A big part of being sports fans is the way we idolize the athletes. A lot of lip-service is paid to the idea that we should not set these guys up as role models, particularly for children, but in reality, we can’t help ourselves. I challenge any of you to find yourself in the presence of a player you like and not become a goofy fanboy. If we really thought of them as regular guys who play a game, we would have a different reaction. At the same time, we can find real hatred for players on other teams, despite the fact that they may be totally decent, admirable human beings. The real dilemma is presented when a player we hate starts to play for the home team and plays well. Sometimes, we hang on to the dislike, while more often, that hatred is quickly left behind. There is no sports-related passion quite like the one we have for a guy we used to hate but now love. For me, Lenny Dykstra was one of these guys. His post-career legal troubles, which have most recently resulted in a three-year jail sentence, have really muddied the waters. I just don’t know what to think.
When he played for the Mets for the first four years of his career, Dykstra was one of those guys that you couldn’t help but hate if you were a fan of any other team. Often known as “Nails” for his tough play, he was a guy who gave his all on every single play. He rarely finished a game with a clean uniform, always had a cheek full of tobacco, hustled at all times, and found ways to beat you even when he wasn’t playing well. The 1986 Mets team that won the World Series was my least favorite baseball team of all time, and Dykstra was a big reason why. Later, after a couple of injury-riddled seasons, Lenny was traded to my Philadelphia Phillies. He brought that same “run through a wall” mentality to the team, and the city fell in love with him. Even after he nearly destroyed his career and ended his life, along with that of Darren Daulton, another fan favorite, in a car accident while driving drunk in 1991, we were still on his side. He helped lead the Phils to the 1993 World Series after an amazing season, which, other than the astonishing end on a Joe Carter homerun in game 6, was one of my favorite seasons ever by any team. Dykstra was the player who gave that team its energy, leading the team (and the league) in a boatload of offensive categories.
After he retired, The Dude (another nickname) seemed to reinvent himself as a successful businessman and investor. He became known for his prowess in picking stocks, and built up quite a portfolio. That’s when things started to come apart. His business acumen was a bit of a mirage, it would seem, and an accumulation of bad decisions ended up plunging him into debt. Eventually, last year, he was indicted for fraud and was placed under house arrest. Not yet at rock bottom, he was then charged with drug possession and grand theft auto. This week, he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Dykstra is clearly a bad guy. So was I right when I hated him early on? Well, no, I wasn’t. I was not wrong for cheering him on once he played for my team either. That is part of being a sports fan, and I stand by my right to love or hate any player on a whim. Just as I can hate Michael Vick for killing dogs and I can hate Plaxico Burress for being an idiot with a gun, I can love Lenny Dykstra for lifting my team after I hated him for lifting the Mets. If I idolized him once, all I can do is make sure I learn from what he has become since then.
Bad sports, continued:
2) Yes, it really happened. The Indianapolis Colts have cut Peyton Manning. As of this moment, he has not yet signed with another team, but he spent the last few days being wined and dined in several cities. Knowing how popular Manning is in Indiana, this certainly puts huge pressure on Jim Irsay, the team’s owner, as well as on the next quarterback (likely Andrew Luck).
3) People continue to prove that not everyone should procreate. A man in Boston, Joseph Cordes, was arrested last week for repeatedly aiming a laser pointer at the goalie for the team his daughter’s school was playing against in a high school soccer match. As expected, his daughter’s team won.
4) It was revealed this week that a large number of drug violations have gone unreported by the Syracuse men’s basketball program over the last 10 years. Just as he did with the Bernie Fine sexual abuse scandal, head coach Jim Boeheim claims to know nothing about what happened. I hope that, this time, the media does not let him off the hook as easily as they did with the Fine story.
5) Canadian skier Nick Zoricic was killed during a skicross race in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday. He died of trauma to the head after a crash that took him into the nets off of the side of the course.
6) The Auburn University basketball program, and particularly point guard Varez Ward, are being investigated by the FBI for possible point-shaving. That can’t be good.
7) Golfer Sergio Garcia had a third hole to forget at Doral on Sunday. He carded an 8-over-par 12 on the hole, which is pretty spectacular.
8) Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price suffered an injury for the ages this week. Price was forced to leave the preseason game he was pitching against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday after only two innings (he was scheduled to pitch three) because he hurt himself toweling off between innings. You did not read that wrong. He hurt himself with a towel.
Bonus: The New York Jets gave quarterback Mark Sanchez a three-year contract extension this weekend. My guess is that even the fans of the Jets are saying “huh?? Did you watch last season?”
1) There was a shortage of Good Sports this week, but here is one: Indycar driver Will Power’s car caught fire during a test session in Florida on Tuesday. He ended up putting the fire out himself, which is impressive. The fact that he did so because the safety worker was too slow to get to the car quickly is a different story.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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