I’m comfortable in jeans that are tough. I’m comfortable in jeans that last. — Brett Favre.
On a recent episode of the On the DL podcast, hosts Dan Levy and Nick Tarnowski discussed athletes that are generally disliked because they were a little too universally loved. Brett Favre was one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, his main occupation is calling press conferences for profit. Recently retired Curt Schilling was one of the greatest post-season pitchers ever and a hero to three different ball clubs (not you, Orioles). His off-the-field persona, however, is one of the most despised in the game. Lance Armstrong conquers the dirtiest sport on Earth, but then throws away that goodwill by “canoodling” with Olsen twins.
Now these are grown men and they make their own destiny. But who will be the next lovable athletes to jump out of the rye and over the cliff?
Baseball: I originally thought the candidate from this sport would have to be from a large market team. Because of the longer season and disparity among team spending, the extra media exposure for the top teams is much more noticeable than in other sports. I figured the Yankees new rotund pitcher CC Sabathia would be overexposed by August. However, another tragic hero candidate is Philly Ryan Howard.
Let me begin by stating that I like Howard, especially because he played for my alma mater. That said, stupid commercials will be this guy’s downfall. First, he does Subway commercials with a guy who used to be fat. What we don’t need are more reminders that he is perilously close to the downside of his Mo Vaughn-type career arc. Also, Dick’s Sporting Goods? I thought they just sold hunting gear there.
Football: While Peyton Manning has been in more commercials than the Beeper King, they are focused less on his on-field greatness and more on his dopey demeanor. The NFL soon-to-be fallen hero is LaDanian Tomlinson. The length of the average running back’s career is too short to be ingrained into the larger public consciousness. Your grandma knows who Brett Favre is, but not Adrian Peterson. LT is on the downside of his career, started complaining about playing time, and he is doing some silly commercials where he gets his “signature” visored-helmet (minus NFL logo). You didn’t know that was his thing, did you?
Basketball: Imagine you are one of two “can’t misses” in your NBA draft class. Everyone loves your build, and your fundamentals are sound. You might think it’s a good idea to take that goodwill to do some endorsements and make some funny commercials. Unfortunately, your bones are made out of sugar, so you don’t see much, if any, playing time during your young career. Also, you have the reputation of being a moping baby. Remember that goodwill? It’s gone. You are Greg Oden.
Hockey: There are about two stars in this league. It would be beneficial to both individuals and the league for fans to able identify themselves as a “Crosby” or an “Ovechkin” fan. Unfortunately, if you are a “Crosby,” that means you are a fan of a bottlefed whiner. Unlike Ovechkin, the Penguins put other great players around Crosby to foster his growth. Despite this support, Crosby is still know to complain to refs when he doesn’t feel he is being treated right on the ice. Ovechkin recently scored his 50th goal this season with a gaggle of nameless teammates. The Crosby/Ovie split is quickly becoming lopsided.
While the next overexposed star may not be one of these, rest assured that he will come and Rachel Nichols will be there to tell his story. Again.