I'm Sauk Valley Media Night News Editor Christopher Heimerman, and I have two confessions for you.
1) Unlike my model of news editorhood, Jeff Rogers, I don't like lists. I find them frustratingly imperfect, and the thought of putting one together makes my head hurt. I could waffle for days over whether I prefer waffles over pancakes. Because there's gotta be criteria, right? A scoring system? A method to ranking one above the other? Otherwise, IT'S JUST ANARCHY, MAN.
2) I'm fascinated by villains. See: The title of this post, a quote from one of the most unconventional protagonists of all time, Tony Montana ("Scarface," silly). Tim Robbins as Oliver Lang in "Arlington Road." Walter White. The list goes on and on. I find it refreshing to cheer for the "bad guy."
I think, with the help of Confession No. 2, I can overcome No. 1. Maybe if I can put this one, harmless little list together, more will follow. But this won't be a list of my favorite sports villains. Just the guys who I think are the best at being bad. And from my lifetime. (Sorry, Ty Cobb. Otherwise, you'd be a good candidate for Numero Uno.)
Here goes. Just remember, these are my top 10 sports villains. I'm sure yours are different, and I'd love to hear them.
10) Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers. Now he's a villain I can get behind. The drama. The unabashed cockiness. The bad teeth. I friggin' love Reggie Miller.
NOTE: John Starks receives honorable mention, as do NASCAR's Kurt Busch (I don't follow car-driving), boxing's Floyd Mayweather (I don't follow face-punching) and soccer's Cristiano Rinaldo (If I followed futbol, he'd be high on the list. Because I hear this filthy-rich dude is morally bankrupt.).
9) Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions. This throat-stomping, tail-whipping brute would be even more hatable if his Lions didn't have a propensity for wilting in the limelight.
8) Tie Domi, Toronto Maple Leafs. So many hockey players could've made this list. Honestly, I think a lot of them stole votes from each other. Patrick Roy (or any member of his family, really). Daniel "Carbomb" Carcillo. Todd Bertuzzi. Syracuse Bulldogs greats Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken and Ogie Oglethorpe (I should've warned you that there would be a lot of movie references in this thing.). How about Chris Pronger, who I hated for his dirty play, then loved when he signed with my Flyers, and now just feel bad for? But no one ever got under my skin like Tie Domi. Blackhawks fans, think of Raffi Torres. Now imagine Raffi Torres kicking your puppy. This is how much I hated the gnat on steroids that was Tie Domi.
7) Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants (because that guy who played in Pittsburgh wasn't the same guy). Somehow, I went from undoubtedly putting him in my top three to just sort of feeling bad for him. Because every day, he's gotta wake up and see Barry Bonds in the mirror.
6) Lawrence Taylor. All the best villains are plotters. Schemers. Underhanded. It doesn't get much more underhanded than using human trafficking to try to tire out the opposition the night before the big game.
5) Victoria Azarenka, tennis. Don't navigate to another page. Hear me out. This top-flight talent took an injury timeout against Sloane Stephens during a match in last year's Australian Open BECAUSE SHE WAS SCARED, having just failed to put the upstart adversary away and having her service broken. Well, Vika called it being overwhelmed. I call it the ultimate showing of poor sportsmanship. And shenanigans. I also call shenanigans.
4) A.J. Pierzynski, journeyman backstop who spent his best years with the White Sox. He is the poster child for the mentality of, "If he's on my team, I love him. If he's not, ..."
3) Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees. Nothing remotely likeable about him. Makes you wonder who in the world could displace him from the top two, doesn't it?
2) Brett Favre*, NFC North. It doesn't get much "better" than this. He went from being beyond beloved in the most aw-shucks NFL market to wanting in the worst way to beat the team, their fans, their winter sweater-wearing animals. The arc of his career and approval rating makes him the sort of villain that only a team of Hollywood writers should be able to create.
1) Lance Armstrong, bicycle rider. I'm just not sure where to begin here. You know what? He's the closing thing to satan that's competed in a sport on any level. He funneled money we were led to believe was going to cancer research into his own pockets. The world of sports is full to the gills with guys I wouldn't want my kids ever going near, no matter how much their autograph is worth. But when it comes to the degenerates, this guy is their leader. Congrats, Lance. You're back on top, baby.
* There's another guy who's thoroughly dragging his own reputation in the otherwise pristine state of Wisconsin through the mud. But for now, Brewers cheater Ryan Braun is not one of my top 10 villains. Honorable mention? No doubt. But this seems like a good opportunity to tell you that I'll check back in a year from now and do this again. We'll see if ol' Braunswagger cracks the top 10 at that point. But I'm only human. If he hits posts a 40/40 campaign and leads the Crew to an improbable postseason appearance, ...