills the front page with demeaning quotes. You’ll identify with this list right away. (Ex: Rodriguez, Alex; Owens, Terrell; Bryant, Kobe; Jones, Jerry; Cuban, Mark; BCS, The)
The Golden Boy – They’re young. They’re rich. They’re attractive. They’re famous. They have the job you want and the notoriety to match. You’ve searched through all their crevices of their soul and can’t seem to find any flaws. In short, their perfection annoys you. These are the easiest villains to spot in the wild, just check the tabloids. Kill! Kill! Kill! (Ex: Brady, Tom; Romo, Tony; Jeter, Derek; Beckham, David)
The Quiet Assassin – This group consists of athletes who are so scary good, that they are actually quite boring. The Quiet Assassin always shows up on time and gives 150% and they always come through in the clutch. However, they’ve won so often that you’re sick of seeing them win. There’s nothing inherently unlikable about this group, but you just wish you could see someone else’s name engraved on the trophy. (Ex: Federer, Roger; San Antonio Spurs; New York Yankees; Detroit Red Wings; Jordan, Michael; New England Patriots)
The Incompetent Owner – All the money in the world can’t buy you intuition. These owners have been throwing money (and their mouths) at problems for years, and yet, simply cannot bring their franchises out of foreclosure. (Ex: Sterling, Donald; Angelos, Peter; Wilson, Ralph)
The Bad Apple – This is one straight up bad dude, despite loads of talent. This is the athlete that ruins their lives due to moral flexibility and/or uncontrollable vices. They can be addicts or “clubhouse cancers.” They are not to be confused with the Spoiled Brat. (Ex: Vick, Michael; Stewart, Tony; Woods, Tiger; Bradley, Milton)
The “Stuff White People Like” – Deemed successful after extended dominance of a given sport, yet amasses a disproportionately rich, white fanbase loaded with subtle prejudices. The ‘play the game the right away’ and are ‘fundamentally sound.’ (Ex: Blue Devils, Duke; Celtics, Boston; Tebow, Tim; Fighting Irish, Notre Dame)
The rust belt ship-jumper – This is a special category all its own, created especially for the folks who’ve bolted from Cleveland, Ohio and angered a nation in the process. (James, LeBron; Modell, Art)
Please continue to refer to this guide as necessary. Now that you’ve been educated, get out your binoculars and start discovering.