I enjoy getting my “like” on, both in life and in sports. I’d much rather spend my time liking on something than hating. I know it sounds intuitive, but just take a second to think about the people you know that love being a hater. We all know know a few. There’s the guy that has never, ever said that he enjoyed a movie. There’s a girl that will sit at a bar and complain viciously about every other girls. There’s a lot of hating, and there’s plenty in sports (see Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Curt Schilling), but I’m endeavoring to make my fan experience a Hate Free Zone.

Fate seems to make it easy for me to be a Liker. Thanks to fantasy football, I’ve developed an affinity for enough players that I can watch any game and be compelled by some personal story. Even though I grew up with (and love) the Yankees, the Red Sox are filled with charitable and affable fellows. And John Daly aside, pretty much every golfer is educated, funny and gives a great interview. Basketball players make it tough for me to like them (Kobe Bryant, please just shut up), but I still find enough class acts to enjoy the sport at least conceptually.

To prove my point, what follows is a list of athletes across numerous sports and the reason or reasons why I like them. It really doesn’t take much to make my like a player, as you will soon see.

Tim Duncan (Basketball, Spurs) – His nickname, The Big Fundamental, is about as scary as his street cred. Sure, he’s got a tattoo. But it’s of a wizard. He also hosts a celebrity Bowl-a-thon. It is impossible to not like this guy, his love of video games or his affinity for Wolverine of the X-men.

Chad Johnson (Football, Bengals) – The guy is self-aware. He knows that his end zone celebrations will get him in trouble, but he does them anyway because it makes the game more fun. It’s never about him, even when it’s about him. And he’s a great fantasy player. Also, he just raced against a horse.

Rafael Nadal (Tennis) – This article. He’s now my favorite tennis player because of this article.

Mike Lowell (Baseball, Red Sox) – Mike Lowell hates Fidel Castro. That’s not terribly shocking, considering he is descended from Cuban refugees. But the man went on the record to say that he hopes he dies, citing that Castro killed his family. You don’t generally expect an athlete to go Inigo Montoya on somebody. Yet he did, and for that he shall have my unwavering respect.

Tiger Woods (Golf) – You can’t be a fan of golf without being a fan of Tiger. The man is the game. I followed him since he won the Masters in ’97, basking in the success of a man that had brought the golf to the forefront of American sports consciousness. But the thing that made me a full-blown Liker was this commercial. He nailed it on the second take.

Tie Domi (Hockey, Rangers and Maple Leafs) – The man is built like I am (short, and a cube) yet was the most feared player on the ice for the better part of his career. I’m pretty sure that he could kill a man in real life and only get a five minute major. Bless that merciless man.

As I said, it really doesn’t take much. Curtis Granderson writes a blog and I like him too. Jorge Posada bats without gloves and I’d like him for that even if he wasn’t a Yankee. I like Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals because he has a nice smile. It’s easy to be a Hater in this world, but it’s fun as all hell to be a Liker.

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • Tim Duncan is the Zach Braff of professional basketball. I think I mean that as a compliment.

  • Serpico

    You’re implying that Zach Braff is likable, which is a very serious implication.

  • Pedro

    Great article. Liking on athletes is lots of fun.

    I have to say that 90% of my enjoyment out of the 2006 Winter Olympics came from some serious liking on “Pizza” Pete Fenson, skip of the bronze-medalist U.S. curling team.

    Much like you like Tie Domi for being built like you, I like Pizza Pete for being named like me, but also for being a Minnesota pizza shop owner and third-generation curler who looks like the boring uncle of Guile from Street Fighter when he’s in uniform — http://www.teamfenson.com/images/MD4-PF1.jpg is a great picture of him.

    I read a great New York Times article about Pizza Pete taking a bunch of the U.S. Olympic team out for pizza in Italy during the games — he apparently took them to a somewhat famous pizza place he’d read about in the professional journals or something and took the time to go back and talk with the staff about how they ran the ovens between swapping slices with kids who ended up on Wheaties boxes.

  • dave

    dammit, I wish I ahdn’t just read yur playoff beard thing, as I go off on that tangent too, but here is my list:

    Kevin Johnson. KJ rocked the state trooper moustache like no other athlete. He was perhaps rivaled only by the likes of baseball player Keith Hernandez (Rollie Fingers gets honorable mention here for an awesome moustache here, but in my mind he just took it a little too far). There was even a great trading card with Johnson playing this fact up, and sporting a milk moustache. I became a fan oh his while attending a summer basketball camp in Junior High. We all sat down between drills and watched some video of him teaching some b ball fundamentals (him and Tim Hardaway, but who can be a fan of a bigot like that even if he has the killer crossover?). KJ was a great, solid player for Phoenix, and pretty much the anti-Barkley when it came to his overall boring-ness. He is now a teacher and runs a non profit. Seems like a good guy
    (basketball, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers.)
    Runner Up-Gheorge Muresan (for obvious reasons)

    I’m from New England, and yet the only football jersey I’ve ever owned was a Barry Sanders one. Simply put, Barry was the best. I spent many a day during Christmas Vacation in middle school playing Madden for the Sega Genisis and having Barry rush for 400 yards per game. This guy did it all despite his small stature. He was so fast and so strong. I remember there being all sorts of urban legends around my school about his freakish bench press #s. The fact that Barry played on the Lions was a big plus; it gave me someone to root for every year on my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. An 8th grade classmate once came up to me seeing the jersey, and assuming I didn’t know sports (this is the reputation you get for liking comic books, and always doing well in the school geography bee?) stated “I bet you don’t even know whose Jersey you are wearing!” (note: The Cowboys were really popular at this point, and Neon Deion Sanders was being overexposed. I assume he thought I had mistakenly bought this Jeresey instead of the Deion one. God I hate the Cowboys…). I of course responded with “It’s a Barry Sanders jersey, why the hell would I own a jersey and not know whose it was?” This arrogant little 14 year old stuttered back with “Uh…er… Well I bet you don’t even know what position he plays!” In turn I responded with “He’s a halfback”, the kids eyes lit up as he declared “No! He’s a running back! See, I knew you didn’t know!” to which all I could say was “Yeah, but more specifically he’s a halfback. Barry clearly isn’t a fullback type running back, you wouldn’t want a guy that short carrying a huge blocking load if you constructed an NFL offense now, would you?” The kid looked dumbfounded as I walked away smirking. I also admire Barry because he left the game on his own terms. He could have broken all the records, but he retired when he wanted to, at age 31.
    (Football, Detroit Lions)
    Runner Up- That guy who played Webster’s father

    Andre Agassi underwent a comical transformation in appearance over the years (http://www.drawger.com/tonka/images/Agassi.jpg). He started off his career with this whole Fabio meets Don Johnson meets Billy Ray Cyrus kind of vibe, and ended up looking like Enrico Colantoni from the TV show Just Shoot Me (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0170186/). You have got to admire embracing your balding like that. No comb-over for Andre. Also amusing: The only product I can ever remember him sponsoring was the Canon “Rebel”, did this product sponsorship dry up when he lost his hair? I feel like he kept promoting it even after… He was fun to root for (I only ever watched Wimbledon) because he was from the US and not boring like Sampras or Courier (Sampras was literally TOO good for me to root for. I always sort of went for the not quite underdog), or bratty like John McEnroe. He also played much longer than a lot of other guys, just retiring a couple years ago. He also has sunk a ton of money into charity and founded a charitable organization. Bonus points for creating a genetic tennis playing freak after splitting up with Brooke Shields, and marrying Steffi Graf.
    (Tennis, USA)
    Runner Up-Monica Seles- The grunting was annoying, the coming back from an on court stabbing? Admirable. Funny how nearly getting killed makes people like you a whole lot more.

    When sorting through some baseball cards I had acquired from a bin at a local Kay Bee toy store in the 1st or 2nd grade, my father pointed out to me the “Ken Griffey Jr.” card, and said, “Hold onto that one. That kid is going to be good”. Taking special note of this, as this not-yet pro was the 1st non Red Sox player I had heard my father shine praise on (aside from the legends who appeared on 35 year old re-runs of “Home Run Derby” on Sunday mornings). I made a point out of trying to go to Sox-Mariners games from then on out, and cheered Griffey on (quietly). He always seems like a pretty likeable guy. His family was always around (including him playing on the same team as his father! How cool was that?). Griffey has the best looking swing in the world too. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it aside from old footage of Ted Williams. All those other power hitters look like they are trying to cream the ball, but Jr.’s swing just has this sort of natural “flow” to it. The past decade has been tricky with this guy. He seems to suffer some horrible freakish injury year after year, and yet I always make a point of making sure he gets picked up in my fantasy baseball draft. This actually paid off this year, as Griffey has hit well, and seems to have the votes to be starting the all star game. I just wish we could be watching him break Hank Aarons record this year instead of Barry Bonds.
    (Baseball- Seattle, Cincinatti)
    Runner Up- Rob Beck (RIP) for his amazing hair, and for this article: http://espn.go.com/mlb/s/2003/0515/1554407.html

    Golf-
    I can’t bring myself to be a fan of any golfer. There is just something about the sport that bugs me. I’m actually surprised I had a response for Tennis, as “rich” sports like these and skiing, often tend to bring out the class warrior in me. No player really stands out as likeable to me though. We did the book tours for Peter Jacobsen and John Daly (who I always mixed up with Greg Norman). Arnold Palmer always seemed impressive, and I always mixed up Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicholson. Actually, Chi Chi Rodriguez was pretty damn entertaining….and now that I run a google search on him, seems to have come from a very working class background….hmm…

    Hockey
    Jeff O’neal is a pretty random Hockey player, but much like Barry Sanders, his video game prowess has lead to him having a special place in my heart. Jeff (along with Martin Gelinas) somehow always ended up on my team whenever I fantasy drafted a roster when my roommates and I played NHL 20whatever in college. Jeff always got the captain;s C, and lead me to many a victory. Having pretty much given up on the Bruins, whenever I happened across him on TV, I rooted for his team. This worked well considering he was on the Carolina Hurricanes at one point, and they used to be the Hartford Whalers…so in a way, I was still rooting for a New England team. Funny story about the Hurricanes not being a New England team…. One of the 3 or 4 episodes of Dawson’s Creek I ever saw in my life featured a character in college in Boston, who was surprised by her date, and taken ice skating inside a stadium… And what did I see in the middle of the Ice surface? The Carolina Hurricanes logo. Some associate producer in charge of continuity better have lost his job over that one… O’neal also grew a pretty nasty playoff beard. Playoff beards are pretty much the best concept ever. People should grow them in every sports. Hell, people should sport them in day to day life. One Halloween I’m just going to decide “I’m not shaving until our New Years eve party this year”, and then whenever anyone questions my facial hair I’ll simply shout “Playoff beard!” and run away.

%d bloggers like this: