published Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

5 at 10 - Top 5 polarizing individuals in sports

  • photo
    U.S. golfer Tiger Woods, left, shakes hands with his former caddie Steve Williams after the Presidents Cup Golf Tournament at Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. The handshake between Woods and Williams was routine. The loss by Woods and Steve Stricker turned out to be the real drama in the Presidents Cup. (AP Photo/David Callow)

Hello from the modest 5-at-10 compound. We're spending time with the 5-at-10 clan and getting ready for Christmas.

For those new to the show, here's how we roll when the sports editor takes a hiatus. It's a mini-5-at-10, more of a single topic with 5 items, per se. So it goes.

Before we get started, remember we're still looking for your bowl picks. The prizes are going to be pretty sweet — Jefe said when he wins he wants the prize to be a title belt and that every one must refer to him as "Bowl Champion" in conversation for all of 2012 (and we have to admit, that's a pretty sweet prize). The rules can be found midway down in last Friday's mailbag here .

Before we get started on today's mini-5-at-10, we owe a shout out to Jomo, who wanted to know why we thought a struggling UT basketball would win the Southern Conference last week. After Davidson's win over No. 11-ranked Kansas on Monday night, Jomo is correct that

UT would not be the favorite in the SoCon. So it goes.

From the "Mama McNabb stage at the Al Davis studio," here we go:

We had loads of fun spending most of Monday afternoon with friends of the show at SportTalk. We spent a solid chunk of time discussing Tim Tebow and his all-consuming effect on the current sports media world. It's over powering — Tebow's Denver Broncos against New England on Sunday was the NFL's highest-rated regular-season game since 2007. Whether its his religion, his every-man appeal or the fact that every analyst with a head set talks about his faults more than his strengths, there's that rare magnetic quality in Tim Tebow that draws attention.

Here's our theory: There are a select few teams that always generate opinion. Whether it's the Cowboys or the Yankees or the Lakers/Celtics or whomever, there are a certain breed of franchises that give you a rooting interest — either for or against — every time they play. The individuals that elicit the same response are even more polarizing, and Tebow is among them.

So, here are the top 5 polarizing individuals in sports in the last 10-plus years (and remember JordanRules, these are not the "best" of their sport as much as these are the guys that everyone has an opinion about and in turn everyone watches; guys like MJ and Tyson were can't-miss TV in their day because you did not want to miss the magic):

1) Tiger Woods: Even before it became common knowledge that Tiger was cuddling with half of the Eastern seaboard, Tiger was a love him/hate him guy because he dared to to make a run at Jack Nicklaus' major championship record. He was the rare belnd of the can't-miss TV because you did not want to miss the magic and the polarizing opinions that were originally divided by age.. Whether Woods gets to Jack's 18 majors or not remains to be seen, but Woods is the single biggest lightning rod in sports right now (in fact, more women watch golf than ever before to cheer AGAINST Woods). And if you don't believe Tigers the biggest draw in sports, answer this question: Whether you love him or loathe him, if Tiger was in contention on Sunday at Augusta next spring, what would it take for you NOT to watch?

2) LeBron James: James was the most popular athlete in all of professional sports before his made-for-TV break-up with Cleveland. Now, he is the most polarizing athlete in all of team sports. Admit it, you either want James and the Miami Heat to win big or lose big — and they very well are the only NBA team you care about. And we all know where you stand, JordanRules.

3) Dale Earnhardt Sr.: Yes, he died in 2001. But 3 was the ultimate "Love him/Hate him" sports figure before he died. Not unlike Elvis, Dale got more beloved after his untimely death. So it goes. But dude is still big-time popular, even if he's more appreciated today that he was when he was winning NASCAR championships. For crying out loud, he's still selling seven-figures worth of memorabilia, and here's saying that at least every third NASCAR sticker you see is the No. 3.

4) Tim Tebow: Not really sure why anyone would be anti-Tebow, but that faction exists. Dude has become a rock star if for no other reason than he embraces the things that we want our sports heroes to be. And he wins. Period.

5) Mike Vick: There are a lot of folks that could be No. 5 here — Barry Bonds, Brett Favre, etc. — but Vick's roller coaster ride has carried him from loved to loathed to polarizing. Strange trip indeed.

(Side note/list: Here's our top five of all-time:

1) Jackie Robinson

2) Muhammad Ali

3) Pete Rose

4) Tiger Woods

5) John McEnroe)

Thoughts? And remember the deadline for the bowl picks is Wednesday.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Cjoyner said...

How about those sports figures who were polarizing but later became universally beloved (you know, the anti-Tigers).

George Foreman is one, and Ali is ready for sainthood. Robinson was polarizing for all the worst reasons, but he's moving toward national holiday status. McEnroe is becoming another because of his broadcast work and of-late apologies. Who else?

December 20, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.
chas9 said...

5er--Sometimes short is good. But Vandy beat something called Longwood yesterday. I guess long wood is good. The big time programs are into the cupcake part of the season. Says here Memphis is supposed to beat Lipscomb by more than 10, but they didn't.

Honorable mention for current polarizers: Serena Williams.

Honorable all time list: Dennis Rodman, Ty Cobb, Tanya Harding, John Rocker (cameo appearance).

And specially for Dr. B (he's a gynecologist after all) Christian Laetner. He claimed Laetner would have more or quicker NBA success than Shaq (I just love saying that).

December 20, 2011 at 11:02 a.m.
Cjoyner said...

Oh, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another polarizing figure who now is respected.

December 20, 2011 at 11:03 a.m.
jgreeson said...


Great Question. And it goes both ways.

Mike Tyson has become more endearing after his career... Holyfield has become less likable

Favre is half as popular as he was in Green Bay, and has anyone fallen more since his playing days than OJ?


Nice additions and Cobb is a heat call.

Yes the holes are a time for the 5@10 to get fat and for college basketball team to get fat on soft schedules.

And Dr. B is a doctor and he is certainly not the only one who though Laettner was going to be a good pro.

December 20, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.
Cjoyner said...

Yes, it may be easier to name those that fell from grace. Many of them baseballers. Bonds, McGuire, Sosa (who didn't love Sammy before he forgot how to speak English?). Broadway Joe Namath -- now just a boozy old creep -- is another one. Important figures left off the top all-time polarizers -- Jim Brown and Jim Thorpe.

December 20, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

I am glad to see that you have Michael Vick listed. The Falcons were never able to put together consecutive winning seasons until Matt Ryan arrived. I said it when he was drafted and will say it now, he is nothing but hype. It is a shame that there are Falcon fans that still believe all the hype and still proudly wear his jersey.

December 20, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.
jgreeson said...

CJ —

Spot on about the larger number that fall from grace. And Sammy Sosa — "That's A-S-O-S backwards," as Harry might say — and his "No habla English," was the tragic version of "Bay-ess ball has been berry, berry good to me." And sweet all-time pick-up lines that have become names of fantasy football teams, Joe Namath's "I wanna kiss you" line to Suzy Kolber needs to be in the Hall of Fame.

Since it's Christmas, let's do a top five that went from polarizing to almost universally embraced since their playing days.

1) Dale Earnhardt Sr. — No one this side of Elvis has been more cherished posthumously.

2) Ali — for all the reasons CJ mentioned

3) Robinson — for all the right reasons that CJ mentioned

4) Jack Nicklaus — And justly so

5) Tyson — Boy appearing in a smash comedy like "The Hangover" or "Airplane" for Kareem can do wonders for an image. Tyson edges Kareem, McEnroe and Russian boxing contender Ivan Drago for the final spot.

OG —

Vick has a lot of hype, but dude has skills too. It's not all hype.

That said, if he had kept his nose clean, he would OWN the A-T-L at a level few athletes can connect with a city, and there's no debating that. Consider as you said that after all that happened, there are still thousands of Falcons fans who want Vick back in town.

He would have been on the level of Jordan in Chicago, Magic in L.A., Musial in St. Louis and Aikman in Dallas.

— 5-at-10

(And three

December 20, 2011 at 11:55 a.m.
Cjoyner said...

Nicklaus is a big one (and gives hope to Tiger?)

December 20, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

There should be a coaches wing to the Polarizing HOF with an inaugural class including Bill Belichick and Steve Spurrier.

December 20, 2011 at 12:42 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Mr. October, Reggie Jackson...make room for this polarizing figure near the top. All he did was fight with Billy Martin all summer long while tanking his team mates in interviews and sleep plays in the outfield. Unlike A-Rod, Reggie always rose to the occasion in the playoffs and World Series.

...and what an ego. "I didn't come to New York to be a star, I brought my star with me."

December 20, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring,

1) Jackie Robinson--yepper at #2!

2) Muhammad Ali--is the #1 all time.

3) Pete Rose--will be DOA to make his way the Hall of Fame one day.

4) Tiger Woods--Not top five all time material. The tempest is past. I still believe Tiger has at least four more majors in him. Long term if Tiger performs as I believe his sexcapades will be forgotten.

Tiger was divisive from the start, at least in one 19th hole I frequented at the time.

5) John McEnroe--L'Enfant Terrible of Tennis, yet there are plenty those trough the years including Serena's recent outburst in the US Open final. Sorry Mac, you can't break my top 20.

December 20, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.
Jason10 said...

ordinaryguy said...

I am glad to see that you have Michael Vick listed. The Falcons were never able to put together consecutive winning seasons until Matt Ryan arrived. I said it when he was drafted and will say it now, he is nothing but hype. It is a shame that there are Falcon fans that still believe all the hype and still proudly wear his jersey.

Yeah, and when was the last time the Falcons won a playoff game? That's right, when Vick was their quarterback. Vick had a lot less talent to work (and I mean a lot less, you know something is rong when Alge Crumpler is your best receiver) with and still made it far in the playoffs. Matt Ryan is surrounded with a bunch of pro bowl players and great staffing coach, and he got blown out by the Packers last year by like 30 points.

December 20, 2011 at 1:49 p.m.
bigguy said...

Brian Piccolo

December 20, 2011 at 8:11 p.m.
NorthChatter said...

If Tennessee was in the SoCon South Division, they wouldn't even get a bye into the SoCon tournament...they'd be stuck behind Davidson (who beat #11 Kansas) and College of Charleston (who beat Tennessee heads-up, Clemson and almost knocked off #4 Louisville last night).

Top end of the SoCon is tough this year...unfortunately the bottom end is terrible (and that, right now, includes the hometown Mocs)

December 21, 2011 at 1:42 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.