By Sterling Pingree
There are inalienable rights as a sports fan. You have your favorite teams, you have your favorite players and you most likely have a favorite season. But deep down (perhaps in the place you don’t talk about at parties) sports fans also engender hatred for certain players. In Boston sports there have been villains in every sport and every era. Some are easy to spot because they were one of the best players of their time (Joe DiMaggio, Guy LaFleur, Wilt Chamberlain and Dan Marino would all fit the bill), however sometimes there are guys who are just a thorn in your side. Remember when the Red Sox could never beat Rodrigo Lopez and his 4.82 career ERA?
With the recent retirements of reigning kings of hatred Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, I got thinking of who wears the crowns now? Who do Boston sports fans have that they can hate now? Who are the street vendors going to be printing R-rated t-shirts about? Here are my nominations for most hated opponent for the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics.
The most hated opponent for the Red Sox isn’t even a contest, especially after the last 2 weeks, it’s Manny Machado. He has all the things you want in someone to detest: he’s young, he’s in the division so we have to play him 19 games each season, he’s got an attitude and not to mention a real potty mouth after than rant he went on Tuesday night. Machado has already been involved in incidents with the Red Sox and seems to be constantly complaining about things going against him. What makes him the perfect person to loathe is the fact that he is also very good and seems to raise his game at the Sox’ expense. Machado is only hitting .214 but during this two series dust up with the Red Sox he has still managed to hit 4 home runs off Boston pitching. And don’t get me started on his home run trot which is slower than Carson Smith’s rehabilitation. I can’t wait to see vile things written about Machado and sold outside of Fenway for years to come as he is the heir to A-Rod’s throne.
The Patriots is much tougher, because the most detested by Patriots fans is a pretty long list but here’s the abridged version: John Harbaugh, Terrell Suggs, anybody ever involved with the Steelers, Colts or Broncos, Bernard Pollard, the NFL, the state of New York and everybody at ESPN not named Tedy Bruschi. (I’m sure I left out several others.) If you were to point to one single person out this group the winner going away is Roger Goodell. Think of it this way, at Fitzy’s Comedy Night a few weeks ago, there were multiple bits about how awful Roger Goodell is and how he probably shouldn’t even come to Foxborough this season. But picking Goodell is like picking skunk spray as the worst smelling animal excretion, it’s just a no brainer.
The real question is who is the on-field chief villain now that Peyton Manning has retired? You’d think that it’d have to be another AFC quarterback, Roethlisberger, Luck or Flacco perhaps? Luck and Big Ben can’t make the leap because both have had it handed to them routinely by the Patriots, the Ravens could make a better argument but who can hate Joe Flacco? I don’t mean that in the way most people say “Who doesn’t love strawberry shortcake?” because everybody loves strawberry shortcake, I mean more of a “Who hates Joe Flacco?” as in, who thinks enough about Joe Flacco to feel anything about him at all? I’m pretty sure even his wife just looks at him as a pretty good friend who watches the same tv shows she does.
The most hated player has to be Eli Manning. Going back to my explanation of Manny Machado, you have to be able to compete at a high level to be hated and Eli has done that twice to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. What makes it even more loathsome and offensive is the fact that most seasons it doesn’t seem like little brother could lead Floyd Mayweather to a casino, let alone a team to a championship. Eli Manning takes the crown from Peyton as the most hated, but it’s not as fun because the Patriots and Giants play so infrequently, but the grudge against Eli will endure until he retires.
The Celtics most hated is without question Lebron James. The C’s have been battling Lebron for control of the Eastern conference since 2007-08 when the Celtics knocked out Lebron’s Cavs in 7 games and inexplicably ended Cleveland’s season again in 2010. Which forced James to murder the city of Cleveland on national television making him not only the most hated player in Boston but across the NBA landscape. Since taking his talents to South Beach and back to Mark Paulette’s “Gem of America” Lebron’s teams have knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs 3 times since 2010. This year they’re also the team to beat in the Eastern conference and of course the defending NBA Champion. A funny thing has happened this season, in that Lebron is becoming more and more revered by fans. Maybe it’s the dawning of a new era led by Westbrook, Curry and Harden that make Lebron seem older by comparison, but he’s one of the greatest players ever and has plenty of gas left in the tank. Of course, all of that reverence goes right out the window of Halftime Pizza if the Celtics and Cavs square off in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then you’ll see some good old fashioned vitriol.
I think this is a list that should be revisited from time to time, but I think it’s telling that two of the three on this list were drafted in 2003 and 2004. It takes time to build a strong relationship and hatred is no different. The Coyote needs the Roadrunner just like Smokey needs the Bandit and Clubber Lang needed Rocky Balboa. In a way I guess we’re lucky to have such wonderfully detestable people in our lives as sports fans, on the other hand, screw them.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.