Go to contents

The Pros and Cons of Bad Boys in Sports

Posted July. 11, 2009 09:09,   


Newcastle United soccer midfielder Joey Barton last year was sentenced to six months in prison for violence and imprisoned for 77 days. After his release, he was later sued for beating his teammate in practice, earning a “bad boy” image.

In Korea`s professional soccer K-League, Lee Chun-soo caused a stir after a series of incidents including improper behavior ahead of a match, an under-the-table deal between his club and agent, and brawls with coaching staff.

○ Cursing, beating, drinking

Bad boys are found in all sports. The Korean sports community is highly hierarchical, but bad boys exist nonetheless.

In pro baseball, a case in point is Jung Soo-keun of the Busan Lotte Giants. Last year, he beat up a janitor while drunk and was banned from playing for a year. Felix Jose, who joined Lotte in 1999, once threw a bat into the stands in a game and was ejected for using abusive language against an umpire.

In pro basketball, KCC Egis Coach Huh Jae used to struggle with drinking in his playing days. He has five arrests for drunk driving. At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, he left his hotel without permission and drank outside.

Texas Rangers outfielder Milton Bradley threw plastic bottles at fans and dumped a plastic basket full of balls onto the ground to protest an umpire`s call.

NBA power forward Rasheed Wallace attempted to brawl with fans and used abusive language with referees. As a result, he received 40 technical fouls in one season.

Former NBA rebounding king Dennis Rodman made headlines off the court because of his flings with actresses, attempted suicide, cross dressing as a woman, and violence.

Former tennis champion John McEnroe was also notorious for throwing rackets and lashing out at umpires in matches.

Golfer John Daly of the U.S. would go home if he performed poorly, and took a gallery’s camera and threw it away. Compared with these offenses, drinking and brawling are considered minor.

○ Treatment due to excessive rivalry

Many bad boys tend to show an excessive spirit of rivalry. They tend to be highly selfish and disregard what others think of them.

Prof. Kim Byeong-joon, a sports psychiatrist at Inha University in Incheon, said, “Studies have shown that professional athletes tend to be less capable of making moral judgments than laymen. Coaches need to educate them to improve their personalities.”

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney received mental treatment from a sports psychiatrist for eight months.

Fans in Korea and overseas are different in the way they see bad boys. In Korea, fans tend to be critical. The public relations director of a Korean pro team said, “Bad boys have negative images that can even jeopardize the image of a team’s parent company.”

Abroad, however, bad boys can be perceived as beneficial because they become gossip fodder among fans and help marketing. After the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers held their infamous brawl in 2004, television ratings surged. Bad boys who are highly opinionated and have strong personalities are considered public enemies, but often provide fans with interesting things to watch and enjoy.