If you ask a typical sports fan to describe what draws them to the games they love, most of them could probably rattle off at least a dozen reasons without really having to think too hard at all. However, I’d wager they’d have to exert a bit more brainpower if you tasked them with picking one specific aspect that keeps them more invested than any other.
Some might point to the appeal of watching the most freakishly athletic people on the planet not just pull off seemingly impossible feats on a regular basis but make them look routine. Others may cite the heated rivalries bubbling with the kind of hatred historically reserved for feuds that feature generation’s worth of bloodshed. There will also be a few Browns fans with masochistic tendencies who derive extreme amounts of pleasure from decades worth of misery.
Those are all good answers but they’re also incorrect. They’re merely the fries you get with the meal; hand-cut Russets cooked to a lovely golden brown and seasoned with the perfect amount of salt, yes, but far from the main attraction.
So why do we really watch sports? I think the answer is obvious: The Moments.
No one has ever watched a guy lay down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning of a 2-1 game in the middle of July and thought, “That’s why sports are fucking awesome.” This may not be the only reason we tune in, but deep down, we’re always searching for the next “I Remember Where I Was” moment; the dramatic comebacks, the home runs that reach the stratosphere, the monster dunks, and every other event that makes you whisper, “God, I love sports” 27 times in a row.
Joe Buck may not be a huge fan of disgusting acts, and while I don’t think many people actively root for a “Malice in the Palace”-type situation to break out whenever they tune in to a game, I feel like most fans get as much enjoyment from the moments that result in commentators doing their best impression of the radio guy who was assigned to the Hindenberg landing.
We may pretend to be as disgusted as the broadcasters who Google “synonyms for shameful” that they can incorporate into their coverage whenever some good, old-fashioned bedlam breaks out, but in actuality, we can’t remember the last time we felt so fucking alive. Is there anyone out there who honestly believes they would have gotten more entertainment value out of UFC 229 if Khabib Nurmagomedov hadn’t jumped into the stands and started throwing haymakers at Dillon Danis? If so, I’d love to meet them so I can call them a liar to their face.
However, what brings us together today is a different type of moment; the kind that causes you to roll your eyes hard enough to get a quick glimpse at your frontal lobe and say “This guy suuuuuuuuuuuucks,” drawing out that final word until there’s no air left in your lungs.
These moments are often brought to us courtesy of the athletes who go through life surrounded by a holier-than-thou aura and ooze insufferability from every pore, but at the end of the day, anyone is capable of temporarily transforming into the ultimate tryhard by committing a transgression that will leave their legacy forever tarnished regardless of how brilliantly the rest of it might shine.
Now, it seems like the very concept of “jokes” is a fairly controversial one nowadays but that’s not going to stop me from making them (or at least attempting to). Lenny Bruce and George Carlin didn’t become comedy legends by conforming to society; they’re remembered because they wouldn’t even let the threat of arrest stop them from challenging it. Even if you don’t agree with the “nothing is sacred” mentality, you can still go after sacred cows—including widely hallowed sports moments that actually deserve to be widely derided.
Some of the clips I’m about to discuss have been subjected to a fair amount of ridicule over the years. However, there are others that seem to be universally beloved thanks to their “heat of the moment” nature that showcase “unfiltered” athletes overflowing with the “raw emotion” people seem to crave. It seems like anything interpreted as inspiring, motivational, powerful and every other related synonym gets a pass and I’m here to start intercepting some of them.
I should stress that I’m not hating things for the sake of hating them. There are plenty of goosebump-inducing moments out there that I’m able to appreciate because they feel entirely genuine. With that said, there are a lot of other ones that make most people feel warm and fuzzy inside that make me involuntarily cringe because they absolutely reek of fakeness.
I take great joy in ripping into all of the things the masses adore because they don’t realize they’re being emotionally manipulated. The reason the likes of America’s Got Talent and The Voice dominate primetime is the weekly hit of dopamine that keeps viewers coming back as they chase the dragon. This is also why Good Morning America and Ellen are loaded with segments that promise to “restore your faith in humanity” (even though they usually just make me hate it more). Would my life be less miserable if I just pretended those programs didn’t exist and subsisted solely on Impractical Jokers marathons? Probably, but that’s not something I can just do.
Is there a chance some of the accusations I make concerning the motivation behind the following moments aren’t actually true? Sure, but life is a lot more fun when you err on the side of skepticism and construct alternative narratives that may have no actual basis in reality.
Let’s ease into things with what’s probably the most polarizing moment on this list, which is brought to us courtesy of LeBron James.
On July 8th, 2010, over 13 million people tuned in to ESPN for The Decision, a 75-minute Television Event that James used to announce the team he’d be signing with in free agency while also benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and his massive ego.
I personally take issue with the entire concept but that doesn’t bother me as much as the name it was given, which is one of the most self-important moves of all time. I guess “A Decision” wouldn’t have been as big of a draw, but by going with “The,” you’re implicitly suggesting it’s the decision to end all decisions.
The Decision is something that should be reserved for things like the Emancipation Proclamation, Roe v. Wade, and the pill Keanu picked in The Matrix, but nope! We’re giving that title to a basketball player who decided he needed his own special on national television to let people know which city’s clubs would be reaping some of the benefits of the $100 million contract he was about to land.
When a comedian parodies something you did and manages to come off as more genuine, you know you’ve done something wrong.
The entire reason I decided to write this article in the first place is because I could not get over the sheer absurdity of the fact that ESPN made the decision to make a documentary about The Decision that aired last month. It’s bad enough that the words “I’m taking my talents to South Beach to join the Miami Heat” took about three seconds to say and could’ve fit in a tweet with more than enough room for some fire emojis to spice it up. It’s even worse that The Worldwide Leader dedicated another hour to a retrospective of something that was only 15 minutes longer.
Of course, it’s not fair to make sweeping judgments about James based on a single incident. It is, however, very fair to do that when you consider all of the unbearable things LeBron has done to fill me with the kind of hate I assume Steve Buscemi’s character harbored for the people on his kill list in Billy Madison. Whether he’s drinking wine on the bench, reading The Godfather as he enters the arena, or voicing support for an oppressive government in a country that just so happens to play a key role in keeping that sweet endorsement money rolling in, I just can’t help but love to hate him.
Feel free to watch what may be the most inaccurately titled video on YouTube if you want to listen to Tim Tebow rattle off a bunch of generic press conference answers but the moment we’re talking about here kicks off around the 2:13 mark.
I know most people loved this speech, and even though Tebow has his fair share of haters, I don’t count myself among their ranks. With that said, I think Timmy Boy overdid it here. Watching him hold back tears while groveling to Gator Nation after Ole Miss ruined Florida’s season in 2008 is a pretty painful experience even when you view it in a vacuum, but in order to truly appreciate its awfulness, you have to look at the bite-sized sermon in the context of his entire athletic career.
Did Florida lose another game that season? No. Did they ultimately win a national championship despite the loss? Yes. However, the big issue here is that everything he pledged to do only applied to that specific season. Knowing what we do about him, I don’t know if “blew his load” is the best phrase to use here but it seems like he permanently depleted his Hard Work and Determination supplies to live up to those promises and never recovered.
Good job, Tim. You managed to salvage a season where you received exactly $0 for your contributions and the only thing it cost you was the lifetime supply of passion you unwittingly exhausted. You could’ve worked on improving your throwing motion so your NFL career didn’t essentially end after two years or transformed into a baseball player who gets promoted for their talent as opposed to a sideshow act minor league teams rely on to boost revenue.
Despite playing the role of perpetual underachiever for the past decade, the mentality Tebow showcased during this moment is why he is way more successful and richer than I will ever be. But at the end of the day, I can’t help but feel like it’s all for show and that it’s only a matter of time until he pivots to a career as one of those motivational speakers who manage to use their many failures to somehow convince other people to shell out their hard-earned cash so they can learn how to be successful.
“Anything Is Possiblllllllllllle!”
This entry probably gives off a particularly strong “hatery” vibe compared to the others on this list and I do not care one bit. Are you honestly going to sit there with a straight face and tell me this didn’t seem forced? Do you really not feel some secondhand embarrassment when you watch it?
If you inserted a snippet of Coldplay’s “Clocks” in the background, I’d be a little more on board, but I can’t help but squirm a little when I watched this without a “City of Blinding Lights” rip-off accompanying it.
Listen, I like Kevin Garnett. He’s a cool dude. He seems like one of those guys who wears his heart on his sleeve. I was pleasantly surprised by the acting chops he showed off in Uncut Gems, which *HOT TAKE ALERT* did not even come close to living up to the hype.
But this? This ain’t it, fam. I loved seeing KG’s finally win the championship he truly deserved, which is the kind of sports moment that is truly awesome to witness. I love when a player I root for gets rewarded for all of the work they’ve put in over the years and cherish the entirely unjustified satisfaction that comes with convincing yourself you’ve also achieved something because you cheered for them.
Garnett was always a particularly intense guy on the court but he always toed the line that separates genuinely passionate players from those guys who overexaggerate everything in an attempt to attract as much attention as possible. It’s like those dudes at the gym who walk into the locker room dripping in sweat who decide to pop their shirt off and stand in front of a fan while breathing heavily instead of just hopping in the shower.
That was KG at this particular moment. He obviously knew the camera was going to find him if the Celtics clinched so it’s not too farfetched to think he did some brainstorming before ultimately landing on “Anything is possible.”
However, I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he flinches a little bit whenever he looks back at it because of how corny it was. Is that actually the case? I have no idea, but like any good conspiracy theorist, I’m going to put the burden on you to prove me wrong.
Richard Sherman Postgame Interview
Dude. Relax. You don’t have to scream. This isn’t your first interview. You should be familiar with the thing Erin Andrews is pointing at your face by now.
This interview with the Sherminator features shades of KG’s emotional eruption but I can’t watch this diatribe without feeling like it’s the result of him screaming at his bathroom mirror to perfect his delivery in preparation for the moment he could go full Good Kid, Maad City on Michael Crabtree that’s the first time I’ve used that comparison to describe someone’s anger and I actually kind of dig it).
The awkward factor gets kicked up a notch 17 seconds into the clip when Sherman finishes the first part of his rant and looks at the camera as if he expects the Rocky theme song to start playing to commemorate his “triumph” only to be met with a brief moment of silence that’s as awkward as the entire remainder of the exchange.
A NOTE FOR RICHARD SHERMAN: Richard, if you’re reading this, I want to stress I didn’t mean anything I just said. Please don’t yell at me like this. It might’ve been fake but it was still pretty scary.
Jim Everett vs. Jim Rome
If you’re not familiar with the context of this clip, Jim Rome prided himself on calling quarterback Jim Everett “Chris”, which was a reference to Chris Everett, who was a renowned women’s tennis player. You see, this is funny because Jim is not a woman but a man and it’s honestly hard to think of any burn sicker than that.
Some people might watch this and think, “Good for Jim Everett. He has a problem with one of the biggest dickheads in sports media and confronted him for talking shit as opposed to cowering.” Others will pull out the “Violence never solves anything line” because they’ve apparently never heard of the concept of war.
I’m personally torn here. For starters, the tough guy act is a little on the nose when you consider the confrontation stemmed from Rome attacking his masculinity. Everett was in the NFL so I’m not sure why he felt like he had to prove something. If you have a problem with Jim Rome, just call the guy out. He’s a shitty person who gives you all the ammo you need by routinely saying shitty things you can use against him.
From a viewing standpoint, however, I couldn’t be happier that Everett decided to take the low road. It felt like that scene in Elf where Will Ferrell keeps calling Peter Dinklage an elf repeatedly before dropping “He’s an angry elf” and causing all hell to break loose. You also have to love just how juvenile the entire beef is. You’ve got one guy harnessing the purest form of comedy by calling a man a”girl” and a multimillionaire athlete who is so incensed by the slight that he flips a damn table in anger.
It shouldn’t have happened but I can’t be happier that it did.
“That’s my Quarterback”
Did your quarterback die? No? Then why are you crying? Because people were questioning his play on the field? Umm, sure. You do you, I guess.
Much like LeBron, Terrell Owens was always looking for attention. If he played in the era of social media, I think we would have a million TO moments and clips out there that you break out when pregaming with the boy. Sadly, smartphones didn’t blow up until a little after his time.
As is the case with James, there are countless other examples of Owens just going to lengths he didn’t need to, like doing sit-ups in the driveway or putting the ball on the Cowboys logo. No one craved the spotlight for a stretch of a few years more than TO. It was his oxygen. He thrived on it, and frankly, he paved the way for the primadonna’s we all know and love today.
Serena Williams Freaking Out
This one may be controversial, as a lot of people will see this and slap the “Powerful” label on it. However, the only thing I see from my perspective of the unbiased reporter I like to think I am is an embarrassing meltdown. In my humble opinion, she was really just pissed about the prospect of losing to a 20-year-old and the umpire was lucky enough to be the person at the receiving end of her ire. You won’t find an overreaction that’s more textbook than this.
I admit I’m not super familiar with the rules of tennis, but if even some of her anger may have been warranted, this is just impossible to justify. Serena Williams is a legend, and by this point, I feel like she doesn’t really have much reason to be angry at all. She has nothing else to accomplish and could never make a single cent for the rest of her life and still have more money than she knows what to do with. Who cares if you lost? Go buy a yacht!
Eminem on Saturday Night Football
I debated whether or not to include this but I couldn’t help but throw it in last to help cleanse your palate a bit after everything else you’ve been subjected to. In terms of pure entertainment, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s almost like a clip from The Eric Andre Show only it’s the guest who’s confusing the hosts.
Eminem made an incredible effort to make this as awkward as it ended up being but it’s still a bit of a departure from the other moments we’ve examined, as it’s basically the antithesis of the uplifting videos I take great joy in shooting down. It’s something I assume the people those videos appeal to would find borderline disturbing and use to reaffirm their crippling fear of marijuana even though Eminem had been sober for five years when he stopped by the booth.
I’ve condemned everyone else who’s made an appearance so far for the cringe they’ve induced, but I want to take this opportunity to commend Eminem for his contributions to the Awkward Sports Moment canon. He may look like he has no idea where he is but all signs point to him knowing exactly what he was doing and making the world a slightly better place as a result.
In the end, you really have to place the blame on ESPN for deciding to invite a rapper who rose to prominence by not giving a single fuck into the booth to promote his album in the middle of a nationally televised college football game. You have to think the decision was made by some suit in Bristol and some poor production manager had to take the brunt of the blow after the segment immediately went off the rails, causing them to frantically pace around the control room while barking into their headset and fruitlessly checking the clipboard they all carry around for some reason looking for instructions on how to end the nightmare.
In the end, there are thousands of other moments I could’ve picked from while putting this together but these ones simply stuck out more than all the rest. I’m sorry if you hold any of them near and dear to your heart because they inspired you to chase your goals and pursue your dreams. I don’t want to discourage people from doing that but I do want them to know when the things they cherish are constructed on a foundation of lies.