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Biggest athlete fall from grace?


Spaceman Spiff

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He was known. And he certainly fell.

 

He was a #1 draft pick who seemed to be on a decent enough trajectory. Good rookie season. Injury wiping out season two. Decent start to season 3.

 

Then...17 years in prison.

 

I feel ya. But he was a 1st-round pick. Not a #1 pick. I hate it when people do that on TV. Some guy was the 32nd pick overall for the Seahawks then, someone will talk about him on TV, "he's a #1 pick." No. Clowney was the #1 pick. He's 1st round pick. A low one at that. Sorry for my rambling.

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O.J. was 20 years removed from his playing days.  Not the same as a guy like Tiger or Lance who fell during their peaks.  Different circumstances.

 

As famous as Lance was (and he was plenty famous), OJ was more famous 20 years removed from his playing days than Lance ever was.

 

There was a reason they decided that OJ in a Bronco was more important than a freaking NBA Finals game featuring the Knicks. Keep in mind this was 1994. We were not in full-on cover everything 24/7 mode yet. The Gulf War was the first steps in that, but that was a war. OJ proved that you could cover anything you wanted to cover 24/7 and have it grab massive ratings.

 

It's hard to even come up with an eqivalent to OJ right now.

 

Michael Jordan is more famous....but no one would be the least bit surprised if he committed a murder.

 

Charles Barkley is close, but Charles Barkley is still dangerous and controversial. OJ's reputation was as clean as could be. (Again, this was 1994. I think I sent my first email that year. I had email the year before, but I literally knew no one else with an email account until 1994. What I'm saying is, OJ had a police record, but no one really knew about it).

 

Tiger makes the list simply because he was ridiculously famous and he had such a ridiculously clean image that any tarnishment was going to be a shock. No one was expecting 50 porn stars and hookers.

Barry Bonds?

 

You could argue that he was the greatest baseball player in history (i don't think he was, but you could argue it with a straight face)

and then... nobody would sign him

 

Yea. But he was always seen as a prick.

I feel ya. But he was a 1st-round pick. Not a #1 pick. I hate it when people do that on TV. Some guy was the 32nd pick overall for the Seahawks then, someone will talk about him on TV, "he's a #1 pick." No. Clowney was the #1 pick. He's 1st round pick. A low one at that. Sorry for my rambling.

 

Settle down, William Safire.

 

Why don't you head to a Burger King and order three "Whoppers Junior?"

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Barry Bonds at No. 2.  Maybe even No. 1 if the determination is based on the destruction of his athletic accomplishments.  At least no one is saying that OJ cheated during his playing days. He just murdered two people in cold blood, lied to the world about it repeatedly, became the butt of hundreds of jokes, then got locked up again for trying to steal back his Heisman Trophy.

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How about Ben Johnson?  His fall was greater than any of the track athletes mentioned in this thread.

 

His level of grace lasted..... what? 8 hours or something?

 

I don't put Lance in the same category as Johnson, mainly because it's cycling and everyone cheats because if you don't cheat, you will actually die and the sport is stupid.

 

But Johnson was only famous for about a day because he was juiced to the gills and the minute he was caught, he became a mediocre runner again.

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Probably not in the top 5, but I think a good one. Aaron Hernandez, great TE on a great team, with a bright future in the NFL. Three murders later, he is never going to play football again, and probably spend his life in prision.

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Pete Rose, as he is still a pariah.

 

I keep coming back to him as #2.

 

He's always been a reprehensible human being, but baseball - more than any other sport - keeps its reprehensible human beings in full employment until they turn 112 years old. That's when the mandatory retirement age kicks in.

 

And depsite his sucking as a human being, the one obvious thing about Rose is that he loves baseball with that passion that only crazy old men can produce regarding baseball. I think he would own season tickets to Reds games if he was a retired postman.

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You know, within five years, McGwire is going to be fully rehabilitated, I think.

 

I think he's more in good graces since he came back to work for the Cards. But Sosa, what is he doing?

 

What about Clemens? I don't think anyone likes that dude anymore.

 

Leinart could be there too. Never was a criminal or anything, but dude had LA in the palm of his hand at USC. Now he's in Dish Network commercials making fun of himself.

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Personal opinion, but to have had a real "fall from grace" you have to meet certain criteria.

 

1. You have to be really good at your sport, which everyone listed so far qualifies.

 

2. It has to be a sport a ton of people care about, or that you made them care about.  This is why I don't count Marion Jones or Tonya Harding.  Marion Jones was great at track, but ultimately, not that many people care about track unless it's the Olympics, and steroids are a pretty run of the mill offense at this point.  No one care about ice skating if it isn't the olympics, that whole story was more drama and less fall from grace.

 

3. You have to have been at least reasonably well liked.  This is why I discount A-Rod, Bonds, or Clemens.  People already hated these guys, does the fact that they cheated and used steroids really add much?  And like Jones, common crime.

 

4. The common crime thing is also what eliminates Sosa and McGwire for me.

 

So with all that in mind, OJ is a clear #1.  Popular sport, popular athlete, was great at what he did, was everywhere, and then he kills* two people, allegedly*.  And all the other stuff that came after?  Clear number 1, without question.

 

#2 is Pete Rose.  Popular sport, popular athlete.  I know a lot of people didn't like him (Ray Fosse incident, etc.), but they admired the way he played the game.  And let's not forget, this guy is the freaking all time hits leader in baseball and isn't in the Hall of Fame, the same Hall of Fame with notorious racists like Ty Cobb, not to mention spitball pitchers, drug addicts, and Cal Ripken.  And this was over gambling, which isn't uncommon in itself, but to be punished like this for it?

 

#3 is Armstrong.  I almost didn't include him because almost no one cares about cycling, but he did put the sport on the map in this country, and he had all of his good guy karma with his cancer foundation.  And he had everyone convinced the French were on a massive witchhunt because they didn't like an American dominating their main event.  When you can proclaim your innocence enough to start a sports war between two countries over it, then get found out, that's a fall from grace.

 

Honorable mentions...Tiger Woods.  Doesn't make my top three because his crime (cheating) isn't exactly unusual, and his fall from grace is a result of his play falling off a cliff.  Let's be honest, if Tiger came back and played golf like he used to, no one would care or remember that he cheated on his wife.  I don't know that I really count that as a fall from grace the same way, it's not like he's been banned or vilified from the sport.  Gets bonus points for making us care about golf again.

 

Mike Tyson is another honorable mention.  Doesn't make the cut because his dominance came in a weak heavyweight era, and I think everyone knew he had a screw loose.  It wasn't unexpected.  The way he's rebuilt himself...his comedy tour, his movie appearances, overcoming the death of his child...I almost think that if he had a second fall from grace after picking himself back up, the second one would be worse.

 

I think it's OJ, Pete Rose, and Lance Armstrong, in that order.  No one else comes close.

 

*Yes, the Ripken this was just a shot at O's fans as we head to the playoffs. Love you guys.

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