Brad Stanhope: Like I Was Sayin'
Socrates said it best: “From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”
That’s why sports fans feel more passion for their dislikes than their loves. Because hatred for the teams and players we disdain burns hotter than love for our favorites.
Did Socrates mean sports when he made the aforementioned statement? Did he even say it? Who knows, but it gets us to the following list: The five most hated athletes in Bay Area history.
This isn’t about star players for rival teams (Yasiel Puig, Troy Aikman, etc.), but athletes who played in the Bay Area and wound up despised by local fans. Some because of their performance, some because of their behavior, some because of expectations that they failed to meet. The all-time top five:
5. Aldon Smith. An unblockable pass rusher who was too strong and fast for offensive linemen. Smith emerged as a freakishly good player for the 49ers – the best player on the 2012 Super Bowl team and ranked seventh on the NFL Network’s list of best players in the league. Then came problems: A trip to rehab in 2013, a suspension for violating the NFL drug rules in 2014, a second DUI arrest in 2015, after which the 49ers cut him . . . and the Raiders picked him up, only to see him suspended for 2015, 2016 and 2017 before he was cut after a domestic violence arrest. Hatred may be too strong, but disappointment isn’t.
4. Armando Benitez. Baseball relievers are lightning rods for criticism. When they combine big-time failure with a big contract, a bad attitude and lack of accountability, fans get rabid. Benitez – who joined the San Francisco Giants in 2005 as a free agent with a difficult reputation – only made things worse in two-plus injury- and attitude-plagued seasons. Giants fans still groan when they hear his name.
3. Joe Barry Carroll. If you’re 7 feet tall and the first pick in the NBA draft, you should be good. Carroll was good – he averaged 20 points per game in 6½ years with the Warriors (missing one season to play in Italy). But the cost for him (the Warriors traded both Robert Parrish and the draft pick that became Kevin McHale, launching a Celtics dynasty) and his blase attitude left Warriors fans disgusted. He didn’t seem to care, leading sports writer Peter Vecsey to label him with an unforgettable nickname: Joe Barely Cares.
2. A.J. Pierzynski. The most disliked player in Giants history, he was acquired in a 2004 trade that cost the team two really good players and a top prospect, then he proceeded to offend everyone watching or playing with him. It was only after he left the team that it came out that he kneed the longtime trainer in the groin during a spring training game as a prank. No one was surprised.
1. JaMarcus Russell. The first pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the Raiders, who saw him as the cornerstone of the future. He instead was an out-of-shape, disinterested waste of money – a perfect example of everything that was wrong with that era of Raiders football. There’s a special level of hatred when Raiders fans hate you.
Jed York/Mark Davis/Chris Cohan. We boo and resent players but our harshest feelings are reserved for owners. York and Davis are the current leaders of the 49ers and Raiders, rich boys who were handed teams by their parents. When their teams lose, fans first blame the owners. No one, however, matches Cohan, who owned the Warriors for 15 seasons – their exact period of being terrible. Before he bought the team, the Warriors were exciting. After he sold the team, the Warriors became a dynasty. But those 15 years were dreadful.
Reach Brad Stanhope at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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