The 5 Most Pathetic Abuses of Power in Sports History
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.
Ted Turner Plays Baseball Manager for a Day
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?
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.
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 ...
The President of Chechnya Arranges a Match of Soccer All-stars Vs Himself
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Al-Saadi Gaddafi Forced His Way into Professional Soccer, Spoils Soccer for Everyone
Before Muammar Gaddafi's son Al-Saadi became commander of Lybia's Special Forces and a high-profile target for Interpol, he was following his real dream of kicking a ball around and throwing himself on the ground to draw penalties. He loved soccer but unfortunately lacked any skill, even by Saturday pick-up game standards. However, when your father is good at killing arguments by killing the arguers, you can do pretty much anything you want.
That's how Al-Saadi wound up playing for a team in the Libyan League while simultaneously acting as president of the entire Libyan Football Federation. As you can probably imagine, that created a fairly substantial conflict of interest, which Al-Saadi was ready to exploit unapologetically. He rigged the league in his own favor, forcing the best players to join his team while bribing all of the referees.
Gaddafi frequently cited Judge Smales as a personal hero.
Once, when a rival team refused to finish a game against his team in protest of all the unfair calls and dirty play, Gaddafi's soldiers forced them to keep playing at gunpoint. Finally, to add insult to injury after the game, Al-Saadi had their clubhouse bulldozed. In his ultimate act of arrogance, Al-Saadi created a league-wide rule forbidding announcers to mention the name of any player other than Al-Saadi himself. When everyone else is afraid of you, you don't even have to pretend to play fair.
But that wasn't enough for Al-Saadi. He wanted to play for a legitimate team in a legitimate league. So he did what plucky underdogs everywhere have always done: He threw his daddy's oil money at the problem until it went away. In 2003 the soccer world was shocked to hear that Al-Saadi had secured a move to the big leagues with the Series A Italian team Perugia. He managed it by bypassing the league altogether and brokering the deal with the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, instead.
And we know what a straight shooter he is.
Of course Perugia claimed that no money changed hands and they merely signed him to improve relations between Italy and Libya. Regardless of why it happened, no one felt confident enough at lying to pretend they had hired him for his skill.
Despite the team's owner openly pleading with the coach to play him, Gaddafi only appeared for 26 minutes in three seasons in Italy. The problem was eventually solved when he failed a drug test and was banned altogether. He ended up being voted the league's worst ever player, which might actually have pleased his father, who once opened a major soccer tournament with the inspirational words, "All you stupid spectators, have your stupid game."
Which will undoubtedly be how the World Cup is inaugurated if the U.S. ever hosts it again.
Nero Wins Every Event in the Olympics
Michael Phelps is the most decorated modern Olympian, having won more than 22 medals throughout his career. But compared to Nero's 1,808 Olymipic medals in just one year, Phelps looks like a doggie-paddling child peeing in the pool. Now, technically, back in 67 A.D., they were olive wreaths instead of medals, and technically he won them by being a tyrannical emperor who threatened the lives of all the competitors he couldn't bribe. So there is a pretty big asterisk next to his name in history books.
Yeah, but at least he didn't use steroids.
Above all other sports, Emperor Nero loved chariot-racing, so much so that he fixed the Olympic games to ensure that he could not only compete among the best in the world but also win. And we're not talking about paying some judges under the table -- he was completely conspicuous about how desperately he wanted to fuck over every other competitor.
To start, he ordered that the entire Olympics be postponed two years to coincide with his visit to Greece. Then he showed up to the event with 10 horses. For anyone who's not a chariot racing enthusiast, the race is run with four horses -- Nero intended to more than double that. He bribed other riders to drop out, and even with a huge advantage, he still fell in the middle of the race and was unable to finish. Nevertheless, he was declared winner anyway because while fair play and sporting integrity are nice, not being thrown to the lions is even nicer.
And thus, the "participation trophy" was born.
But Nero wasn't done. He figured as long as he was there, he might as well win every other event, too. He even demanded that a musical competition be introduced, specifically so he could win that, and to be clear, Nero wasn't a great musician. His performances were so staggeringly bad that people would literally pretend to be dead so that he would stop. Finally, he ordered the statues of previous winners be torn down and hurled into the public toilets. All told, he managed to cheapen the most sacred sporting event in history until it was nothing more than a children's game where he gets to make up the rules as he goes.
But hell, if you can't do shit like that, what's the point of becoming Emperor?
Well, the money is nice. And the women. The entourage. The world's strongest army. The eternal fame. The matricide. But other than that.
For more should probably be kicked in the genital region, check out 5 People Who Screwed Things Up for Everybody and