By Brian Cullen
Quick thought exercise: when I say “professional athlete,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? LeBron doing that chalky clap thing? Tom Brady’s long, flowing locks? Peyton Manning yukking it up in all the commercials? Ray Lewis giving some kind of nonsensical pre-game speech? All acceptable answers. That’s because, in a society that sees athletes as role models, we’re trained to look for athletes whose personalities match their physical skill. Each of the above accomplishes this with gusto.
But what happens when you have an incredibly gifted athlete who’s just kinda… boring? We don’t know how to handle it. So we watch these athletes rack up championships and we feel ok for them. But we’re never really “passionate” one way or the other. That said: here are our top 5 crazy successful boring athletes.
5. Eli Manning
Full disclosure here: I’m a Patriots fan. So I’m inclined to dislike the Giants after suffering two Super Bowl defeats. (The notable exception is Justin Pugh, who is an awesome fella.) Now, what especially bugged me about the 2012 Super Bowl wasn’t that the Pats lost. That happens. But if they lost to the Saints, 49ers or Packers, I would have said that was a hell of a football season. But instead, they lost to the lifeless Giants, led by Eli “Aw, huckleberries” Manning.
To be perfectly clear, this isn’t Manning sour grapes. I think Peyton Manning is one of the most entertaining quarterbacks to watch – not to mention one of the best players in NFL history. His comedic timing is surprisingly good, as is his business savvy. Buying Papa John’s in a state that just essentially legalized a drug that gives you the munchies is a stroke of genius. But Eli? He’s got a stupid name, he always looks sad, and he’s listless by every definition of the word. By the by, as I write this, the former 0-6 Giants are now 4-6 and I just KNOW they’re going to beat the Pats again in another Super Bowl. Where’s my gin?
4. Brandt Snedeker
Who’s Brandt Snedeker? Nobody. I just made him up. Sounds like a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts though, right?
Also, don’t be mad, but I lied. Brandt Snedeker is the ninth best golfer in the world. NINTH. IN THE WORLD. To put this in perspective, per CBS, the ninth best (fantasy) quarterback is Matthew Stafford. Heard of him? The ninth best basketball player is Andre Iguodala, also quite famous. Ninth should be an eminently knowable position. And for all I know, he’s the fourth lead singer of Van Halen. I think it’s safe to say he’s probably pretty low profile.
3. Sidney Crosby
It’s widely acknowledged that Sidney Crosby is one of the best – if not THE best – player in hockey today. He’s an Olympic gold medalist and Stanley Cup winner. The number of records he’s broken that begin with the words “Youngest to…” is staggering. And yet, his Wikipedia entry reads like the back of a trading card. All stats and mildly descriptive details. Nothing else. No controversy, no scandal. Go ahead. Check the “Personal Life” section. He lived with the Lemieux family before buying his own house. He also has an endorsement deal with Reebok. And he had photos taken with his shirt off, but being a fella, NOT REALLY A BIG DEAL.
2. Joe Flacco
The most interesting thing about Joe Flacco is that my phone tries to autocorrect his name to “Joe Flaccid.” Also, this is his face. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take his father’s word for it:
“Joe is dull. As dull as he is portrayed in the media, he’s that dull. He is dull.”
“You think I’m boring? I think that’s cool,” Flacco says. “I don’t know if I’m an everyday person, but I don’t think I’m an a—hole. If you think I’m boring, I don’t see why it’s a negative thing. All I’ve ever wanted was to be respected within the building.”
…and now we’ve hit a conundrum. I can’t make fun of this. A person who owns up to what they naturally are, honestly and earnestly, is just about the coolest thing out there. So Joe Flacco is rightfully – probably his own admission – #2. But so far he’s the only entry to make that a positive.
1. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is so dreadfully boring that The Onion has made a punchline out of it on a number of occasions. Some of their strongest work over the past couple of years has been poking fun at Duncan’s personality void. Consider some of their punchlines: “Tim Duncan Urges Teammates to be Patient with Frequent Flyer Miles.” “Groans Abound As Tim Duncan Raises Hand Once Again At City Council Meeting.” And my personal favorite, “Tim Duncan Autobiography Reveals He Is Friends With 10,000 Women.” The truly impressive thing, however, is that Duncan’s professional stats put him in the conversation of “top 10 best basketball players ever.” The fact that he’s managed to come this far in his career while remaining low-key is honestly, well, impressive.
Come to think of it, I think I’d like it if more athletes qualified for this list.