Monday, May 19, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Disliked

In time we hate that which we often fear. ~ William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

Sports Illustrated did a little slideshow on the most disliked people in sports, and it makes for an interesting collection. Generally speaking, it breaks down into some standard categories (with examples provided):

Team owners: Donald Sterling, Clippers; Jerry Jones, Cowboys; James Dolan, Knicks and Rangers.
Heads of leagues/sports organizations: NBA, NHL, FIFA
Jerks: See owners above, and add Lane Kiffen, and Julie Herrman, AD at Rutgers.
Fallen Heroes: Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods
Major Successes: Sebastian Vettel, Tiger Woods (once upon a time), John Calipari (who could also fall into jerks), Bill Belichick, Nick Saban

Some of these are easy to understand. Team owners have a history of arrogance because, well, they're loaded, it's their money and their team. It's the taxpayers' stadium, but that's another story. At any rate, barring the occasional Art Rooney of Pittsburgh, nice guy owners are hard to find.

Heads of sports leagues are easy pickings. No matter what they do they make somebody unhappy. In some cases, it's the fans, sometimes it's the players. Seldom is it the team owners because that's how they keep their jobs.

Jerks? Well, that's self-explanatory, and, let's face it, they're everywhere.

It's the last two categories that intrigue me. These days, fallen heroes tend to be guys caught with the fingers in the drug cookie jar, although there are other causes. Generally, these are people that were once admired for their skills and success. When we find out that they have feet of clay (or steroids) we are monumentally disappointed. Alex Rodriguez was the great hope to go after Barry Bonds' home run record until it was found that he was imbibing. He didn't help matters by trying to avoid his suspension by trying to sue everyone in sight including the players union.

Lance Armstrong is a slightly different matter. He participated in a sport that is so dominated by performance enhancing drugs and blood doping that when his championships were taken away, they couldn't take a chance on giving them to runners-up because many of them had been caught doing the same things Armstrong did. Perhaps that's why we wanted to believe Armstrong's denials. He was a clean athlete in a sea of dopers. When he turned out to be just like the rest of them, it hurt. Still, I don't know if “dislike” is the term for these people. “Disappointed” or “let down” would seem more appropriate.

But it's the last group that fascinates me, especially Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Now, neither of these guys has what I would call a charming personality. In fact, in Belichick's case it is doubtful whether he has any personality at all. But if we went by those who can't win Mr. or Ms. Congeniality contests, the list would have contained the likes of Bud Selig, Mack Brown, Urban Meyer, or Kimi Raikkonnen (the F1 racing king of no-personality). But, the thing about Belichick and Saban is not just that they've been successful; they've been dominators. And they're lousy interviews. Neither one cares for the stupid questions reporters ask over and over again; they're disciplinarians; and they know every trick in the book.

There was an attempt to crucify Belichick a while back over his taping of opposing teams signals. I've had my say on that, but the main point is that if you're going to do semaphore signals or hold up rebus cards, what do you expect? That the opposing team will turn around until you're done?

Saban has been criticized for signing more than the maximum number of players allowed, which means some of them are left out in the cold. True, I don't care for the practice, but he's hardly alone in doing this.

No, what people don't like is that these very no-nonsense characters keep winning, and they do it by running tight ships.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I don't mind seeing these guys lose at times, usually when they're playing a team I prefer over New England or Alabama. But, I don't dislike them. Heck, I've never met either one. In person, they might be downright lovable. Probably not, but they could be.

No, when it comes to success, we are a strange bunch. We love to see someone come along and set the world on fire, but we don't like to face the fact that the person might have human failings. Or that he/she might continue setting their part of the world on fire until it gets downright dull. We are fickle.

Me, I prefer to reserve my dislikes for the jerks. It's easier and almost never involves disappointment because jerks are so consistent.

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