Print Edition: January 16, 2013
Around this time every year come the lists of best plays and greatest moments in sports of the year past. It’s exhilarating to see those moments again and relive them, but these lists, with all their glory, also make it easy to forget the ever-present figure in the world of seven-figure contracts: the Jerk. Those players or coaches or management members who prove their paychecks aren’t relative to their decency as people, or show how easy it is to lose contact with the mortal world after displaying a little excellence in dribbling a ball or riding a damn bicycle.
So here’s a list of four jerks who’ve showed within the last 12 months that they are the biggest sporting buffoons of 2012.
1. Lance Armstrong
Armstrong could ride a bicycle very quickly. That’s why he’s number one, leading the pack as usual. The irony of this sports celebrity’s career-and-image-ruining transgression is that it doesn’t affect him as much as the discussion of his doping would make one believe. Until very recently he denied use of performance-enhancing drugs. I can’t look into the man’s blood with a microscope myself, and I don’t think it matters if anyone else does. He had bad PR agents, or someone out to get him, or was just too good to be believed. Whatever it was, he’s a jerk for letting down those who were inspired from the story, almost mythical, of a man who battled a disease that’s taken the lives of many good and strong athletes and people, who could then succeed in a competition of physical endurance and strength.
Verdict: Jerk in a yellow jersey.
2. Metta World Peace (Formerly known as Ron Artest)
World Peace is the most idiotic last name to ever grace the back of a jersey. Because its owner had agential control over this name change, it is idiotic. Because its owner is a man who spoils the image of the accountable sports player, it is idiotic. Because its owner elbows a man in the face while playing a basketball game and claims it was a celebratory mistake, it is idiotic. Because its owner is one piece of proof that the sports player is no longer an ideal but an idol, fetishized for the sake of entertainment, it is idiotic.
Verdict: Metta World Peace is a jerk for too many reasons to continue.
3. Gary Bettman
Most people who watch hockey, whether they’re the sort who watch it while drinking the daily beer special at the pub and care only that it’s two teams playing, or the type whose fantasy roster takes the pooled prized at the end of each season, hate the National Hockey League’s commissioner, Bettman. Search his name on Google and his bio pic shows the man in a zany moment of what’s most likely evil scheming (shown above). Gary Bettman’s a jerk to most people because he represented the management of the NHL in the recent labour dispute, no one seems to care that he’s been a fairly successful commissioner for almost 20 years. But the hockey players should be held up to blame as well. The dispute showed that the pro level of play is set in a world of Olympian-sized incomes. Also, people take professional sports very seriously; I wouldn’t like to see what would happen in Oakland if the NFL went on hiatus for several months. If the NHL had continued its stagnation due to squabbling millionaires and billionaires there would have been riots in the streets. Oh wait, that happens only during the hockey season!
Verdict: Everyone who was involved in the lockout is an avaricious jerk. Even the Swedes.
4. Justin Verlander
If this were 2011, this spot would belong to Luongo (granted it didn’t slip between his pads). Verlander had a great season, went into the All-Stars game strong as a mule, and came out weak as a methadone-addicted kitten. The American League was stomped on by the National League, and so the San Francisco Giants gained home-field advantage in the World Series against Verlander’s Detroit Tigers. This culminated in him giving up free homeruns in the first game of the series.
Verdict: A jerk for not playing consistently.
These jerks are jerks because they’ve dashed fan expectations. I can’t wait to see how 2013 turns out, mainly because there’s always the World Curling Championship, the finals in a sport where they sweep the jerks out whenever they can.