The 5 Most Badass (And Possibly Insane) Athletes Of All-Time
You would think that pro athletes would, above all others, be secure in their manliness and have nothing left to prove.
But a select few decided to take it a step further. And then another step, and another, until they were in a full out sprint towards the ninth level of hell to punch the Devil in the throat and steal his bike.
Jack Johnson: Boxer, Bull Fighter, Pimp
Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion, but also paved the road for future athletes in the ways of trash talking, flashy bling and openly banging white women in an era when that could get you lynched. The man was everything Muhammad Ali would be...
...except he was doing it at the turn of the century. We weren't kidding about the lynching thing--this was 39 years before Jackie Robinson and just a generation removed from his father being born a slave.
After he became champion, the media openly pined for a "Great White Hope" to come forward and beat him, and set the racial hierarchy back to its natural order. Former undefeated champion James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Johnson, satisfying both the white masses and fans of alliteration.
Jack Johnson v. Jim J. Jeffries: Jaws will be justifiably jostled!
In the ensuing "Fight of the Century," Johnson forced Jeffries corner to throw in the towel in the 15th round to avoid a complete knockout and post-fight cuckold session (as was the custom of the time).
Outside of the ring, Johnson's hobbies included racing flashy sports cars, traveling the world and generally making the Dos Equis guy look boring. He rocked gold teeth and a gold handled pimp cane while sipping champagne and taking his pet leopard for walks.
Pretty much this, but with bigger balls.
He spent time as a jazz musician, Chicago nightclub owner, stage actor, dock worker, coral fisher, bullfighter, volunteer secret agent in World War I for the U.S. Government (and possibly also for the Kaiser) and as a beer salesman. He was a legendary eater and drinker (and spent a night in Russia downing vodka shot-for-shot with Rasputin) and had the onions to deliver a speech on sportsmanship, fair play and the golden rule to the motherfucking KKK.
It should be noted that nothing in the previous paragraph was a joke. All that shit really happened. He was a goddamned bull fighter, people!
All he had to do to beat the bull was to time the jab right.
Johnson's wang had an equally impressive life. Among those Johnson was romantically linked to were Moulin Rouge star Mistinguette, German spy Mata Hari, sex symbols Lupe Velez and Mae West. Why are there not high schools named after this man?
Most Badass Act:
In a dick move worthy of the bearded EPA guy from Ghostbusters, authorities convicted Johnson of violating the Mann Act by "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes" in 1913--despite the fact that the incidents in question took place before the Mann Act was passed, the woman in question was his future wife and he was goddamn Jack Johnson.
Fuck, he's awesome.
While in prison, he eschewed the non-macho act of forced sodomy for the very macho acts of smoking cigars, drinking and even inventing and patenting a new type of wrench. Think about that the next time you're putting together your fruity little IKEA bookshelf. The wrench in your hand may very well have been invented by Jack Johnson ... in prison. How about you fill that shelf with some books about how to grow a pair, Nancy?
John Brisker: the ABA's All-Time Leader in Crazy
Playing in the ABA in the 70s with its hard-partying, quick to throw a punch, funktastic atmosphere is a good way to get your foot in the door in terms of cool. But to move beyond cool into badass, one would have to go above and beyond. That brings us to John Brisker.
What does John Brisker in a sombrero and pistols have to do with Pittsburgh or Condors?
Even in a league filled with cocaine-fueled fist fights, Brisker's transgressions stood out, so much so that the head coach of the Dallas Chapparalls put up $500 as a bounty on Brisker.
It wasn't just opposing teams that fell victim to Brisker's madness. The man was such a lunatic that his own team had to hire some muscle in an attempt to control him. During practices, coach Dick Tinkham (great name) brought in an ex-football player whose sole job was to flatten Brisker the first time he got out of line. When Brisker proved to be too tough, the football player declared that he was going to the locker room to get his gun. Brisker was fine with that, since that gave him time to go to his locker and get his gun. Tinkham decided to cancel practice for the day.
How do such large testicles fit in such unsettlingly short shorts?
Being the top authority figure of the ABA did not make you immune to Brisker's wrath either. In 1971, immediately after the All-Star game, Brisker walked up to league commissioner Jack Dolph and demanded his All-Star bonus right then and there. Figuring an intact clavicle was worth the $300, Dolph paid Brisker cash out of his own wallet. Can you imagine Ron Artest trying to publicly shake down David Stern today? Cool, now imagine Kobe Bryant playing in the ABA and being punched right in the face by John Brisker because, fuck Kobe Bryant.
This fucking guy...
Most Badass Act:
Straight up fucking vanishing. In 1978, Brisker went to Uganda, either as a mercenary, guest of Idi Amin, or both. After April of that year, he was never heard from again. Speculation is that he was executed by a firing squad, quite possibly the most manly of all deaths this side of death by excessive pussy getting. Another theory (ours) is that he survived the firing squad, took on an alias and adapted his diaries into the screenplay for Shaft in Africa.
Jack Youngblood Laughs at Guns and Broken Bones Alike
When you're born with a name like Jack Youngblood, you're actually required by federal law to spend your life blazing a path of badassery the likes of which only other people named Jack Youngblood could hope to follow.
Pictured: A sketch of the very first Jack Youngblood. The badass bar was set pretty high.
It's not a question of if, just a question of how. The Jack Youngblood in question here chose to spread his gospel of badassery on the football field; playing 201 consecutive games as an NFL defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams for 14 years. By the way, we swear on all that is holy if a single commenter tells us we "fail" because the Rams play in St. Louis, we will send Youngblood himself to end you.
Best believe you don't want Youngblood on your ass.
Just ask the drunken cowboy who pointed a .44 revolver at Youngblood's eye and then pulled the trigger. Fortunately for Youngblood, and most unfortunately for the drunken aggressor, the gun failed to go off. Youngblood proceeded to take the gun away, knock the man out and walk away. We assume he then casually dropped a cigarette on a trail of gasoline and never bothered to look back at the ensuing explosion.
Most Badass Act:
How can having a gun to your eye not be the most badass moment in your life? For starters, play a Super Bowl with a goddamn broken leg. In the 1979 divisional playoffs against Dallas, Jack Youngblood was knocked sideways by a guard and had his fibula "snapped like a pencil."
While most players would accept that their season was over and head towards an early retirement of weekly knee replacement surgery and welfare level pension checks, Youngblood threw on a plastic cast and played in the NFC Championship game the next week. And then again a week later in the Super Bowl. Years later, Youngblood would say, "Look, it felt like a bunch of knives being stabbed into your leg. But I wasn't going to do more damage to a broken leg." Can't argue with that logic!
Seriously, don't argue.
But he wasn't done. A week later he suited up again in the Pro Bowl--a meaningless exhibition annually skipped by dozens of players. Said Youngblood, "You don't miss any of those opportunities." He then added "Brett Favre is a total pussy." Just joking, he didn't say that. But if you asked him today, he probably would.
Rulon Gardner is Clearly Cursed but Just Doesn't Give a Shit
In the 2000 Olympics, unknown pudgy American wrestler Rulon Gardner came out of nowhere to beat the Russian who was favored to win the gold (the Russian won the gold at the last three Olympics and hadn't lost a match in the last 13 years). Comparisons to Rocky IV are tempting, but the matchup was less Rockyish, but more like John Candy versus the giant Grizzly bear in The Great Outdoors; if the bear was a menacingly stoic communist, which we assume most bears are.All of this happened despite the fact the universe clearly wants Gardner dead.
As inspirational as it was, a single Olympic win by itself wouldn't be enough to classify a Mormon dairy farmer as a true badass. And the fact that he only won a bronze medal in the next Olympics might seem like a bit of a letdown, until you consider that by then he had a toe amputated due to frostbite. And that leads us to the meat of Gardner's badass credentials.
We're just at the tip of the ice-toe-berg.
The aforementioned amputated toe was a result of frostbite from being stranded on a wilderness trip after his snowmobile broke down. Years before, in grade school, he was impaled by an arrow during a show-and-tell incident (but badass props of his own to the nine-year-old that brought a crossbow for show-and-tell.). In 2004, he was hit by a car while he was on his motorcycle.
Most Badass Act:
Death's most recent (and spectacular) attempt on Rulon's life came in 2007, when he survived a fucking airplane crash. Gardner and two others were onboard when the Cirrus SR-22 crashed into a lake. After impact, the trio swam over an hour in 44-degree water (finally shedding the Unbreakable comparisons by showing that water obviously wasn't his kryptonite) and then endured overnight without fire or shelter in below freezing temperature.
Then he fought a man on the Great Wall of China.
We're not sure if the constant string of disasters prove that God is out to get him, or if his survival shows that Mormonism is the one true religion.
Simply put, Ted Williams may very well have been the most manly American ever. He wanted to be the greatest hitter who ever played baseball, and refused to let anything, including two separate wars, get in the way. He cursed like a sailor, refused to wear a necktie and included his hotel number on autographed baseballs signed for beautiful women.
"Neckties are just maxi pads for your throat." - Ted Williams
On the final day of the 1941 season, he refused to sit, even though he had a .39955 batting average that would have been rounded up to an even .400--a mark no one had reached in years. But Williams rejected the idea of sitting out and played in both games of a doubleheader. He went six for eight, and finished the season at .406. No one has hit .400 since.
Williams career was interrupted by war not once, but twice. During WWII, despite being classified 3-A and at no risk to be drafted, he voluntarily joined the military.
But how else was he going to legally kill foreigners?
Williams could have received an easy assignment playing on the service baseball team, but instead, he joined the V-5 program to become a Naval aviator. He would miss almost four years of his baseball prime while serving.
Eight years later, he would be recalled into the Marines. Again refusing a comfortable "goodwill" job playing baseball, Williams flew into 39 combat missions, survived a crash landing and was good enough to spend part of the war as John Glenn's wingman. Yes, the same John Glenn who was a good enough pilot to later move beyond planes and start flying into space.
Space, like most women, was just steps away from being slam-fucked by Ted Williams.
After retirement, having mastered baseball, war and (presumably) lesbian twin menage-a-trois, Williams decided to complete the holy trinity of first half of the century manly acts by becoming one of the greatest deep sea fishermen of all-time. He became so good that he was named to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame alongside Ernest Hemingway and S. Kip Farrington. Yep, THE S. Kip Harrington.
Couldn't find a picture of S. Kip Harrington. Here's Kip Winger. Make it work. - Photo Research Department
Most Badass Act:
Even though he died in 2002, Williams's most badass moment may be yet to come. That's because shortly after his death, his body, or at least his head, was cryogenically frozen. For "The Splendid Splinter," death, like war, might be nothing more than a temporary annoyance. It's entirely possible that when all is said and done, Teddy Ballgame's most badass act will be returning to save the world from the Alien Zombie Invasion of 2546.
Just in time for Boston to win its next championship.
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For more athletes who couldn't be bothered to give even 1/100th of a damn, check out 11 Baseball Legends Who Were Legendary Assholes and 7 Great Sports Moments (That Might Have Been Fixed).
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 4.09.10) to see our how to be like Jack Johnson guide.