They have worked their way to the top. They have tirelessly trained, burnishing their talent to reach perfection. They have amazed us with their performance in the ring, on the court, on the rink, in the field, serving not only as a hero but also as a role model for generations – and will do so for generations to come. But there’s one thing people tend to forget about these sportsmen – they are humans, with all the qualities and flaws humans can have.
One of the biggest mistakes one can make is to turn a sports hero into an idol. So, without the intention to degrade their merits in sports, here are some of the greatest athletes of all time proving that they are only human.
Babe Ruth, born George Herman Ruth Jr., established several batting and pitching records across his 22-year career. Ruth is seen as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and was one of the five inaugural members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. By all accounts, we can clearly consider Babe Ruth one of the greatest baseball players and sporting heroes the world has ever seen. And he had a drinking problem.
Babe Ruth first broke into his father’s liquor cabinet at the age of 5. Some say that whiskey gave him his prodigal baseball abilities – but this has never been proven. And his relationship with alcohol is rumored to have grown closer as he grew. A theory suggests that his nickname, Babe, that he received while in Minor League, was an acronym of his off-season training regimen: “Beer, Alcohol, Booze, in Excess”. And he held on to this lifestyle to the end.
Everyone’s MJ, former professional basketball player, and current owner of the Charlotte Hornets, one of the reasons NBA became popular across the world, one of the best – if not THE best – basketball players the NBA has ever seen. He has five MVP Awards, ten NBA All Stars designations, three MVP All Stars Awards, and he holds the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.45 points per game), among many others. And he used to have a gambling problem.
Rumors speak of his first retirement in the 1990s was actually a secret suspension due to his gambling issues. At one time, one of his personal cheques ended up in the possession of a convicted drug dealer, who revealed that the money was meant to cover one weekend’s gambling losses. At another, San Diego businessman Richard Equinas revealed that the athlete lost over $900,000 to him, betting on golf. In 2005, speaking at CBS’ evening show 60 Minutes, he admitted that he has made some reckless decisions that involved gambling.
James Nathaniel “Jim” Brown
Jim Brown is to this day considered one of the greatest football players in history. During his career, he carried the ball 2,359 times for 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns – all of them records at the time of his retirement. He is still the only player in NBA history to have averaged over 100 rushing yards per game. And he resorted to violence far too often.
Let’s see: he was arrested for assault in 1965, he was charged with intent to commit murder in 1968, he was fined for striking a deputy sheriff, he was found “not guilty” to assault and battery in an altercation that stemmed from a road rage incident in 1969, he was charged with rape in 1985 (the charges were dismissed), he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend in 1986, he was arrested and charged with making terrorist threats to his wife in 1999, he was found guilty for smashing his wife’s car later in the same year.
Although they are, indeed, sports legends and heroes for many, let’s not forget that they were human beings with their own share of flaws and issues, just like you and me.