Who’s the most overrated pro athlete?

point counterpoint

“He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle, and he doesn’t score many goals. Other than that he’s all right.”

So said the late, great George Best, (widely acknowledged as one of the greatest soccer players of all time) of David Beckham.

That one sentence encapsulates much of what makes Beckham the most overrated player in professional sports. But not all.

Let’s start on the international stage. Becks has been the captain of the English national team for some time now. He’s played 60 games for them in his career, and they haven’t won anything significant. The recent culmination of this futility came in Euro 2004, when he took a penalty kick against Portugal that was about as accurate as Dick Cheney with a shotgun.

He was much more successful with powerhouse Manchester United. That team had plenty of meaningful wins. But I emphasize the word team, and they’ve done just fine without him.

Meanwhile, his new superstar team, Real Madrid, has become the Team England of Spanish soccer. They pay him in the region of $10 million US per year, and his total salary, including endorsements, is estimated at about $39.5 million US per year. (That’s $199,119.39 per week, if you’re keeping count—he has to pay his hairstylist with something, right?) In 22 games this season, he has had one goal.

That one goal came off—you guessed it—his right foot, and of course on a free kick. He’s taken 41 shots, 39 with his right foot, one with his left. The remaining one is accounted for by his one header. George Best was onto something. Oh, and he boasts an impressive 211 balls lost—that’s nine and a half per game, making him an enormous defensive liability.

Simply put, his celebrity image is constructed not to draw attention to what he does on the field, but to divert it. If you happened to Google Beckham on Wednesday, you would have found the top result was a news story about his skin care line coming to Israel.

If it’s not that, it’s his family. He has a celebrity marriage with Posh Spice, who at age 31 proudly told a Spanish journalist she’d never read a book. If you’ve ever heard Beckham speak, it’s easy to believe that’s one thing they have in common. Their children carry the colourful names Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz. Even his kids sound like a publicity stunt.

If you run a Google image search for Becks, you have to scroll to the seventeenth picture to find him playing soccer, and you’ll pass a nude photo on the way. So give him a modelling contract, his own cologne, maybe even a record deal. But stop calling him an elite football player. It seems that title is the only thing he didn’t earn last year.

--James Bradshaw

I’m about to make what is sure to be a very unpopular declaration, but some things just need to be said—regardless of how grave the fall out may be. And so I feel it is my duty to declare—with ridiculous bravery—that Sidney Crosby is the most overrated professional athlete.

Take a second, calm down, and try to stay with me. Let me explain.

Sidney Crosby is an outstanding player. I’m not debating that. Crosby has 76 points in 68 games, and leads Pittsburgh in scoring. He’s good—it’s simply a fact. However, for the last three years all I have heard is that the “Next One” is coming to save the NHL from destruction (read: financial peril). A young boy from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, destined for hockey greatness—the second coming of the Great One, a reincarnation of the Magnificent One.

But the Crosby that companies like Gatorade and Reebok are prostituting is, in reality, just a myth. We have watched Crosby grow up in Sportsnet updates, his statistics have been carefully charted by sports enthusiasts, and his face has become the poster of NHL hockey. However the Crosby we believe in—the flawless icon—does not truly exist. He never did, he never will. The age of Gretzky-like phenomena died with the 1980s and it simply can’t return.

As his rookie season begins to wind down, it is becoming more and more apparent that Crosby will not win the Calder trophy as rookie of the year. He did not immediately lift the Pittsburgh Penguins back to glory days of the early ’90s, and the addition of Malkin next season is not going to change anything. And we’ve discovered from his constant whining and relentless yapping that he isn’t exactly the meek gentleman the media has constructed him as.

I can’t blame Crosby for being overrated. After all, he didn’t ask the media to come knocking when he, like all 14-year-old boys, was still battling pubescent acne and plagued by nocturnal emissions.

But I am blaming the unfairly high expectations that we fans placed on him. I’m blaming people who construct heroes and icons prematurely, placing unattainable expectations on the talented potential of feeble youth.

Crosby is the most overrated professional athlete not because he has a lack of talent, but because of the deep gap between the expectation and reality of his ability.

In a few years the hype will fade away, and Crosby will settle into the league as yet another pretty good player. We’ll conveniently forget about all the pressure we placed on the Next One when he was just a boy—just like, say, Eric Lindros.

But the hype machine will trudge on, finding a new talented youth to thrust into the spotlight of unattainable heroism.

--Dan Robson

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