While those in the public often place professional athletes on pedestals, the truth of the matter is that those stars are human just like the rest of us. Anybody, including a pro athlete who is making millions of dollars in salary and via endorsement deals, can make the occasional mistake. Sports and news television stations seemingly love nothing more than to tell tales about the falls of famous people such as athletes and celebrities, but a person who chooses unwisely once in his or her life should not be torn apart by anybody. After all, nobody regardless of status or wealth is perfect.
There are, however, cases of athletes seemingly being unable to avoid tripping over their own feet and those who prevent themselves from achieving levels of greatness that should have been their destinies. One reason that we frown upon such individuals is that we, who will never have opportunities to be celebrities and swimming in cash because of athletic abilities, cannot believe that anybody would squander such talents. Fans, observers and journalists are also left speechless because it is unfathomable that any adult with the world at his feet could, because of whatever causes, be so dumb.
It is stories of American football players that, more often than not, leave us shaking our heads in disbelief and bewilderment. Maybe such incidents occur because of the well-known head injuries that plague football players during their amateur and professional careers. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that 32 National Football League franchises employ over 50 athletes every season. It would, however, be unfair to pick on just football players, as they are hardly the only pro athletes who have not, over the years, been able to figure this thing called “life” out after achieving heights of fame and wealth.
10 Justin Blackmon/Josh Gordon
Separating these two into their own categories would be silly, as both make the list for the exact same reasons. While the way that the NFL punishes players for smoking marijuana is silly (it should be a team issue), the rules are nevertheless the rules, and yet both talented wide receivers seem to not understand that players who are in the league's substance-abuse program need to find better ways to spend off-time other than lighting up. Both are wasting their talents and, in turn, their lives, as both could be special playmakers who could also make millions of dollars so long as they put the pot down for some time.
9 Evander Holyfield
Are you looking to squander millions upon millions of dollars that you netted by taking beatings inside of rings for decades? Evander Holyfield has quite the recipe for you, one that includes the following: Going through multiple divorces, fathering up to eleven children from six – count 'em – six different woman, and building a mansion that you cannot afford and one that eventually faces foreclosure. Holyfield, the “Real Deal” and true “Warrior” during his best days as a pro boxer, declared bankruptcy in 2008, and he fought into his late 40s in attempts to reclaim money that he squandered over the years.
8 Jack Johnson
You never mix business with family and friends, and you certainly never, as eloquently stated by New York sports talk radio icon Mike Francesa, hand over power of attorney to anybody unless it is for that one final decision you may not be able to make. Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson learned that the hard way in 2014 when he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Johnson, who had signed a contract worth $30.5 million in 2011, granted power of attorney to his mother, and it was all downhill from there. Life lessons are learned the hard way, sometimes.
7 Pete Rose
Pete Rose is unquestionably one of the greatest hitters in the history of Major League Baseball, and the man does deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for his play on the field. Those who would defend Rose would, however, be kidding themselves if they were to suggest that he is an innocent man and a victim of witch hunts. Rose lied for years that he ever bet on baseball while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and he also spent time behind bars after he admitted to filing false income tax returns. At least you have to give Rose credit for continuing to be “Charlie Hustle,” just in a different way.
6 Tiger Woods
It is easy to understand the life that Tiger Woods lived for at least some time when he was the top solo athlete in all of the world. Woods had boatloads of money to splash, and thus he was drawn to all kinds of attractive women for a period of up to five years. It happens. The former No. 1 golfer in the world checks in on this list because he did not learn the life lesson taught by New York Yankees great Derek Jeter. Jeter has to yet to get married, and thus he has never had to pay out a massive divorce settlement. Woods would do well to remember that moving forward.
5 Tonya Harding
We long ago passed the point where Tonya Harding went from being a despicable individual to one who worthy of pity. It has been over two decades since Harding was known for what she was able to accomplish on the ice, as the former figure skater will forever be remembered for the Nancy Kerrigan incident. Little could anybody have guessed at the time that the Harding story would only get worse. There was the release of a sex tape, and also numerous regrettable television appearances that did Harding's reputation zero favors. The hope now is that she has found some peace in her life.
4 Donald Cerrone
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was one of the top up-and-coming fighters in the mixed martial arts world only a few years ago, and he was named the 2014 Fighter of the Year by TheMMACorner.com. Here is hoping that the 32-year-old has gotten better with managing his finances. Cerrone explained in January of 2014, according to Majority Draw Radio (transcription from Examiner.com), that he needed to take as many fights as he could because he was broke: “I'm just out of control. It's hard to have money in the bank, want something, and not get it. I just [expletive] buy it. I have no idea what saving money is.” C'mon, man.
3 Paolo Di Canio
It took some time, perhaps even a bit too long, but it does seem that Paolo Di Canio may no longer have any real support in world football outside of the fans who cheered him on when he was an active player. The controversial former Lazio star got himself banned after making the “Roman salute” that is absolutely a no-no anywhere in modern society, but it is OK because Di Canio has assured the public that he is neither a racist nor a fascist. Di Canio's latest crime against the sport was to drive Premier League side Sunderland down to the point of relegation before Christmas 2013. Sunderland are still reeling from his many gaffs, and Di Canio should not hold his breath waiting to get another top-flight managerial position.
2 Lance Armstrong
No reasonable person with even casual knowledge of the sport of cycling ever truly believed that Lance Armstrong had not, in one way or another, obtained some sort of performance-enhancing advantage. Such cheating often occurs in that profession. Armstrong vehemently denied any wrongdoing for years, clinging to stories that he won the Tour de France seven straight years the right way and also discrediting any stories and any individuals who claimed otherwise. We now know the truth, of course, and Armstrong's reputation has forever been irreparably damaged. It also does not help that he, from stories that have been put out there for years, seems to be a downright unlikeable guy.
1 Plaxico Burress
Quarterback Eli Manning was finding his groove in November 2008, and the New York Giants were the best team in the NFL and on the verge of defending their Super Bowl title when Plaxico Burress thought it would be a good idea to carry a loaded gun into a Manhattan nightclub over Thanksgiving weekend. The rest, of course, is history. Burress accidentally capped himself, the Giants lost a top offensive weapon and ultimately became a one-and-done playoff team, and Burress was sent to prison for nearly two years. To put the cherry on top of the idiot sundae, Burress, upon his release from prison, hit out at Manning and at Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. Keep it classy, Plax.