Sports stars come in all shapes and sizes, attitudes and behaviours. But who are some of the most eccentric personalities we’ve seen?
Let’s take a look.
One of the first athletes who springs to mind (for anyone who watched sports in the 90s) is former NBA superstar and hall-of-famer Dennis Rodman. While he was a defensive beast and an on-court hustler that no basketball pro wanted to face (he even claims Lebron James would be no problem for him), the five-time NBA champion is perhaps better remembered for his flamboyant style.
In an era where most sports stars wore baggy clothes and big suits, Rodman went for a more androgynous look, frequently dying his hair different colours, bravely wearing make-up and clothes designed for women, and piercing his face in several places.
Rodman is one of a kind, and let’s not get started on his bizarre friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un…
Known as ‘The Bird’, baseball player Mark Fidrych became a legend not only for his excellent abilities as a pitcher, but for his eccentric on-field idiosyncrasies. From talking to the ball and himself, to his famous crouch (which became known as ‘manicuring the mound’), Fidrych was a star for five seasons before injuries cut his career short.
By all accounts, off the field Fidrych was a kind, fun-loving guy who lived a modest life. Despite his financial success and fame, he drove a subcompact car, lived in a small apartment, and often told people if he wasn’t a baseball player he’d be pumping gas.
Fidrych died tragically in an accident in 2009.
They say aggression usually wins in poker, and for a time there weren’t many poker players quite as aggressive as Denmark’s Gus Hansen. From going all-in every hand to making what could be considered some crazy calls, Phil Hellmuth once described Hansen’s style as “The most bizarre poker. I love it.”
When he won the Aussie Millions Main Event back in 2007, players would have seen Hansen talking to himself after every hand of the tournament. It might have looked strange, but in fact he was relaying hands into a tape recorder for what would become his book Every Hand Revealed.
To this day Hansen is a regular in the biggest real money cash games in Las Vegas. In the 2019 social media landscape, Hansen’s Instagram account is one of poker’s best follows. It’s going to be a great summer.
There haven’t been too many weird football players (or soccer players, to those across the pond) quite like Italy’s Mario Balotelli. From failed fancy plays to winking at players, horrific tackles to playing on an iPad on the bench, he’s certainly a divisive figure.
But it’s Balotelli’s off-pitch antics which have become the stuff of legend. When he was stopped by police and asked why he had £25,000 in the front seat of his car, he simply replied: “Because I can.” He was also reported to have driven around the streets of Manchester dressed as Santa Claus and given out money to members of the public.
Check out a long list of Balotelli-isms below.
What makes a sports player eccentric? We’d argue that frequently lighting yourself on fire for fun, eating cigarettes, glass and pages from your playbook, and always sleeping with your head facing north so that the “magnetic waves” could revitalise your body, make you pretty darn eccentric.
All of this was true of NFL linebacker Tim Rossovich. Drafted in 1968, Rossovich had a ten-year American football career before switching to acting. He died in 2018, aged 72.
Here’s a Rossovich story, told by Bleacher Report:
“In college, Rossovich and his bros were on a rope swing. They made a bet to see who could land closest to a bank of rocks. Rossovich had that bet in the bag. He launched himself onto the rocks and escaped with cuts and bruises.
The cuts became infected after he jumped into a fish pond at a frat party. The infections sent him to the hospital after he developed a pesky coma.
Once he came back to the world of the conscious, doctors ordered he stay away from football for eight weeks. Rossovich thought that was overkill. To prove to his coaches he was ready, he would repeatedly bang his head into his locker. The coaches sided with the doctors and did not let him play.”