One of the most crushing disappointments of childhood, right up there with the truth about Santa Claus and seeing your father cry, is the realization that you probably don't have what it takes to be a professional athlete. The door on that career path closes early and never opens again, unless, of course, you grow up to be disgustingly rich and powerful.
Because professional sports have never shied from choosing money over dignity, it's entirely possible to grease your awkward slide into professional athletics with hundred dollar bills ... provided they've changed enough sweaty palms to make them slippery.
#5. Ted Turner Plays Baseball Manager for a Day
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Let's face it: The whole point of becoming a billionaire is so you can buy a sports team and vicariously live out all of the fantasies you were too slow or chubby to achieve in real life. But what sucks is the "vicariously" part -- even though you get the nicest luxury box and are allowed to hang out in the locker room with the stars, you're not allowed to get directly in on the action. Well, Ted Turner figured if he owns the damned team, who's to stop him from declaring himself manager?
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Or even ... God?
It was 1977, and Turner's Atlanta Braves were a team synonymous with spectacular failure. Two games from the end of the season, they were stuck with a dismal record of 60-100, a 16-game losing streak and they were dead last in the division. While fans hung their heads in shame and thought for certain that things couldn't possibly get any worse, Turner set out to prove them all wrong. He fired then-manager Dave Bristol and announced the role would be filled by an interim coach: himself.
Just to be clear, Ted Turner was the media mogul who revolutionized cable television, founding CNN, TBS and TNT -- nowhere in his long lists of accomplishments is there anything close to coaching a professional sports team. Ted Turner, like most people, probably saw managers sitting at games in full uniform, shooting the shit with players, resting on their own fat guts and thought, "Well hell, I could do that." So he did. He waggled his enormous power in the face of Major League Baseball and inserted himself in the dugout to crash professional baseball players into each other like action figures.
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Money means never having to not act like a 10-year-old.
In an effort to quell everyone's completely justifiable doubt about his ability, Turner said, "If I'm smart enough to save $11 million to buy the team I ought to be smart enough to manage it." Now, in case you didn't know, being a baseball manager is way more complicated than it looks -- that's why guys get paid millions of dollars to do it. So it should surprise no one that Turner lost his first game in charge, handily. He didn't get a second chance to prove himself either because the baseball commissioner forced Turner to take off his uniform and skulk back to his owner's box like a pouty child.
We're not exaggerating, either. His response to being kicked out of the manager position was, "I want to manage even more now because they don't want me to. Everybody takes all this so seriously. This is just like a big little league team to me." And, if you're surprised that Turner didn't just demand they let him take the field as one of the players, well, that brings us to ...
#4. The President of Chechnya Arranges a Match of Soccer All-stars Vs Himself
AP via The Telegraph
The president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, is the type of leader who would make the perfect antagonist in a James Bond movie. He has a firm grasp on presentation, assuring the world that Chechnya is no longer a war-torn pile of rubble, but a much looser grasp on basic human rights principles when the cameras aren't rolling. Britain has denounced his entire presidency as a "regime of oppression" because the flamboyant Kadyrov insists on having his way all the time. On a small scale it can manifest in something as simple as hiring Hilary Swank to attend his birthday party, and on a large scale it can be as absurd as urging Russia to go to war with Georgia and the Ukraine for no other reason than that he thinks they're irritatingly westernized.
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They're just angry the new episodes of Breaking Bad come to Georgia first.
So when Kadyrov announced he'd hired a team of world-cup winning Brazilian greats to play an exhibition match against the Chechen team, everyone in Chechnya just took it as another example of his ostentatious nature and kept their mouths shut. They were a little more surprised, however, when he announced that he would be playing striker for the Chechen team.
Kadyrov, it turns out, has always been a huge soccer fan, and when we say huge we mean that both figuratively and literally. He's a heavy, stocky guy who looks suspiciously like a fraternity pledge who is only begrudgingly acting as president as part of his rush-week torture.
Sergey Ponomarev/AP via The Guardian
Does ... does his jersey say "tyrant"?
But as a huge fan of the sport, he wasn't about to have the greatest players in history coming to town on his questionably-obtained dime just so he could sit in the stands and watch them like one of his poverty-stricken asshole citizens. No way -- he was going to play.
He panted out onto the field, danced around for a little bit and then got to work lumbering and sweating his way through two full halves of everyone on both teams doing their best to help him score. He was even awarded three penalty kicks (presumably because the refs were interested in seeing their families again), the first two of which he missed, even with the goalie discreetly trying to usher the ball into the net.
Reuters via The Times
"No, it's understandable; 192 square feet is a small target."
While Brazil won the game 6-4, Kadyrov had such a good time that he repeated the stunt a few months later against a world team of former stars, again assigning himself the glory position on the field. We're all waiting anxiously for the day that someone plays a little too aggressively at one of these exhibition matches and suddenly disappears at halftime, not just from the game but from all the team photos, as well.
#3. Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov Wanted to Live Out The Fast and the Furious
Hey, remember in the Iron Man sequel when Tony Stark just spontaneously jumped into a race car and joined the Monaco Grand Prix, unannounced? Well, the main difference between that and the real story we're about to tell you is that in the real version, the guy won the race instead of getting his car whipped in half by a supervillain.
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Curiously, Don Cheadle still made an appearance.
Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov had some big crazy shoes to fill when he took office as President of Turkmenistan. He succeeded Saparmurat Niyazov, a man who subscribed to Batman villain-levels of insanity. So how do you prove to your people that you deserve to subjugate them as much as the last dictator? Well, if you're Berdymukhamedov, by driving really goddamn fast.
In 2012, Turkmenistan was eager to prove its economic stability and general autonomy as a country by hosting an automotive race (after all, what has been a better symbol of wealth and class than NASCAR?). Then, right before the event began, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov appeared on the horizon driving a bright-green, $1.6 million Bugatti sports car.
AP via CBC
Jolly Rancher Green was the classiest option he could have possibly taken.
Though it first appeared as though he was only there as a spectator, in a painfully staged moment of spontaneity he requested to be entered in the event. The president also just happened to have racing gear with him and another car that wouldn't cost quite as much as the GDP if he crashed it.
But that's just a publicity stunt, right? Just a president proving that he's one of the people by supporting this premiere racing event in the country. Surely, he wasn't there to steal the spotlight from all the actual racers who trained and worked exhaustingly just to qualify and compete, right? Ha, you just got Berdymukhamedoved!
AP via CBS News
He won the whole thing and stole everyone else's thunder, leaving everyone to speculate if the entire race wasn't just a publicity stunt to make him look more impressive. Reports that he then cranked some Zepplin and drove off into the sunset, leaving a trail of burning tax-receipts and sobbing forensic accountants behind him are unconfirmed.