Defying Stereotypes (Sort of): 9 Athletes That Don’t Look Like Athletes
By their very nature, most athletes don’t stand out from one another. By and large, most are physical specimens with short hair and few remarkable characteristics otherwise. These guys aren’t image consultants, they’re athletes, so it stands to reason that most of their efforts are put towards their craft rather than towards maintaining a distinct appearance. However, there are the athletes that break the mold for a wide variety of reasons. \Listed below are 9 such athletes that transcend characterization be it from obesity, looking freakishly like James Blunt, or dying their hair in a desperate (but successful) plea for attention. Let’s get rollin’ with the weirdos.
9. Spud Webb
We’re not going for subtlety here, sports fans. It’s remarkable that someone his height (5’6”) can even see the rim any closer than 20 feet out, let alone become the sensation that he did. Was he a game changer? Absolutely not. But when someone defies the odds for one reason or another, they tend to have their accomplishments magnified, perhaps not in hindsight, but certainly while they are unfolding. (See also: Bo Jackson’s baseball career.)
Perhaps more important than his contributions to his teams was the mold he broke by being the littlest All-Star in the league. He let thousands, if not millions, of up-and-comers know that you didn’t have to be in the 99th percentile of height in high school to have a shot at making the team.
8. John Daly
While Mr. Webb is an inspirational story, Mr. Daly is decidedly…not. He’s got a haircut that even Larry Bird can make fun of, he makes Kirby Puckett look lean, and he wears outfits that suggest Stevie Wonder may or may not be his personal shopper. He’s tacky and trashy, but ever since making a name for himself at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in the PGA Championship, he’s helped chisel away at the seemingly impenetrable brick wall that kept golf so elitist for so long. Granted, Tiger Woods may have done more of the heavy lifting, especially in the arena of race, but Daly demonstrated that you didn’t have to end your name with a suffix to be relevant in the PGA. I would say that he represents the everyman, but that would really be selling the everyman short. Body by Fritos.
7. Dennis Rodman
Nowadays, in the age of Artest and league-mandated tattoos, Rodman wouldn’t turn too many heads, but his emergence on the tail end of the “short shorts” era had so many people talking about his image that Sports Illustrated had to run a famously myopic cover that ignored the hype and focused solely on what made him such a great rebounder. Granted, Ben Wallace didn’t get that same treatment, so perhaps dying red ribbons into your hair at a time no one else was wasn’t the worst marketing strategy.
Rodman was a workout fiend, as his body clearly shows, but the tats and green hair made him stand out like Waldo in a crowd. Sadly, since the later years of his career, Rodman has let art dictate life, acting in a manner that a douchey guy with too many tattoos and green hair is expected to. But during his prime, he was able to weave image and effort into a spectacular package.
6. Chris Andersen
This guy gives me a migraine in a way that few professional athletes are capable of. Guys that look like the illegitimate son of Biff Tannen from Back to the Future aren’t supposed to be game changers in a division series. Especially not when they’re rocking faux-hawks and tats that make them look like an anthropomorphized Ed Hardy shirt.
While it may not be an appearance issue, the fact that he is a recovering addict also warrants mentioning. (Side note: If you are a professional athlete with addiction issues, please don’t play in New Orleans. That’s like a recovering stripper moving to Tampa.) In an era when every player is rocking sleeve tats, Andersen still manages to stand out, which is a testament to…something.
5. Prince Fielder
Despite being only 4’2, the younger Fielder tips the scales at a whopping 735 pounds. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I think. He’s listed at 5’10”, 285, which probably keeps you on the sidelines of most professional sports, save for the PBA. What’s even more remarkable about this height-weight ratio is that it still exists after he has been a vegetarian for over two years. Is ham technically a vegetable?
Nonetheless, the guy’s a star trapped in a Devito-esque body. Even by baseball standards, the guy is fat, but he gets it done, so let’s appreciate his accomplishments and try not to get hypnotized by the jiggles when we watch him run.
4. Danica Patrick
By my own admission, I’m testing the limits of the word “athlete” when I include a race-car driver in the mix, but the lack of convention in having a woman join the ranks of both the Indy and Nascar circuits compels me to toss her into the discussion, even if it means I take a few liberties. She has the pedigree to be competitive, as she’s shown over her racing career, and I don’t think I need to dissect how exactly she differs from the other drivers. But I will anyway. She’s the hottest driver making the rounds today. (Sorry, Jeff Gordon.)
3. Steve Nash
He’s roughly 6’3”, so while he towers over most, he still looks like Sprout to the rest of the NBA’s Jolly Green Giant. Add in floppy hair, a whispy frame, and an inability to dunk, and you’ve got a guy that shouldn’t be starting point guard for Rice, let alone a 2-time MVP. Even more miraculous is the fact that he has bedded both Nelly Furtado and Elizabeth Hurley, a fact that I often bring up and will continue to bring up until someone gives me a satisfactory answer as to how this could happen.
Nash looks like he would be way more comfortable strumming an acoustic guitar and discussing the crushing pain of life at a Peet’s Coffee than he would feeding no-look passes to Amare, but here we are anyway.
By far the least accomplished entry on this list, Butterbean would have been just a morbidly obese boxer had he not so heartily embraced the image and run with the name “Butterbean,” which is probably the least flattering nickname in sports, save for “The Big Unit.” Standing at a respectable 5’ 11.5” and a much less respectable 442 pounds, Butterbean, nee “Eric Esch”, looks more like King Hippo incarnate from “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out” than he does an athlete of any sort.
In an unrelated, but still wildly entertaining note, I learned during my research of this dashing gentleman that he lost his first MMA bout in 2003 to a 150-pound Japanese fighter, which for some reason conjures up the image of a Chihuahua taking down an elephant.
1. Joakim Noah
We saved the token stoner spot for last, as these guys seem to always look out of place in athletics, even if they’re developing a respectable career, as Noah is. He edges out Kyle Orton in this category, and would have possibly lost to Ricky Williams, if Williams didn’t look so much like an athletic beast. Throughout the history of sport, ponytails have been wildly antithetical to the values that most athletes hold. In day-to-day life, a ponytail says “I don’t care”, which is not a value one would put much of a premium on in the world of competitive sports. Polamalu gets a pass here, as I believe he keeps his hair long for religious reasons. Noah keeps his long cause he still goes to bong shops.