Villain: A wicked, evil person who is typically at odds with the hero. Someone who is the root cause of a particular problem or an evil plan.
Fans love to hate them. They are defiant, mean and at times, just pure evil. A sports villain becomes a villain because of success, triumph, and their overwhelming positive contributions. Unfortunately, they became a villain because there success or triumph at one time or another came at the expense of a Pittsburgh sports team. Check out my list of the biggest sports villains in Pittsburgh sports history.
Ray Lewis is a no doubt Hall of Famer and a tremendous player who would have flourished on any NFL team. That being said, Ray Lewis was as annoying as he was hated in Pittsburgh. Lewis danced like James Brown every time he made a tackle. He gave speeches anytime the camera was rolling and in most cases, made as much sense as former WWE wrestler, The Ultimate Warrior. Lewis is a player not missed by any Steeler fan.
Adam Graves really needs no introduction, at least, not in a Penguins locker room. Graves will always be remembered for blatantly slashing the wrist of Mario Lemieux. Lemiuex was the NHL’s most dominant player at the time and arguably its best ever. Lemieux ended up missing five games and yet, still went on to win the Conn Smythe leading the Pens to a Stanley Cup. Graves has adamantly denied any intent, which makes the cowardly act even more bush league in professional sports.
Few players have ever earned such love and respect from a city as Jaromir Jagr did with the Pens. It’s hard to believe that Jagr was able to wipe away all that love he had earned from the city of Pittsburgh. However, that’s exactly what he has done after spending 11 years in a Penguins uniform. In July 2001, Jagr demanded a trade out of Pittsburgh, as friction between him and Lemieux became very apparent. What stung even more from this trade is that the Pens got absolutely nothing in return for Jagr. To pour more salt in the wound, Jagr returned to the NHL in 2011. For a moment, it seemed Jagr and Lemieux had a verbal agreement to reunite in Pittsburgh. Instead, Jagr signed with the Penguins in-state rivals, the Philadelphia flyers.
For the simple fact that Tom Brady continuously torches the Steelers defense almost every time makes Brady one of the biggest villains in Pittsburgh sports history. Most recently, Brady led the Patriots to a 55-31 dismantling of the Steelers as Brady threw for season-highs of 432 yards and four touchdowns. The 55 points and 610 yards of total offense are the most ever against the Steelers. As much as I respect Brady for being a sixth round selection and having an illustrious career, to this day, the Steelers still haven’t figured out how to stop him, which adds even more salt to the wound.
Barry Bonds has and always will be remembered for breaking a legends home run record by taking steroids and then lying to a grand jury that he wasn’t aware he was on steroids ranks Bonds as one of the most hated players of all time in sports history. Before the Steriods, Bonds was hated in Pittsburgh for a completely different reason; he was an absolute ego-maniac.
During the Pirates runs in the playoffs in the early ’90s, Bonds blamed his fellow teammates for not winning in the playoffs. In 1990, Bonds batted .167 and slugged .167. He managed three singles in 18 at-bats. In 1991, Bonds hit .148 and slugged .185. He hit three singles and a double in 27 at-bats. In 1992, he almost doubled his batting average, hitting .261 with six hits in 23 at-bats, including a double and a home run.
It was the bottom of the ninth. Unknown pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera was at bat for the Braves. Sid Bream, the long-time Pirate who had signed with Atlanta before the 1992 season, came around to score on Cabrera’s base hit, which fell right in front of Bonds, whose weak throw couldn’t get the slow-footed Bream at home.
According to Sports Illustrated, “Van Slyke told MLB Network that on the Francisco Cabrera game-winning hit, he motioned to Barry Bonds to move in. Bonds responded by giving him the finger, and the ball ended up landing exactly where Van Slyke said to play.”
Of the five players compiled in this article, four of them have earned the title of villain. Bonds, on the other hand, while he is without question a villain in Pittsburgh, he has also earned the astute honor in my opinion as one of the most hated players in sports history.
Give me your take as to who you think should be on the list of the 5 biggest villains in Pittsburgh sports history.