Lance Armstrong recently admitted to doping. Basically, he cheated at his sport after years of saying he was clean. Now, to some people that is not a big deal. But to others, people that funded his charity and bought his book and were inspired by him, they feel hurt and betrayed. Lance lost a lot of love after admitting he cheated. Same goes for other athletes like Alex Rodriguez and Rafeal Palmero.
Then there are players who have troubles outside of the sport itself. Kobe Bryant raped a woman. Ben Roethlisberger raped two women. Michael Vick killed dogs. Ray Lewis pretty much killed a human being.
However, we are a nation that tends to forgive and forget things quite quickly. Winning tends to cure all that personal heart break. In fact, I think if you win sports games, your fan base will forgive you regardless of what you do. Is that an awesome thing or a super sad thing?
Anyway, here are five athletes that I will always love, despite their troubles in life on or off the field:
5. Joe Nathan – Listen, this guy isn’t really terrible and he hasn’t done anything ever to betray my love. But this guy was really good. And I loved watching him play. I still do. This guy was so good that he was simply taken for granted. A converted short-stop (Joe Nathan never really cared to pitch. He was quoted once saying that he could still hit .240 in this league…which gives you some insight into how funny he is), the Twins got him in a deal for AJ Pierzinsky. They quickly realized this dude could throw hard. When Everyday Eddie left, Nathan stepped into the closers role. All he did was become the Twins all time saves leader with 255, become a five time all star, and win the best reliever award in 2009. Nathan also has 298 career saves. I couldn’t be happier for Joe, wherever he chooses to play from here on out. I will always cheer for him to succeed.
4. Brett Favre – I do not think anyone broke my heart more than Brett Favre. When he was a Packer, he killed the Vikings. When he was a Viking, he killed the Vikings. But you know what? Football, the NFL in particular, needs someone like Brett Favre. They need a joking redneck who doesn’t take the game to seriously. Everyone in the league now sees it as a business and a way to get rich. I do not see players taking joy in just playing anymore. And that was something you could never say about Brett Favre. Of course Brett had his own off the field issues. He was addicted to pain killers, had an affair, and of course his whole off season fiasco near the end of his career. But now that he is no longer in the NFL, it is a little strange. For the better part of my adult life, this man played football games. Although I hated him for the majority of his career, I cannot help but think the NFL is missing something without him out there.
3. Michael Jordon – The best basketball player that ever lived. Yea, I said it. You can give me Wilt or Magic or Bird or Kobe, but MJ was the best that ever lived. Of course, he was not without issues. This guy was a gambler. I would wager (see what I did there?) that he still is. This guy would gamble on anything and everything. High cut for a Benjamin? Done. Flip a coin for a grand? Sure. Make free throws with my eyes closed during a game? Why not? This guy gambled himself right out of the league… allegedly. Remember those two years MJ decided to go play baseball? I am sure you remember…if you don’t, just watch the beginning of Space Jam again. He is playing baseball. It is a plot point. That really happened in real life. Anyway, supposedly he was suspended for two years for gambling on games and he used baseball to cover it up. Now, the fact that the NBA is shady enough already, compare this to baseball: Pete Rose is banned for life for essentially the same offense. The NBA needed Jordan though, Jordan WAS the NBA. So, two years and a triumphant return later, they get back their superstar and I get to go on loving Michael like nothing happened. Even though Mike’s team stinks now, I will still always love him. Oh, also, he was in Space Jam.
2. Kirby Puckett – Little Kirby Puckett. This dude racked up stats and all star games like a 14 year old racks up kills in Grand Theft Auto 3. All he did was hit and field and win his way into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. He won 2 world series, one of which, the 1991 series against the Braves, is considered the best World Series of all time. He was a batting champ in 1989, 6 time gold glove winner, Roberto Clemente award winner, and has since had his number retired by my favorite team, The Minnesota Twins. Puckett was perhaps the face of Minnesota at that time. However, that started to change. In March 2002, a woman filed an order for protection against Puckett’s wife Tonya, alleging that Tonya had threatened to kill her over an alleged affair with Puckett. That month, another woman asked for protection from Puckett, saying in court documents that she had had an 18-year relationship with him and that he had shoved her in his Bloomington condominium. In September 2002, Puckett was charged with false imprisonment, fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and fifth-degree assault after being accused of groping a woman in a restaurant bathroom. Puckett became secluded at that point, moving to Scottsdale, Arizona where he passed away three years later. Kirby Puckett is a fascinating case of “can a sports star who captures your attention on the field get a pass for personal transgressions?” That is a personal answer everyone must face and answer on their own. It is something that cannot be a blanket statement either. To me, I will always love Kirby, despite is clearly troubled life off the field.
1. Randy Moss – I talked about Randy Moss already as one of my favorite players ever. You can find that article here. Randy Moss might have changed the NFL and the style of play in the NFL more than any other single player in the past 20 years. Teams realized that not only can they win games with big play, high powered offenses (something that really didn’t exist in the ball control, feature running back dominated league prior to 1998), but they can make a ton of money because that is what people wanted to see. Randy Moss is the only link between the two most dominant offensive teams EVER. Seven Pro Bowls, an NFC player of the Year, and so many awards that the difference between him and Jerry Rice for best receiver ever is not as far fetched as you might think.
- Most touchdown receptions in a season – 23 (2007)
- Most touchdown receptions by a rookie in a season – 17 (1998)
- Most seasons with 17 or more touchdown receptions – 3 (1998, 2003, 2007)
- Most seasons with 16 or more touchdown receptions – 3 (1998, 2003, 2007)
- Most seasons with 11 or more touchdown receptions – 8 – tied with Jerry Rice
- Most seasons with 10 or more touchdown receptions – 9 – tied with Jerry Rice
- Most games in a season with at least 2 touchdown receptions – 8 (2007)
- One of two players to have 1,600+ receiving yards and 16+ receiving touchdowns in a season (2003), the other being Calvin Johnson (2011)
- Most yards receiving in a Pro Bowl game – 212 (2000)
- Most touchdowns scored in first 10 games with a new team – 16 (2007)
- Most 1,200+ yard receiving seasons to start a career – 6 (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
- Moss has averaged at least one receiving touchdown per game played in four different seasons: 1998 (17 TDs in 16 games), 2003 (17 in 16), 2004 (13 in 13), and 2007 (23 in 16)
- At the end of the 2008 season, Moss averaged 12.3 receiving TDs per season
- Four 100+ yard games in his first four games with a new team in 2007
- Youngest player in NFL history to record his 100th receiving touchdown – (29 years and 235 days)
- Youngest player in NFL history to record his 120th receiving touchdown – (30 years, 313 days)
- Fastest player to reach 5,000 career receiving yards – 59 games (broke record of 61 games by Jerry Rice)
- Highest career yards per catch average for any player with 900+ receptions – 15.6 yards per reception
- Youngest player to have 3 touchdown receptions in a game (21 years, 286 days; later broken by Rob Gronkowski)
Of course, those are just some of his records. But everyone knows that Randy Moss comes with a price…He had a bad attitude a lot of the time. He sprayed water on a ref, hit a dude with his car, paid in straight cash, and of course, Mooned the Lambeau Field crowd. That last one Joe Buck just could not stomach. Despite all that, I got to watch Randy Moss as a kid and there has never been anyone as good as him since. Perhaps the NFL has finally caught up to the big, athletic wide receivers or perhaps Randy Moss was just that special. Either way, I will always love him.
Yes, Randy Moss was so damn good that Mike Tice kept his job for quite awhile.
Who are some of your sports heroes you will love unconditionally?
Here is a great video to go with Brett Favre as well: What should he do?!