10 Sports Figures You Don’t Mess With
In light of Mike Piazza’s ridiculous accusations in his book, that legendary broadcaster Vin Scully somehow turned Dodgers fans against him, it made us think of a line from The Departed.
Going after Scully is like going after The Godfather. He doesn’t need to respond, everyone else will do it for him.
Which brings to mind 10 living sports figures that are deemed untouchable. Try and go after them at your own risk. You will be unsuccessful and ridiculed all at once. Legions of fans will look at you cock-eyed. You might even get punched.
The Untouchables, if you will:
Okay, let us get this straight … Guy continually pisses off everyone in the NFL; left the New York Jets hanging while secretly arranging a move to New England; cheats to win Super Bowls (and coincidently hasn’t won one since) … and is constantly referred to as a genius and one of the best ever? This guy’s hoodie is made of Teflon. How do you get away with all of that negativity? Belichick brings the ire of many onto himself with his scowl, lack of fashion outside of pajamas, inability to get along with others and so on and so on. Yet, he remains a guy that anyone near the NFL seem to bow down to.
Playing the primary position in the biggest cauldron in sports, for the biggest team in sports, Jeter has been brilliant. What negative remarks can people bring up on him? That he’s overrated because he plays in New York? Put Jeter in Kansas City and he would still be a Hall of Famer. That George Steinbrenner called him out for partying? Jeter was still putting up numbers no matter what time he went to bed and Steinbrenner looked petty for saying it. He’s run through a gamut of Hollywood starlets, yet still rarely appears in the tabloids. And, when it came out that he sends girls home with gift bags after one-night stands, it actually seemed touching and not egotistical. Only some can pull that kind of move off.
He’s Joe Cool. He hasn’t given anyone a reason to dislike him after his career (way to go, Marino) or went into a broadcast booth and acted like a fool (way to go, Simms). Montana led the 49ers dynasty, was great under pressure, is considered one of the best players ever and has done nothing to make people go “Hmm, that Montana had a good career, but …” Even when he played out his career in Kansas City, people either don’t mind it, or have tried to forget it even happened. Try and criticize Montana and you come off looking ill-informed.
The Great One. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Well, that and when he was involved in a gambling ring everyone pointed the finger at his wife. Hmm. Fishy. I don’t go to Vegas as much as I did in my 20′s – hell, does anyone? – but the next time I see a bottle blonde, former actress sitting in a smoky sports book inside a casino will be a first. He was a terrible coach (.473 winning percentage and no better than a fourth place finish). Oh, and his daughter continually posts racy pictures on Twitter yet nobody seems to connect her with her father. Mr. Hilton should probably have a chat with Wayne about that.
The next time you hear Al Michaels perform horribly in a broadcast will be the first. He is always prepared. Always says the right things. Always seems to hold a little more gravity. When he’s not calling a game, he seems like a guy you just want to have a beer with. His radio and TV interviews always provide some humor – so you know he’s not always a straight man – and insight. He knows what he’s talking about and he doesn’t make headlines for being brash or letting his opinions overtake his broadcasts (ahem, Joe Buck). Plus, there’s always this.
Well, this spot was once occupied by Tiger Woods. We all know how that turned out. Nicklaus has only made his golf legacy better by appealing to an entirely different generation of golfers and fans. After capping the best career in the sport, he took on golf course design and now if you play on a Golden Bear course, you know you’re playing on something special. As a player, he dominated in an era that included numerous golf legends and he has never shamed himself with a pithy quote or a silly statement. And, oh, by the way, the tournament he runs in Ohio … yeah, the proceeds go to a children’s hospital. In fact, Nicklaus and his wife donate a ton of money to various children’s hospitals. Try and talk crap about him after knowing that.
Whenever you see Hank Aaron quoted or speaking about anything anymore, you know it’s a big deal. He is so revered in Major League Baseball for everything he has done after his career, that he is like the Morgan Freeman of athletes. If Hammerin’ Hank says something, you’re damn right it’s important and you should listen. MLB named an award after him, given each year to the best overall hitter in each league. Which is pretty accurate when looking at his stellar playing career. Considering all he dealt with and all he accomplished, we should always sit attentively when Aaron is talking.
Maybe even as recently as a year ago, Jordan might have topped this list. But since he hung up his jersey (for the third time) little anecdotes about MJ have crept out here and there. That he’s a terrible owner and only has yes-men by his side. And how much he loses while gambling. And how his grudge about not making his varsity team in high school was totally overblown. From what we’ve heard over the years it’s probably a good thing that Jordan didn’t play in the social media age. But not all of that is proven, some of it is hearsay and he won’t (smartly) talk about it. It would taint his legacy. He’s still His Airness and this week he received his 50th Sports Illustrated cover. He was the first athlete to turn himself into a brand and he is still beloved by almost everyone.
The nation’s second-largest city adores one man. The entire baseball world adores one man. Even Giants fans respect – and some adore – one man. He is the unequivocal voice of God when it comes to baseball and every person who likes the game has a “I listened to Vin Scully growing up” set of tales in their back pocket. Scully has been the voice of at least three generations of baseball fans and has not let any of them down. He is as respected of a man outside of any religious affiliation can get. He is hardly critical – yes, Piazza, we’ve listened to more of his broadcasts than you have – and when he is, he will simply shrug it off and basically say something to the effect of “What do I know? I’m just up here in the booth, not in the dugout.” Everyone is better for having been able to listen to Vin Scully.
How can a man who has barely spoken over the last decade, and largely been out of the limelight for that long, be considered the No. 1 spot? Even after any negativity he had was brought on by himself? (“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”) Let us explain something. Hardly anyone on this list resonates outside of North America and most of them don’t mean anything outside of the United States. Except for Muhammad Ali. The Champ is a worldwide figure, someone who captured nearly everybody during his heyday and has held their captivation with his greatness and legacy ever since. Ali does have a few warts on his resume, but he was so dominant and such a political icon that he transcended a generation of people trying to establish their own power and not be continually ruled by a government. And that is representative of populations around the world, not just in the U.S. Furthermore, even in his weakened condition, how can anyone speak ill of a man with Parkinson’s? That would just seem contemptible in trying to tarnish someone’s name.
And, really, isn’t that what this list is about?