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The bad boys of sport

Editor's Pick 29 Mar 2012, 20:08 IST

We are all familiar with the law of opposites – there’s a good side and a bad side to everything, every yin has a yang, for every ray of light there’s a stab of darkness. Sport is no exception. Some sportsmen are revered and looked up to, but some others are  lambasted for the bad examples they set. Here’s a look at some of the most famous (or infamous) sports personalities who championed the cause of the ‘evil’ side.

Mike Tyson

The famous, burly boxer aces the list of people who have been in the news for the wrong reasons, but for good reason. He was nicknamed ‘the most evil man on the planet’. Tyson’s history of delinquency dates back to his childhood; he was arrested about 38 times by the time he was 13 for menial crimes and fighting in Brooklyn. When Tyson was 20, he became the youngest World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, directing his bellicosity to sport. He was accused of domestic violence following a divorce and was imprisoned for 3 years after being accused of raping an 18-year old girl.  After returning from prison, he contested and won matches with his old finesse. But in his match against former heavyweight Evander Hollyfield, Tyson stunned audiences when he bit off the top of Hollyfield’s ear. Tyson was then was involved in quite a few controversial matches after that where he was believed to beat his weaker opponents in dubious fashions which resulted in several cheating charges. He then tested positive for marijuana consumption and his defeat by Lennox Lewis marked the end to what was a great career that was marred by hullabaloos at every step.

Joey Barton 

It’s hard not to pay attention towards Joey Barton given the number of times he has been in trouble. Glimpses of his maniacal temper came to light in 2004 at Manchester City’s fancy dress Christmas party when he accidentally stubbed his lit cigar into a reserve player’s eyelid. Dodging being sacked by a whisker, he apologized but was fined for an amount that equaled his wages for six weeks.  Not long after, in the following summer, Barton was sent home from Thailand during a pre-season tour after he supposedly assaulted a 15-year old fan of Everton. During the fag end of his career with Manchester City, he assaulted teammate Osumane Dabo who was said to have suffered a detached retina due to the attack. He was given community service and suspended for four months after he was found guilty and arrested. In 2008, he was sentenced once again to 6 months in jail after another assault following a night out in Liverpool.

Mark Vermeulen

While sledging is an accepted norm in cricket, Mark Vermeulen, the Zimbabwean Test batsmen, doesn’t agree with that. While playing in Lancashire in 2006 for a league match after losing his spot in the national team, he took offence to comments from a fan; in reaction to the taunts, he actually flung the ball at him! Luckily for the fan, it missed; but Vermeulen wasn’t done yet. Having been a national junior javelin champion, he picked up a metal spike and attempted to get amidst the crowd, but was stopped by his teammates. He copped a 10 year ban which was reduced to three years later, two of which were suspended.  In the same year, he was arrested on charges of pyromania after being accused of setting fire to the Zimbabwean Cricket Academy in Harare along with the Zimbabwe Cricket headquarters a few days prior. He was cleared in 2008, though, on the grounds of mental illness. He was picked to play for Zimbabwe in 2009.


Ron Artest

Ron Artest was known for misbehaviour from his greenhorn days.  He was frequently spotted sipping cognac at half-times and going to practice in a bath-robe, among other misdemeanors.  And he was also responsible for what turned out to be one of the biggest sporting brawls in history – the Malice at the Palace. What began as a fight between the players on the court with less than 45 seconds left in game, ultimately resulted in a shocking public brawl that caught the attention of the whole world. After the fight between the players was broken up, a coke can was hurled at Artest from the crowd which hit him on his chest. Artest shot into the stands and grabbed a man who he thought was responsible. Soon, players from both teams entered the stands and a fight broke out between the fans and the players. The entire bizarre incident led to nine players being suspended without pay for a total of 146 games which summed up to $ 11 million in salary. Five players were charged with assault and sentenced to a year of community service while five fans faced criminal charges and were banned from attending Pistons home games for life. Artest served a 73 match ban – the longest ever in the history of sports. Although now, he has changed his name to Metta World Peace – a welcome change?


John McEnroe

John McEnroe’s on-court success of 7 Grand Slam titles, 9 other Grand Slam doubles titles and a horde of mixed doubles tournaments is more times than not overshadowed by the bad-boy image that he projected. Umpires had to face his wrath every time he had the faintest inkling that they had erred in making a call. He is one of the few sportsmen who could play his best game in spite of his temper seeming to get the better of him, and he was given the appropriate nickname ‘Superbrat’. He also was known for his famous trademark phrase “You can’t be serious!” which vividly showcased his displeasure at a referee’s call. One of the most famous incidents involving his violent outburst saw Lady Diana step out of the court during a Wimbledon game, after which she vowed never to watch a game of an American player. The British media named him ‘The Frog’. But despite his conduct on court, he still remains a legend in the game of tennis due to his sheer class and excellent gameplay.

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