Thursday, 26 April 2012

V is for... Villains

Having discussed unlikely sporting heroes in yesterday’s post, today I’m going to look at those we love to hate; the villains in sport. Sporting villains can fall into many different categories:
  • Administrators who are trying to ruin our sports
  • Individuals who take bribes to influences results
  • Arrogant and big-headed athletes
  • Blatant cheats who revel in their underhand tactics
  • Thugs who perform despicable acts on or off the field
  • Athletes who use performing-enhancing drugs
  • Individuals who believe their celebrity allows them to express abhorrent views
I haven’t got the time (or space) to list all my sporting villains, so here are just a few of my personal ‘favourites’.

Mike Tyson

The "baddest man on the planet"
By the age of 13, Mike Tyson had already been arrested 38 times. Two years later in 1981 he won the boxing gold medal at the Junior Olympics by knocking out all his opponents; a feat he managed to repeat the next year. When Tyson moved into the professional ranks he already had a reputation, which rapidly grew as he won his first 19 fights by knockout, with 12 of those knockouts occurring in the first round. His fearsome punching power and intimidating reputation quickly earned him the nickname the "baddest man on the planet”.

Tyson’s aura in the ring was diminished slightly after his shock loss to James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990. Outside of the ring his life was also falling apart, and in July 1991 he was arrested for the rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington. Tyson was convicted of the charge in February 1992, and was given a sentence of 10 years, six in prison and four on probation. However after 3 years he was released after good behavior, and resumed his boxing career in 1995. 

The resumption of his boxing career started well, with Tyson convincingly winning his first 4 fights, before surprisingly losing to Evander Holyfield in a blockbuster fight. A rematch with Holyfield was held on June 28, 1997, with Tyson again the favourite to win the contest. However the fight was stopped in the third round after Tyson bit Holyfield on the ear, and after the resumption Tyson bit Holyfield again, this time taking a chunk out of his ear. Tyson was disqualified and fined $3 million over the incident. 

Tyson resumed his career the next year and had several more good victories before his career petered out with a couple of shock victories. Despite a slight turn-around in Tyson’s public persona, for me he still remains one of sport’s all-time great villains. 

Spain’s Paralympic basketball team (2000)

Spain's Paralympic cheaters
Basketball ID is a form of basketball adapted for players with intellectual disabilities. In the tournament at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, Spain comfortably won all 5 of their matches, claiming the gold medals in the process. However scandal broke out afterwards, when one of the Spanish competitors, Carlos Ribagorda, revealed he was an undercover journalist, and that most of his teammates hadn’t undergone the tests to prove they had the disability. 

The claims were investigated by the IPC, and it was found that the Spanish Paralympic Committee hadn’t carried out the necessary tests, and 10 of the 12 competitors in the team weren't disabled. The scandal rocked the Paralympics, and the IPC suspended all official sporting activities involving an intellectual disability. Although this was later relaxed, these events are still not included in the Paralympic games.

Jason Akermanis

Akermanis - a thoroughly dislikable man
Jason Akermanis was a highly-skilled footballer for the Brisbane Lions, who was capable of miracles with the ball. On the oval he was a superstar, claiming the game’s highest individual honour, the Brownlow medal, and three Premierships with the Lions. However he carried an air of arrogance about him which meant he had few friends in football. After making disparaging remarks about his coach in 2005, AFL legend Leigh Matthews, he was unceremoniously dumped from the club in a 12-0 vote by the coaching panel and senior player group. Akermanis went on to join the Western Bulldogs in 2007, having three successful seasons with the club, before again falling out with the coaching staff and players and leaving his second club in 2010. 

Although Akermanis was never really loved as a footballer, it was in the final years of his career and post-career when he found himself as a hate figure in AFL circles. His often controversial views included telling gay footballers who were thinking about coming out in public to forget it, and that it “would cause discomfort in that environment should someone declare himself gay.” Also, following the death of much-loved AFL great Jim Stynes this year, Akermanis claimed that he was "a nasty man in his day", and questioned whether he should receive a state funeral.

Do you have any ‘favourite’ sporting villains? And do you genuinely hate these villains, or are they just part of the theatre and drama of sport?

1 comment:

  1. I don't like soccer at all and put their B actor antics on the same shelf as the NFL commissioner.

    Sports was a lot more fun when the administrators weren't delving into personal lives like someone out of Orwell's '1984'.

    Oh, and Tyson is a punk.