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Top Ten Chicago Sports Villains

Mike Klotz

Here are the top ten most vilified Chicago sports figures from recent memory.  Surely I could have slighted someone that you feel should be on the list.  Add to the comments if there is someone that I left out if you feel so inclined. 

10.  Barry Sanders

Usually sports villains are associated with general disdain such as bad mouthing a team or city, dirty play, or arrogance.  Barry Sanders was the exception to the rule, he was one of the classiest,most  humble players to play the game.  I vividly recall Barry scoring many TDs vs the Bears and walking over and handing the ball to the referee.  No dancing, No prancing, no "getting your popcorn ready," just domination.  He made this list because he was just that damn good.  Throughout his career Sanders ripped the Bears for over 1800 rushing yards, over 5 yards per carry, and 12 TDs.  Those 12 TDs were the most Barry had against any other team other than the Tampa Bay Bucs (14) who were horrific during the Barry Sanders era. 

9.  Dwyane Wade/Lebron James

The hometown boy D-Wade, Harold L. Richards High School's finest ripped his hometown's team and took them for the proverbial ride during free agency in 2010.  Wade questioned the Bulls loyalty when stating "I know one thing about Miami: It is a very loyal organization. I see what they do with their players when their players get done with the game of basketball ... how loyal they are. I don't know about the Bulls." This statement was questionable at best considering the Bulls loyalty seems to go pretty far back.

Bill Cartwright was head coach, Pete Myers and assistant, John Paxson was GM and now team president, etc.  The list goes on and on of former Bulls that have remained with the organization.  Also you cannot forget about Jay Williams.  The dope that wrecked his motorcycle and ended his career.  The Bulls were not obligated to pay out the contract but did anyway, sounds pretty loyal to me. 

It certainly was suspicious when D-Wade wanted to meet with the Bulls.  It certainly seems to me it was all about smoke and mirrors with Pat Riley pumping in all the smoke and D-Wade providing the mirrors. 

As for Lebron, he is probably on all sports villain lists outside of Miami.  Did you see the "decision?"  This narcissistic, ego maniac showed that he doesn't have the fortitude to win a championship on his own.  He would rather be a complimentary player on a team with two other all stars.  I may lose my mind if he refers to himself as "King James" again.

8. Chris Pronger

With the Stanley Cup run reaching its pinnacle the Blackhawks had to overcome the annoying, antagonistic Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers.  Pronger managed to get in the face of Dustin Byfuglien, who was probably thinking, "Hey its been my job to irritate, not yours buddy."  Pronger also managed to steal the game winning pucks from the Hawks and his overall physical play and trash talk was epic.  It got to the point where the Tribune ran a full page picture displaying Pronger wearing a figure skating leotard as the bottom half of his uniform.  Nothing like hockey humor.

7. The Hubert Humphrey Metrodome

Ozzie Guillen will volunteer to demolish this "House of Horrors," "Thunderdome," "Homerdome," "The Baggie," "The Humpdome,"  himself if given the opportunity.  The White Sox dreaded the frequent trip up north to face the "little piranhas." White Sox fans certainly recall the slap hits off the artificial turf and the general athleticism that the White Sox softball lineup couldn't keep up with. Ozzie Guillen ranted about the Twins in 2006:

"All those piranhas -- blooper here, blooper here, beat out a ground ball, hit a home run, they're up by four. They get up by four with that bullpen? See you at the national anthem tomorrow. When I sit down and look at the lineup, give me the New York Yankees. Give me those guys because they've got holes. You can pitch around them, you can pitch to them. These little guys? Castillo and all of them? People worry about the catcher, what's his name, Mauer? Fine, yeah, a good hitter, but worry about the little [guys], they're on base all the time."

Guillen had reasons to be upset, overall the White Sox were 88 - 112 at the Metrodome and 2 - 14 in their last 16.  

6. Milton Bradley


Ohhh boy.  I hate to kick a man while he is down but its hard to think of a bigger tool than Milton.  Lets look at some of his greatest hits in a Cubs uniform as noted by Paul Sullivan

 April 23: Asked how his injured groin feels after game, Bradley cracks "I feel like 30 million bucks" while walking away from reporters.

June 12: Throws ball into bleachers after making two-out catch against Twins, allowing run to score: "Sue me," he defiantly says afterward.

June 26: Tells Tribune he feels like he's "afloat on an island" because his teammates have isolated him: "They say all the right things, but it's just b.s." Later creates dugout scene after popout and gets into confrontation with manager Lou Piniella, who calls him "piece of (expletive)" and sends him home.

Aug. 26 : Suggests he has been victim of racial abuse in interview with beat writers. Asked for specifics, he facetiously shouts: "America doesn't believe in racism." Also rips Chicago waiters for "bad-mouthing" him.

Sept. 17: Takes himself out of game without pinch runner ready, refuses to answer questions afterward, repeating: "What else ya got? What else ya got?"

Sept. 19: Takes himself out of starting lineup and refuses to pinch-hit, leading to heated confrontation with hitting coach Von Joshua. Beforehand, he complained of "negativity" in organization in Daily Herald interview.

Sept. 20: Suspended for final 15 games and sent home by GM Jim Hendry. Cubs players stand by Hendry's decision. "Sometimes you just have to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself," Ryan Dempster says.

I think the fact that Ryan Dempster, one of the classiest guys in MLB, rips Milton - you know that he is in fact a total flaming douche.

5.  Steve Garvey

Cubs fans will always remember Steve Garvey rounding the bases with his fist in the air in Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS.  The Cubs stomped the Padres at Wrigley in game one, a dominating 13-0 performance.  This followed by a 4-2 victory the next day, giving the Cubs a 2-0 series lead in the 5 game set.  Cub fans thought it was a wrap. As well all know, this is the Cubs and there is no such thing as a forgone conclusion.  The Cubs flew to Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego needing to win just one game.  The Cubs were slammed 7-0 in game 3.  Game 4 was a back to back affair.  Early in the game the Padres took the lead off of a Garvey double.  After the Cubs took the lead Garvey answered with an RBI single to tie the game in the 5th.  His next at bat, in the 7th Garvey singled in another run to give the Padres the lead.  The Cubs answer in the 8th by tying the score. 

Thus setting the stage for the 9th inning.  Jerry Coleman had the call "Garvey, who has been a hero tonight with three base hits and three RBIs, steps in...One ball, no strikes. One away. Five-five ball game...Padres have put ten hits on the board, the Cubs eight. Gwynn, taking his lead off first. The pitch on the way to Garvey. Hit high to right-center field! Way back! Going! Going! It is gone! The Padres win it!...In a game that absolutely defies description, Steve Garvey, in the ninth inning, hit one over the 370-mark, and the Padres beat the Cubs 7-5! Oh, doctor, you can hang a star on that baby!"

This lead to the only forgone conclusion for the Cubs, a Game 5, series clinching loss.  Garvey followed his 5 RBI performance with another RBI, in a 6-3 Cubs heartbreaking loss.  Garvey had a 1.029 OPS with 7RBI in the series.

4. John Starks

John Starks was hated so much by Bulls fans that when he joined the team in 2000 in a three way trade involving tony Toni Kukoc he was booed relentlessly when he took the court.  Starks hated playing for the Bulls so much that he terminated his own contract.  The hatred was derived from years of antagonizing the Bulls while in a Knicks uniform.  Although the Bulls usually came out on top vs the Knicks - few have been more vilified than John Starks.  Here are some highlights

This should leave little doubt why Starks is so high on the list:

(4:30, 6:55, 7:50, 8:20 - ejection)

Honorable mention goes out to Patrick Ewing

3. Bad Boy Pistons 

in 1990 and 1991 the Pistons dominated the NBA landscape, winning back to back championships using a physical style, some, like me, would say dirty.  The play of Rodman, Laimbeer, and Mahorn are infamous.

When the Bulls finally defeated the Pistons and go on and eventually win their first championship, the Pistons walked off the court.  The walked off the court prior to the game ending and refused to shake the hands of the victorious Chicago Bulls in one of the most classless displays in NBA history.

2. Brett Favre

Now we are annoyed with Favre and his annual diva fest in which he takes his current team for a ride of projected indecision.  Bears fan certainly recall his dominance vs the Monsters of the Midway at Lambeau Field, the above mentioned Metrodome and here in Chicago.  With a 22-10 record vs the Bears, its pretty easy to see why he is vilified.  Visions of Favre running up and down the field with John Madden, Chris Berman, or recently, John Gruden oohing and aahing every move of the former Packer make Bears fans ill.  The Bears had a one year reprieve of Favre-mania while he went to NY but he returned to the division with the Vikings, to torment the Bears further.  

It's not all bad news for Bears fans.  We still get to see him throw a clutch interception every year in the playoffs to cost his team a game, which is always fun.

Here's some highlights in which the Bears pulled it out at the end but not without some Favre drama

1. Steve Bartman

I really wish I didn't have to put this guy on the list, let alone at the top.  No one has been more vilified in Chicago than this guy.  Despite the fact he works in Human Resources, I feel for Steve Bartman.  He was lucky enough to have great seats to Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (probably wishes he was sitting further back.)  Decked out with his Cubs gear and radio to listen to Pat Hughes and Steve Stone call the game he had no idea that he would become Chicago's most vilified sports figure.  There were multitudes of things to blame the 2003 3-1 series lead collapse to the Marlins on, Steve Bartman being the least of it.  Just in that inning alone Alex Gonzalez dropped a sure double play and Dusty Baker left Prior in too long just to name a couple. 

Bartman's significance was blown out of proportion by Alou's reaction.  Could Alou have caught that ball? Sure he could have.  The ball was going to land right in his glove.  But that doesn't justify ranting and raving like a lunatic.  Mark Prior pointing and screaming from the mound demanding fan interference didn't help. Steve Lyons on FOX didn't help either with his "I'm surprised someone hasn't thrown that fan onto the field" comment.  I also had the radio on and heard Steve Stone on WGN radio rip Bartman.  Which I am sure Bartman heard through his headphones as he was being showered with Old Style.

It has been ignored there were two other people surrounding Bartman whom went after the ball as well.  But after the inning went astray with the Marlins plating 8 runs, all but ending the Cubs run to the World Series, things turned ugly for Bartman.

With the protection of security he was able to escape Wrigley.  Later "Death to Steve Bartman" boards popped up online.  Someone leaked who he was and where he lived/worked which was followed by an angry mob descending upon his door.  Hopefully someday the HR representative will make his triumphant return to Wrigley to throw out the first pitch on opening day following a Cubs World Series Championship.  I am not holding my breath for either.



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