Today we’re taking a look at 10 incredibly famous athletes with tarnished legacies. Why? Oh, I think you know why.
On Monday, the NFL handed down a shocking punishment to St. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady suspending him four games for his involvement in the Deflategate scandal. And I don’t know about you, but the first thing I thought about was how this will effect his legacy.
On the one hand, few observers if any would argue that under-inflated footballs made Brady great. On the other hand, Brady’s legacy is bigger than stats and accomplishments. He’s downright mythical. And this suspension has to take some of the lustre off his halo, right?
Of course, it’s still too early to predict the extent to which this suspension will affect Brady’s legacy. So instead of trying, I’m doing a list of other athletes with tarnished legacies to provide some context for evaluating Brady.
Sound good? Okay then, let’s take a look at some fallen heroes, shall we?
There are a lot of famous sports legends with tarnished legacies who did not make the list. So before we begin, I thought we should talk about why.
Let's start with the PED users. There are a couple PED cheaters who did make the list because their cases are extraordinary. But for the most part, I left PED cheaters off because (a) there's too many of them and (b) their falls from grace aren't that interesting or unique. People like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, and even Anderson Silva all put asterisks next to their names in the record books. But at the end of the day they were just doing what everyone else was doing. And their PED use didn't make them ipso facto moral degenerates. So they merit a mention, but that's it.
Then there are guys Mike Tyson. Some readers might say, "oh, well he did really bad stuff." And it's true, Mike Tyson did do bad stuff. But it didn't change our perception of who he was in the ring, and outside the ring he never have a reputation as a wholesome, upstanding citizen to begin with. So what legacy, exactly, did the domestic violence accusations and rape conviction tarnish?
Another example? Michael Vick. Did the dog-fighting conviction and prison sentence tarnish his legacy? Absolutely. But it's doubtful Vick would have down as one of the greatest QBs of all time. So while Vick might merit an honorabe mention, like Tyson, it's hard to say he belongs in the tarnished reputation hall of fame.
Who does belong? Take a look...
The athletes on this list e ranked by the enormity of legacies tarnishes, not by the severity of the acts that tarnished them. I'm not trying to say Brett Favre is as bad as a guy who (spoiler alert!) killed his ex-wife. That's crazy.
What I am trying to say is that Brett Favre could have been one of football's immortals, but instead he turned himself into a punchline by (a) refusing the retire and stay retired and (b) texting that Jets reporter a picture of his junk.
Granted, Favre never did anything so horrible that we can't look back on his career with fondness. But he's not the same down-home boy-next-door that made a cameo in Something About Mary, either.
Legacy Status: 90%
10. Brett Favre
Nothing Tiger Woods did in his private life should change the admiration you have for him as a golfer. He didn't win 14 majors because he was nailing all those strippers and porn stars and cocktail waitresses. Tiger Woods' legacy as one of the greatest golfers of all time.
That said, his legacy as a person and a role model is totally trashed. He can give all the money he wants to charity—and he gives a lot—but no parent is ever going to say, son, be like Tiger.
Legacy Status: 85%
9. Tiger Woods
In his 13-year career, Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .356 (3rd all-time)/.423 (16th all-time)/.517 with 307 doubles, 168 triples, and an average of 4.8 wins above replacement per season. He could have gone down with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb as one of the mythical founding fathers of modern baseball. But he didn't, because got caught up in the infamous 1919 Black Sox Scandal.
Now, as most serious baseball fans are aware, the prevailing opinion these days is that Jackson did not conspire to throw the 1919 World Series, and that he was unjustly given a lifetime ban. As such, he usually portrayed as a tragic figure rather than a villain.
But fair or not, his legacy was forever altered by the scandal.
Legacy Status: 75%
8. Shoeless Joe Jackson
Mike Tyson went to prison for rape, beat his wife, and basically let his demons derail his career. But he was never a Boy Scout to begin with, so what we're really talking about with Iron Mike is wasted potential, not a tarnished legacy. And while I wouldn't say he's owned up to his past, I would say he's made some progress toward becoming a better person over the years. Which is something. (Esquire did a great piece on Mike Tyson's endless redemption story, if you're interested.)
With Floyd Mayweather, there is no progress. We found out about midway through his illustrious career that this charismatic guy who turned himself into a brand and seems like the kind of guy people like actually beats women.
Legacy Status: 50%
7. Floyd Mayweather
There's no doubt that Alex Rodriguez is one of the most talented hitters of the last thirty years. But would he be where he is today—with over 660 home runs and 116+ wins above replacement—without steroids? Unfortunately we will never know.
Legacy Status: 50%
6. Alex Rodriguez
Pete Rose earned the nickname Charlie Hustle—one of the greatest nicknames in sports history—by playing every moment of every game like his life depended on it. The guy just never took his foot off the gas, which is how he won three World Series rings and became Major League Baseball's hits king.
Unfortunately, Pete Rose also bet on baseball, including Reds games that he coaches. And even if he never bet against his own team or did anything to tank a game, his legacy as one of baseball's greatest competitors is permanently tarnished.
Does that mean he shouldn't be reinstated? That he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame? Not at all. Ty Cobb was a violent racist and he's in the Hall of Fame. So is Joe DiMaggio, who smacked Marilyn Monroe around. It just mean you can't hold Rose up as the gold standard for competitors.
Legacy Status: 50%
5. Pete Rose
Yeah, now we're getting to the really depressing cases.
Oscar Pistrorius was never going to be remembers as one of the greatest athletes in Olympic history. But the South African sprinter was certainly one of the most inspiring stories at the 2012 Summer Olympics, seeing as how he didn't have any feet. So when the world learned that he had murdered his girlfriend in February of 2013—even if it was a tragic accident like he claimed—it felt like a punch to the gut.
Legacy Status: 25%
4. Oscar Pistorius
Does anyone born after 1990 even know that Orenthal James Simpson was one of the greatest runnings backs in the history of football? That he won the Heisman Trophy in 1968, or that in 1973, when they only played 14 games, he became the first person in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season? Doubtful. Today, the only thing people remember about OJ is that he probably killed his ex-wife, got away with it, profited off it, and later got sentenced to 33 years in prison for armed robbery.
Legacy Status: 10%
3. OJ Simpson
People didn't just love Lance Armstrong and wear his yellow Livestrong bracelets because he beat cancer and won seven straight Tour de France titles. They loved Lance Armstrong and wore his yellow Livestrong bracelets because they believed he did it all with nothing but pure determination and grit. And they believed Lance Armstrong did it all with nothing but pure determination and grit because Lance Armstrong vehemently insisted for years and years that he did it all with with nothing but pure determination and grit.
And all this is why people hate Lance Armstrong now. Not because it turns out he took PEDs like everyone else, but because he looked us in the eye and made us all believe that he didn't.
Legacy Status: 5%
2. Lance Armstrong
Do you know why they named the Big Ten championship trophy after late Penn State coach Joe Paterno? Because he was the guy who always did everything "the right way." For years his program had one of the highest graduation rates in college football, far exceeding those of other top programs. And yet Paterno was a winner, too, taking home two national championship and three Big Ten championships over his 45-year career. If anybody in college football deserved to have a championship trophy named after him, it was Joe Paterno.
Then we learned that Paterno's defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, had been accused of molesting young boys at early as 2002. And that Paterno knew about it.
Did he "do something" about it? Sure. He reported it to...his bosses. Not the police.
The best-case scenario? Joe Paterno was naive and unaware of what was going on in his program. The worst-case? He helped cover for a child molester for the good of the Penn State football program.
Legacy Status: 0%
1. Joe Paterno
cheaters, deflategate, disgraced athletes, peds, suspensions, Tom Brady,