15 High-Achieving, Hard-Living Athletes That Make Booze Seem Like Gatorade
It’s an odd thing, being a champion. If you have this bizarre impressive gift nobody else has, you’re allowed — and encouraged — to do whatever you like as long as it doesn’t get in the way of that. Blind eye after blind eye is turned to the behavior of people that bring trophies in.
And a lot of these people are young and dumb and suddenly have more money than they know what to do with. The nature of sports often means young people go from poor and unknown to rich and famous overnight, suddenly able to do whatever they wish and surrounded by people who will only ever say yes. If you love a drink, or a line, and suddenly everyone in the city wants to get drunk and high with you, holy shit, what a life.
The stories are great, and the charismatic hard-partiers manage to make it all seem charming — footballer George Best never tired of the line, “I spent 90 percent of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I squandered.” But every one of these tales of excess is also a tale of unrealized potential, unwon championships, uncaptured glory. Whatever any hard-drinking athlete might claim — and plenty have made wild claims that the drinking, drugs and general excess are what fueled everything they achieved — they weren’t champions thanks to their behavior; they were champions despite it. They’re great stories, but they’re tragedies.
That said, athletes can get away with a lot less unhinged behavior these days. Where once nobody batted an eyelid at a victory celebration turning into a week-long bender, when an athlete makes the headlines for being drunk today, it’s usually the kind of boozing Babe Ruth or John Daly would have gotten done by noon on a Tuesday.
He’s gone through a few name, but when playing as Ron Artest, the man occasionally known as Metta World Peace liked a drop of booze. In fact, when he was with the Bulls, he got into the habit of sinking a few half-time Hennesseys.
The Most Successful Drinking and Driving Ever
James Hunt spent the two weeks before winning the 1976 Formula 1 World Championships drinking wildly, snorting all the coke in the world, smoking weed like it was going out of style and bedding an estimated 33 British Airways flight attendants.
Lawrence Taylor, Putting the Effin’ ‘ell into NFL
Possibly football’s all-time greatest defensive player, L.T. claimed his wild lifestyle was what let him play how he did. And it was wild: booze, crack, attending team meetings handcuffed to sex workers… He’s in the Hall of Fame.
A Golfer with a High Daly Intake
John Daly is a damn fine golfer — he’s won both the PGA and Open championships, and sustained an enviable three-decade career. He’s also an absolute boozehound — he was once sinking 12 bottles of Bud and one of Jack Daniel’s daily.
The Man Was Strug-gul-ling
Joe Namath is one of football’s biggest names ever, and, by god, the man could put ‘em away. His pint-of-vodka habit culminated in the most embarrassing clip in TV history (“I want to kiss you”), which humiliated him into sobriety.
There’s a Time and a Place
When 12-time MLB All-Star Miguel Cabrera was pulled over for driving erratically in 2011, he reached for something in the back seat — a bottle of James Buchanan aged scotch, which he proceeded to drink while being arrested.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Seven-time World Series winner Mickey Mantle spent a decade habitually enjoying what he called the “breakfast of champions” — brandy, Kahlua and cream. He would also regularly down four bottles of wine at lunch, and enjoyed vodka mixed with port.
Best by Name, Drunkest by Nature
Soccer legend George Best once had a tray of champagne delivered by a waiter who, seeing him on the hotel bed surrounded by casino winnings and a nude Miss World, asked, “Mr. Best, where did it all go wrong?”
The Great Bambeerno
Babe Ruth could drink industrial amounts, rarely appearing drunk while manifestly being so, so inebriated. He once promised to give up the late nights and limit his booze intake, but refused to give up “women — they’re too much fun.”
Gazza It Down
English footballer Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne never looked like an athlete — he looked like a drunk. The “dentist’s chair” incident — a celebration following a breathtaking goal recreating a ridiculous boozing session — endeared him to millions while also worrying them greatly.
The Golden Boy Was More into the White Stuff
Diego Maradona, the Argentinian soccer superstar and contender for greatest player ever, did more drugs per week at his peak than most people do in their lives. It was rarer to see him not on cocaine.
The Most Legendarily Trippy No-Hitter of All time
In 1970, Dock Ellis lost track of the days, or he wouldn’t have taken all that acid. But he somehow pitched a no-hitter for the Pirates, despite thinking Jimi Hendrix was playing for the Padres with Richard Nixon umpiring.
The First Ever Super Bowl Touchdown Was Scored Drunkenly
In 1967, Max McGee assumed that as backup he wouldn’t be playing, so he spent the night before Super Bowl I partying hard until 6:30 a.m. Then Boyd Dowler got injured, and McGee miraculously scored two touchdowns, making history.
Wade Boggs’ Flight to Oblivion
Wade Boggs’ drinking abilities were legendary — teammates recall him drinking a case at a time without peeing — but the day he drank 107 beers on a cross-country flight will go down in history.
The Greatest of All Time
Andre the Giant was huge — it wasn’t just a clever name — as was his appetite. He’d sink six bottles of wine before heading into the ring, and once drank 108 cans of beer during a 45-minute layover. Insanity.