Peyton Manning and Pope Francis are both worthy of their respective honors as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and TIME’s Person of the Year.
Personally, I would have gone with David Ortiz over Manning because of his role in Boston’s healing in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing and October Classic performance, but I’m not here to argue on Big Papi’s behalf. He gets enough recognition to sleep comfortably at night.
The best and brightest usually get their rewards; MVP awards, Nobel Prizes, Grammys, Oscars, etc. Outside of the Razzies though, the worst among us don’t face the official ridicule they probably deserve. This list is their lump of coal.
For every sports figure behaving himself, there’s another one actin’ a fool. The worst sportsmen of 2013 have gotten a pass for long enough. It’s been a year rife with poor sportsmanship and truculent athletes. Tis the season to be vindictive. These 10 athletes all had their Dickipedia profiles heavily edited in the last 12 months.
Dishonorable mention (pending jury decisions): Aaron Hernandez, Oscar Pistorius
10. Chris Culliver broke the cardinal rule of public speaking: Know your audience. Making anti-gay statements in 2013 is a cave dweller’s mentality. Doing it as an athlete for San Francisco’s most prominent pro franchise is a brain-dead move. That’s exactly what Culliver did when he railed against the possibility of playing alongside a gay athlete during a cringe worthy interview with shock jock Artie Lang, just before the Super Bowl.
“I don’t do the gays. I don’t do that,” Culliver said. “We don’t have any gays on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”
9. Brandon Meriweather’s vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Heap was one of the impetuses for the league’s quick implementation of tougher penalties against defenders who use their helmets against defenseless receivers back in 2011. Concussion prevention among active players and CTE in retired players reached a boiling point in 2013. Meriweather is a glutton for punishment. How else do you describe his Jack Tatum-like head hunting tendencies?
Even after knocking Eddie Lacy and then himself out against Green Bay, Meriweather was suspended two games by the league before having it reduced to one.
Meriweather then went on the offensive by promising to tear ACLs and end careers since the head was off limits.
“To be honest, you’ve just got to go low now,” Meriweather, who was fined $42,000 last month for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the Packers’ Eddie Lacy, told the Washington Times. “You gotta end people’s careers.
"You gotta tear peoples ACLs . Mess up people's knees. You can't him them high anymore. You've just got to go low."
8. Mike Shanahan barely beat out Mike D’Antoni. Both are stubborn, cantankerous coaches who’ve seen their prestigious reputations sullied for one reason or another in recent years, overused their franchise players and lost games. But only Shanahan’s name became a verb (see: Shanahangans) and has been surreptitiously plotting against his own second-year quarterback and GM.
7. Joe "Devil's Advocate" Tacopina is one half of the worst sportsmen tag team champions of 2013. A-Rod’s attorney is on our list, which tells you just how much further below the Q-score Mendoza line his client fell in 2013.
Joe Tacopina could be the most hated lawyer in New York.
After securing an improbable acquittal in the rape case against ex-NYPD Officer Kenneth Moreno, following unlikely triumphs for accused cop-killer Lillo Brancato and alleged girlfriend-bashing Hiram Monserrate, the dapper smooth talker is facing a new round of barbs.
“I can’t stand him,” said one prosecutor, pointing out that Tacopina also sprung Natalee Holloway suspect Joran van der Sloot and Thomas Wiese, an Abner Louima cop.
“He’s slick, he’s got a big ego, and he’ll represent any scumbag.”
This is the lede for a short New York Post profile of Tacopina that was published two years before he became A-Rod’s attorney.
Fact: People hate lawyers. New York has more lawyers than vermin and I’m not sure which has a higher Gallup favorability rating. Yet, Tacopina is the most hated of them all? That’s harsh.
Not as harsh as Matt Lauer serving him up with a humiliating curveball on The Today Show though.
Like A-Rod in his prime though, he’s still a top-notch litigator. Still, you’d think A-Rod would try and find someone with a likeability factor.
6. Luis Suárez’s recidivist reputation has preceded him, so much that you forget to mention that he’s the best goal scorer in the Premier League, but gnawing at the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanović was the nadir of his antics. True to the spirit of football, Suárez didn’t use his hands in an act of aggression. That’s got to count for something.
Ultimately, the NCAA granted his former players waivers to transfer and the school responded by failing to vet their new athletic director who faced accusations of student-athlete abuse in the past.
Rice was one of the initial ignominious stars who ushered in the year of anti-bullying and anti-hazing. At least he wasn't the worst.
4. Lance Armstrong’s imploding double life was the real life embodiment of Walter White’s tale right down to their bouts with cancer. Armstrong isn’t as high up on the list as Braun because his transgressions had the light shone upon them last year, and Americans care more about baseball than endurance bicycling. However, it wasn’t until January that the non-fictional Heisenberg finally fessed up on Oprah’s couch. I’m reaching back for Lance, just to prove that the statute of limitations on Worst Sportsmen of The Year is a malleable one.
Even after the government, witnesses, former allies and the victims of his attempts to discredit and punish those who spoke out against him and dropped bombshells about the intricacies of how his blood doping operation created a cycling powerhouse at the turn of the century, ardent supporters of Armstrong remained.
That all changed when he finally appeared as a guest on Oprah and poured his black heart out. He gets a little leeway from me because of what he did for cancer research with his LIVESTRONG foundation and because he competes in a loosely-enforced sport where the first winner was banned in 1904 for cheating by traveling by train during one of his stages.
3. Ryan Braun. You can make a strong case that the PEDs enlarged A-Rod’s ego more than it did his muscles, but at least he never threw actual, living people under the bus.
The only reason he’s not No.1 is because Braun has disappeared since he was suspended in July. However, the grimy details of his attempts to string fellow major leaguers and the NFL’s A-Rod into his web of lies has him in Armstrong territory. He apologized to the test collector who lost his job, but what about Aaron “Say It Ain’t So Joe” Rodgers? Another innocent victim.
2. Richie Incognito lived up to his name “Dick In Secret” in 2013. He’s a master of media manipulation. Around last Christmas, South Florida’s chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America named Incognito a “Good Guy” award winner. Turns out it was only the second-most prestigious honor bestowed upon him last year.
1. Alex Rodriguez is on the opposite end of the Big Papi fan adoration spectrum. He was a tour de force of negative energy in 2013 and with Derek Jeter’s body falling apart like a JENGA stack, Rodriguez’s profile loomed even larger in the Yankees forefront.
While Ortiz was working on his third World Series in Boston, Rodriguez was battling the commissioner’s office and his own general manager.
A-Rod’s whirlwind media tour eschewing his stoic demeanor to showcase his range of emotions was the top media promotional tour of the year. He also moonlighted as a baseball player in the minors and majors much like Ron Bergundy moonlights as Will Ferrell.
His most outrageous moment of 2013 occurred after he stormed out of a drug suspension grievance hearing, surprised WFAN’s Mike Francesca in his studio soon afterwards, then went on the air to accuse Selig of hating New York City, mentioned his own love for the Big Apple and used his own daughter as a tool for sympathy in one breath. It was A-Rod’s bizarro version of Ortiz’s “This is our fu#@in' city” speech. His bat speed and power may be declining, but A-Rod showed perfect form swinging back at Bud Selig.
Why Will Ferrell hasn’t filmed a sit-down interview with A-Rod yet is beyond me. What was he wasting our time with that Peyton Manning SportsCenter conversation for when potential A-Rod sound bites are out there? An hour with A-Rod and Ron Burgundy is what the people want.
A-Rod’s initial request in 2003 was a trade from Texas to the Red Sox, but the trade was nixed and since then he’s become the Trojan Horse, which turned the Curse of the Bambino on its head.
The Yankees, who at best are actively trying to get out of paying him and at worst, hid a major hip injury from him. As we enter the New Year, A-Rod is still waging a legal war against MLB that could leave more potential collateral damage behind in his wake.