The Fall of Tiger Woods
Never has an athlete fallen so fast, completely, and satisfyingly. Touted at once as a history-changing black man and the whitest man on the planet, he has managed to disappoint his most ardent supporters by being, well, black in their eyes. In the course of a long weekend he went from being the bright-eyed savior and living embodiment of the game of golf to a tabloid joke sending sports writers like Rick Reilly into hissy fits and hand-wringing worthy of a neurotic Jewish grandmother. Read between the lines of the commentary and you’ll find the khaki and loafer crowd dipping their heads in disappointment as the one black guy to whom they could all relate let them down by having even worse taste in whores than they do.
Andre Agassi’s Open
Most jock books follow a basic formula of airing some dirty laundry about fucking broads on the road, telling a coach to fuck off, and doing drugs in the bullpen. Rarely do they eviscerate the essential myths that hold up the construct that being a professional athlete is a dream come true. Andre Agassi’s blistering portrayal of himself is nothing less than exhilarating and refreshing and gives me reason to enjoy the sports world again. For all the bullshit and pomp we’re subjected to, sports are not simply unscripted competitions that challenge the essence of human endurance and focus, they are entertainment for the masses. Agassi’s frank admission that he not only spent an entire year on the ATP tour smoking and snorting meth while he tanked matches, but absolutely loathed the game of tennis, is an affirmation that not only is the grass not greener on the other side, but that your neighbor’s yard hides far more bodies than you would care to imagine.
LeBron James: King of the NBA
The general conceit is that professional athletes are childish dunces incapable of making any decision that does not revolve around choosing which club trollop they want to bring home each night. LeBron James is the best and brightest hope for destroying the myth that because you can play ball you cannot make moneymen do your bidding. Shortly after entering the NBA, James fired his professional handlers and agents and replaced them with friends and associates who were deemed amateurs and rubes. Now, one year away from free agency, those same rubes and supposed hoodlums have helped put James on everything from billboards to Nike commercials while helping to put him in position for the greatest free agent contract in the history of the NBA. Make no mistake; James is the greatest business talent to enter the NBA. Michael Jordan needed David Falk. James only needed himself.
Hubris is the enemy of success and the Patriots, of all teams, should have known better. Never before had a team come so far and done so much only to lose it all when it mattered most. The New England Patriots were on the doorstep of becoming the greatest team the NFL had ever seen, but they spent the lead up to their Super Bowl match up with the New York Giants inviting them to their victory party and talking about how the trip to Arizona was more like a vacation than a business trip. Whereas John Matuzsak and the Raiders spent the week before Super Bowl XV taunting the Eagles by brandishing their cocks and drinking Jack Daniels on Bourbon Street, the Patriots spent theirs granting interviews to Sports Illustrated behaving as if greatness was owed to them and speaking as if the Giants were rejects from the USFL. When they lost, Bill Belichick didn’t even have the decency to shake Tom Caughlin’s hand proving that the character of a man is displayed best when he fails, not when he is successful. Especially when he brings it upon himself.
Kobe Fucks a White Girl in the Ass
In the summer of 2003, Kobe Bryant traveled to Colorado to undergo some routine surgery on his knee. At the time, he was as big as Tiger Woods. He was doing McDonald’s commercials in Italian and was gracing Wheaties boxes, but after he fucked Katelyn Faber in the ass after she made it clear that her pussy would suffice, he was reduced to a childish dipshit who blew his slim chance to supplant Michael Jordan as the most popular basketball player of all time. Then, after the Lakers traded for Karl Malone and Gary Payton and financed the private plane rides back and forth to Colorado to deal with the courtroom drama, Kobe had the nerve to make public comments about Shaq doing the same sort of the thing but just paying the women off. In the end, Kobe got what he wanted – being the man in Los Angeles – but he lost everything he could have been.
Oh, Barry, my old friend, every time I think of you I smile. Sometimes I think back to that magical season in 1998 when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were stealing your thunder. Remember how you were the best player in the game, but two piece-of-shit hitters with huge holes in their game supplanted you in the press and dominated the headlines? Remember when you literally said, “fuck it,” in 1999 and did what every other asshole in baseball was doing and decided to go on the juice? I do. I loved every page of the leaked grand jury testimony that I read. I loved every second of the BALCO scandal. And I was in absolute rapture as you broke both the single-season and career home run marks while Bud Selig sat watching helplessly. And my heart sings every time I think of you because, without you, I never would have gotten to hear some pontificating dummy named Lance Williams from the San Francisco Chronicle tell me that it is crude to think that athletes will do whatever it takes to win no matter the legal consequences or the threat to their image or legacy. Barry, you will always be my hero.
Losing is an art, and for 85 years, no one did it with more style, class, panache, and inventiveness than the Boston Red Sox. Giving up game-winning home runs to overgrown midget shortstops, bumbling managers starting an ace on two days rest, letting Bob Stanley warm up – much less pitch – in a World Series game, selling Babe Ruth, humiliating Jackie Robinson during a tryout; yes, that was the Red Sox. However, in 2004 the greatest practitioners in the art of choking, fucking up, blowing it, and shitting the bed came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the ALCS to shock every sports fan on the planet before easily winning their first World Series since 1918. In game four, after decades of bad jokes and horrendous insults, you could actually hear the baseball gods say, “Enough is enough” and swing the momentum Boston’s way. Before anyone knew it, the Yankees were on the wrong end of the greatest comeback in the history of sports leaving their fans in the Bronx depressed and physically ill. That role reversal made for easily the most tangible proof that the world is not all evil.
Notre Dame never knew what hit them. After being part of a coaching staff that won three Super Bowls in four years, Charlie Weis parlayed devising offensive game plans for Tom Brady into running one of the crown jewels of college football. After the Irish dumped Tyrone Willingham three years into a rebuilding project, Weis was feted as though there was a bidding war for his services even though no other team in football showed the slightest interest in hiring a guy who just had bariatric surgery and needed to be driven around in a gold cart. During his first two years, using talent procured by Willingham, Weis managed to convincingly lose two BCS bowl games and secure a 10-year multi-million-dollar extension. Over the next three years he embarked on a journey of mediocrity and failure that ended with him alleging on national radio that Pete Carroll was shacking up with 20-something-year-old grad students at the beach while he, of all people, was hounded by 60 Minutes for using foul language. There’s bitter and disappointed and then there is just plain classless, untalented and dumb, with Weis illustrating perfectly that success is not dependent on saying the right things at your first press conference. Not bad for a guy who never even played Pop Warner football.
Warren Sapp, sage, said it best: “Al Davis knows football. 1970’s football.” The problem with historical success is that when failure comes, you think it’s not your fault. Surrounded by pathetic enablers and yes men, Davis has provided some of the finest entertainment in sports by essentially firing Jon Gruden, re-hiring Art Shell, drafting JaMarcus Russell, and gracing us with the spectacle that is Tom Cable. Davis was once an iconoclast whose instincts and willingness to gamble brought him enormous success, but his dementia and his family’s unwillingness to put him a home has reduced the Raiders to a laughingstock on par with the Clippers. It’s sort of sad to see his corpse propped up and dressed in tacky tracksuits, but there is no better window into what the future ultimately holds for Jerry Jones.
Not since Bjorn Borg wielded a wooden racket and wore grape smugglers has a player so dominated the game of tennis the way Roger Federer has. Though he is now on the wrong side of his prime, but still formidable, there was a five-year stretch where he was simply unbeatable. While players like John McEnroe, Borg, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors were painfully human and easy to root for because of their respective emotional outbursts and personal foibles, Federer has cultivated a business-like persona centered around the calm perfectionism, faux class, false modesty, and rigid professionalism that oozes from his perfectly tailored warm up suits and monogrammed socks. Winning his 15th Grand Slam title rocketed him into the stratosphere of the greatest professional athletes. His game is versatile, well-rounded, effective on all surfaces, and essentially perfect, but watching him – save for his matches against Rafael Nadal – is passionless, boring, disaffecting, and devoid of soul, making Ivan Lendl look like a rock star by comparison.
Adendum: Sports Related Youtube of The Decade