Almost every sports fan has a favorite team and/or player. Likewise, about the same number of people have a player or team that they absolutely despise. Whether it be because they are on a rival team, cheated their way to a title (we won’t name names but you know who) or are simply disliked for being the best at what they do, just as many people can come together over their joint hatred for a player or team as can come together to support them. In today’s roundtable, the DC Sports Section will be picking who we feel are the biggest villains in professional sports, whether or not they deserve to be. Let’s get right to it:
When I think about the greatest villains in sports, one team comes immediately to mind: the 1980 Soviet Union Men’s National Ice Hockey Team. I challenge you to think up a more iconic rivalry game than the Miracle on Ice during the 1980 Winter Olympics. The match between the United States and the Soviets was supposed to be a crushing victory for the Soviets because they came into the tournament with an extreme edge over everyone else. The Soviet players were all professional athletes who had extensive experience in international tournaments playing against a collection of college hockey players from around the U.S. The Soviet team had a player on the ice carrying a handgun under his jersey to make sure none of their players acted up, which just screams evil villain by itself. I challenge you to watch the film Miracle and come out of it not thinking that the Red Army team was the most evil bunch of guys to ever take to the ice.
I think the greatest villain in recent sports memory has to be Bill Belichick. He’s basically the sports equivalent of an evil scientist. While he is respected as one of the greatest coaches in football history, there’s not many people outside the New England Patriots bubble who actually like the guy. And honestly, why should people like him? The way he carries himself makes him one of the least likable people not only in football, but in all of sports. Just watch one of his press conferences if you don’t believe me. He never smiles, he’s as monotone as can be, he always looks like he’s being inconvenienced by other people’s presence and he very rarely gives longer than a two-line answer to a question. In addition to being a reporter’s nightmare, Belichick is also the mastermind behind the most hated team of the millennium, which adds to his villain image. I think he embraces this perception of himself and has responded by winning more. In order to be a true villain, you have to be really good at what you do, extremely hateable and content with not being liked. Belichick checks all the boxes.
Everyone’s opinions are different, and that is perfectly fine. Although I do feel mildly light hatred from time to time, I will say that the most hated person in all of professional sports is, of course, Brad Marchand. Do not get me wrong, that guy is absolutely impressive and has put up a 100-point season, but Brad Marchand is just the epitome of an entire squad of professional players that no one likes. The number one thing that disgusts me is the fact that he has licked people during games from Ryan Callahan to Leo Komarov. It is possible to say that he is the Antonio Brown of the Boston Bruins, but Marchand is not as bad as Antonio Brown was to the Steelers. If there is anything that people enjoy about Marchand, it was seeing him cry when the Blues won the Cup.
Everyone knows the Houston Astros are currently the biggest villains in sports. They won the 2017 World Series while cheating, beating the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers along the way (the three biggest markets in baseball). Furthermore, Carlos Correa has become the team’s ambassador for talking trash. Do Astros fans even like this guy? The most frustrating part of the entire situation is that the Astros think they have to prove to the world that they can play baseball without cheating. Of course they can. That’s why we’re so angry. They had the most talented team of the 2010s and instead of winning honestly, they decided to cheat. Then, once they were caught, they tried to use that narrative to act like underdogs. What gives? The most tragic part is that they never had to deal with having fans this year booing them into oblivion. Imagine it: a full Yankee Stadium all on their feet booing like their lives depended on it as the 2017 MVP (over Aaron Judge mind you) Jose Altuve comes up to bat. We were robbed of that.
Virtual Assistant Referee was incorporated last season in the Premier League and received mixed opinions on its implementation. Just a few weeks into the 2019-2020 season, there was massive controversy of its use after instances of offside calls and handballs went down to the smallest nanometer, and a good portion of the time, it was the wrong call. Not only that, but even when a player scores, fans in the stadium are immediately looking at the big screen to see the VAR decision and waiting a good while. Why does it have to take a millennium for the referee to make the decision? Half the time it seems like they go with their interpretation of the rules rather than the people in the Video Operating Room, so what’s the point in having VAR in the first place? VAR is the enemy of English clubs.