You know what they say – when the going gets tough, pack up your things and try something else. At least that’s what this collection of misguided misfits should have considered when they hit rock bottom with their profession. Life’s not all beer and skittles, sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and head off into the sunset. Or out the backdoor, whichever comes first.
Alfie Potts Harmer gave us an insight into how this theory can bomb miserably in practice. One look at a beast like Brock Lesnar and it baffles the mind how he could not make the NFL his domain. Size, strength, athletic ability, determination – on paper he’s the complete package. For one reason or another, it wasn’t for him.
When it boils down to failed athletes, they either can’t reach the professional standard, are better equipped in a different sport or have a passion/hobby that usurps what they are doing for a living. It can be hard to walk away from a healthy contract that guarantees to set you up, but when push comes to shove, these guys had the opportunity to pull the plug.
The stress and misery of becoming enemy number one for the fans and whipping boy of the media is a sad reality for many of these maligned athletes. Their name and reputation gets dragged through the mud and before long they’re face with two choices – push through it and attempt to come out the other end, or do a Kenny Powers and flee to Mexico in disgrace.
Here at The Sportster we respect the right to personal freedoms, but that doesn’t mean they’re not apart of the top 15 athletes who were better off doing something else. Literally anything else.
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15 Marcus Semien
For all his improvement from the horror show at the start of his A’s career, Marcus Semien could be on the chopping block with the Oakland franchise as they consider using him for trade bait this off season. Regarded as the worst player in baseball today by The Sportster’s own Tim Boyle, Semien set the pace for errors with 35 on his own glove alone at shortstop. That hadn’t been achieved in 17 years, flying in the face of the A’s proud “money ball” philosophy to get the maximum talent out of every acquisition.
14 Limas Sweed
At 30-years of age, Limas Sweed is at a serious crossroads in his stop-start football career. He’s been labeled the worst pick up in Pittsburgh Steelers history when he coughed up the ball in the 2008 AFC Championship game. That $3.3 million contract came to nothing when he was cut in 2010 before a string of injuries and personal issues led him to try the Canadian Football League. But even there the wide receiver hasn’t been able to find a home, losing his place with the Ottawa Redblacks. Sweed should either dip his toes into coaching, as has been rumored before, or keep heading north to Alaska and start fresh.
13 Erick Rowan
Perhaps his window to move into acting closed when Sons of Anarchy wrapped up their series, but we strongly suggest that Erick Rowan discovers another profession. The hipster’s wrestler, Rowan sports a long red beard and shaved head, becoming somewhat known rather than famous for wearing a sheep’s mask entering the ring. Far from one of the most popular Wyatt Family members, Rowan’s size and strength would be better in a wood chopping contest or throwing discs at the Olympics – there’s some money and fame in that.
12 Jack Haley
Phil Jackson’s Chicago Bulls team of the 1990s became a thing of beauty. They didn’t just win championships, they played the game the way it was meant to be played. Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, Scottie Pippen – the superstar names that put their mark on the sport. Then there was Jack Haley, that guy pictured in the background enjoying some champagne and living it up. It’s easy to forget Haley and given his role in that squad, Jackson most often did. Apparently Haley acted as a babysitter for Rodman and if we knew that early on he could have set up his own boutique babysitting service in the NBA. If he could keep Dennis Rodman under wraps, then he would be worth his weight in gold.
11 John Van Benschoten
The stats aren’t pretty. Across a brief MLB career that started in 2004, stopped, then started again for two seasons in 2007 and 08, John Van Benschoten’s 9.20 average with 65 strikeouts and 2 wins from 15 games is the thing of nightmares for any pitcher. From his ill-fated time beginning at the Pittsburgh Pirates to short stints with the White Sox, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres, Van Benschoten is the Kenny Powers of baseball. Just without the comic moments or comeback.
10 Javaris Crittenton
If only Jack Haley was in the Washington Wizards dressing room in 2009. Javaris Crittenton is not thought of too kindly here at The Sportster, officially being the worst player to ever grace the NBA in the eyes of Ben Fisher. That gun-totting incident was never going to sit well with the rest of the group and with his on-court antics failing to act as a counterweight to his volatile character, Crittenton’s basketball career blew up in smoke when he was sentenced to 23 years for manslaughter. At 27, he’ll still have enough time out of jail to make something else of his life but it will certainly have to be another profession outside of the NBA.
9 Manny Yarbrough
At 600 lbs. you’re athletic pursuits are limited. For Emmanuel “Manny” Yarbrough, his approach was similar to his philosophy on eating – the more the merrier! American football, judo, sumo wrestling, MMA and even Bollywood acting - Yarbrough tried them all without excelling at any of them. Out of his three MMA fights, he has one win and two losses, with his smothering submission win over Tatsuo Nakano came from virtually laying on the guy.
8 Jarryd Hayne
The boy from Western Sydney walked away from being the premier player in Australia’s National Rugby League competition, taking a huge punt on moving to America to try the NFL. After being picked up by the San Francisco 49ers franchise this season, Hayne excelled as a punt returner in pre season but as soon as the real action got under way, he coughed up the ball time and time again. When coach Jim Tomsula and the ailing organization decided to cut him, Hayne was at a loose end until an injury crisis brought him back into the fold. Yet to impress, there is clearly one sport on the other side of the world that would love him to go back.
7 James Toney
It’s easy analyzing exactly what went right in James Toney’s career and what went horribly, horribly wrong. The 3-time world champion who held titles across the cruiserweight, middleweight and super middleweight divisions was well known as one of the premier defensive boxers to have ever graced the ring. With all the fame and accolades coming his way, he decided to throw it all away and start new in the UFC! That single MMA appearance saw Toney lose out to Randy Couture in 15 seconds and he has not returned to the sport since. That’s what we call a “drop in visit” to the sport if ever there was one.
6 Rusty Lisch
To say the NFL was a step too far for Rusty Lisch is the mother of all understatements. A 25.1 passer rating remains one of the lowest of its kind, illustrating how the fill-in quarterback struggled terribly to meet the basic demands of throwing the ball to members on his own team. Across five seasons, Lisch managed one touchdown among 11 interceptions. Three years with the Cardinals and one with the Chicago Bears yielded no rewards and it just so happened his place at Notre Dame was replaced by little known QB Joe Montana. The peaks and troughs of College football at its best in the mid 1970s.
5 Bob Uecker
Actor, comedian, broadcaster – Bob Uecker still has so much going for him it’s any wonder why he blotted his copy book with a horrible stint in MLB. Such is his love for the sport, the 81-year old took one for the team from a foul ball earlier this year but lived to tell the tale. For his 59 games, he remains in the top 10 of all time for most passed balls, proving to be more of a turnstile than a stopper. His home run hit off Sandy Koufax is his best highlight and a story to tell the grandkids, but when he switched to broadcasting Johnny Carson dubbed him “Mr. Baseball,” an accolade to dine out on for the rest of his days.
4 Ryan Leaf
In 1998, the San Diego Chargers thought they struck gold when they drafted up-and-coming QB Ryan Leaf. But rather than gold, silver or bronze, all they were given was a sizeable chunk of black coal. Leaf’s career spiraled out of control as quickly as his personal life, being charged with drug possession and burglary a few years after his career wound up in 2002 when the Seattle Seahawks considered him surplus to requirements. After going to rehab, Leaf wrote regular columns for Washington State University as well as being a financial consultant. Clearly his life calling was off the field in analysis and academics and without football, Leaf has gone from strength to strength.
3 Ali Dia
Before YouTube, before the internet, even before telecommunication was invented for all we know, Ali Dia conned Southampton into believing that he was good enough to be a Premier League footballer. While we’re genuine about these other athletes pursuing something more meaningful in their life, Dia’s story is so remarkable it puts any con movie to shame. Graeme Souness was convinced by a George Weah impersonator that he agreed to take Dia to the Saints. Fast forward one month and 53 minutes of playing time later and the jig was up for Ali. His accomplice and him should have gone on a hustling spree and into Hollywood, because we will never see the likes of it again.
2 Kimbo Slice
Big Kimbo Slice broke the internet before Kim Kardashian’s butt, putting mutual combat street fights on the map. The brutal brawler gained a cult following and when the Ultimate Fighter drafted him up, the hype and expectation surrounding Slice was off the charts. Despite taking out Houston Alexander in the finale, Slice only managed seven MMA fights in total. At 41, he’s still under contract with Bellator MMA, but few know that Slice was undefeated in seven professional boxing fights. If he remained in that discipline, there was every chance he would have surpassed what he did in MMA.
1 Mario Mendoza
There’s notoriety, then there’s Mario Mendoza’s MLB career. Sporting a young Larry David look, Mendoza created the minimum benchmark for hitters to keep well above known as the “Mendoza Line” at .200. After stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers throughout the 1970s and 80s, the Mexican departed for his home country where he was respected far more than the USA. Ending his MLB career with a pitiful .215 average and only four balls going over the fence, Mendoza should have taken on any other challenge that wouldn’t have dragged his name through the mud.
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