Lies Athletes Tell

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2014

Lies Athletes Tell

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom," Thomas Jefferson once said.

    "I didn't bet on baseball," Pete Rose once said.

    Needless to say, if you're looking for a bit of information on Rose's career, the book of wisdom might not be the best place to start.

    Rose, however, is not alone.

    Athletes are liars.

    Some of them lie about big things, like gambling and performance-enhancing drugs. Some of them lie about little things, like their loyalty and their motives. But every single day, in every single sport, athletes lie.

    This is not a list of every sports figure who has ever fibbed into a microphone.

    Rather, this is a list of the lies we keep hearing over and over and over again.

'I'm Retiring'

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Liars: Brett Favre, Michael Jordan

    There was a time, long, long ago, before the likes of Brett Favre and Michael Jordan had worked their way into the spotlight, that a player would only retire once.

    Favre and Jordan changed the paradigm by combining for nearly as many retirements (six) as they had MVPs (eight).

    Favre's saga was particularly exhausting after his heartfelt, tearful goodbye to Green Bay, his bizarre comeback with the Jets and his second comeback with the rival Minnesota Vikings.

    For a while, keeping up with his drama was reminiscent of a Taylor Swift song:

    We are never, ever, ever getting back together
    We are never, ever, ever getting back together
    You go talk to [the media], talk to [the media again], talk to me
    But we are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together

    (Music continues while Vikings offer contract to Favre)

    Alright, NFL, FINE, we can get back together ONE MORE TIME, but I swear to God, this is IT!

    You know, this makes me wonder. If Derek Jeter follows the Favre/Jordan model, is someone going to make him give all of those gifts back?

'I Never Took Performance-Enhancing Drugs'

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    Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

    Notable Liars: Pretty much every MLB player in the 1990s

    Let's play a game. It's called "Pick an Idiot, Any Idiot." Here's how it works: I'm going to summarize a bunch of the hilarious lies baseball players told about taking steroids, and you tell me which one you like the best.

    Ready? Awesome.


    Mark McGwire: I don't wanna talk about the past.

    Alex Rodriguez: I don't think your indisputable factual evidence is legit.

    Ryan Braun: I will quite literally bet my life on the fact that PEDs have never been in my body.

    Barry Bonds: That was steroids? Dude, I thought it was moisturizer!

    Alright, who do you like?

    There's something really fun about hating A-Rod, and the word "misremembered" gets me every time, but I think I've gotta tip my hat to Bonds.

    I mean, come on, man. When a secretive doctor sneaks into your home and gives you a mysterious jar of clear cream, the least you can do is read the ingredients.

'I'm Not Hurt'

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Notable Liars: Sam Bowie, Robert Griffin III

    What if I told you that by simply saying the word "ouch," you could launch a struggling small-town team into the eternal spotlight, bring them a plethora of long-awaited championships and turn a forgotten little squad into the most marketable franchise in sports?

    Such was the power that Sam Bowie held at the time of the 1984 draft, when he misled the entire world about the severity of his injuries.

    Bowie said he didn't hurt. The Trail Blazers believed him. The rest is history.

    But what would have happened if Bowie had been honest—if he'd have said "ouch" that fateful day in the doctor's office when they hit his leg with that little mallet?

    Would the Blazers have played it safe and drafted Michael Jordan instead?

    Would MJ have won six NBA championships in Portland?

    Would every basketball fan on earth have purchased a No. 23 Trail Blazers jersey?

    Players lie about their injuries all the time, but none have twisted the course of history quite as much as Bowie.

'I'm Sorry'

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Notable liars: Ryan Leaf, Donald Sterling and so many more

    When I was growing up, my parents and teachers made sure to teach me a very important lesson: Always say you're sorry, because it's the easiest way to duck out of consequences for the stupid things you did!

    This is apparently the lesson most professional athletes have been told. More often than not, "I'm sorry" directly translates to "I've been caught, I can't think of any new excuses, and my PR guy told me if I read this, I'd probably get in less trouble."

    Sometimes, it seems like athletes and big sports figures are trying to make it as obvious as possible that they are not truly sorry.

    Donald Sterling used racist slurs in his apology for being racist.

    Ryan Leaf once read an apology off of a piece of paper, then crumpled it up and threw it in a locker.

    It's OK, guys. We forgive you.

    Just know that "We forgive you" directly translates to "Nobody is taking that apology seriously, and if I had a chance to meet you in person right now, I'd probably slap you across the face."

'I'm Just Trying to Put Food on the Table'

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Notable liars: Ty Law, Latrell Sprewell

    Sometimes, there's a very fine line between "dishonest" and "delusional."

    Such is the case for former athletes Ty Law and Latrell Sprewell, both of whom cited the need to feed their families as reason for getting multimillion dollar contract extensions.

    Are they just lying about their desperate financial situations? Or do they really not understand the disgusting amount of wealth that they're living with?

    Sprewell's story is my favorite.

    As reported by, the Timberwolves forward provided a very practical argument for a massive contract:

    I told you I needed to feed my family,” Sprewell said at a press conference yesterday. “They offered me 3 years at $21 million. That’s not going to cut it. And I’m not going to sit here and continue to give my children food while this front office takes money out of my pocket. Sprewell brought [his children] up to the podium during his press conference to taunt T’Wolves ownership and urge them to meet his demands.

    “See this cute little guy?” asked Sprewell, lifting little Tyree up to the podium. “He hasn’t eaten since yesterday, and he won’t eat another bite until I get my fair market value. Do I want him to starve? Of course not. I’m not some kind of ogre. I just want to be treated with respect by the T-Wolves front office.

    Now, call me a big softie, but I can't help but think that starving your own children to death is a pretty extreme way of asking for a raise.

    And let's not get away from the major question at hand here: Where the hell does this guy buy his groceries that $21 million isn't going to cut it?

    I know of this one restaurant down the street from me where that amount would get you 21 million McChickens and a small fry, enough to feed a family of five for at least a good week.

'I Did Not Bet on Baseball'

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    DAVID KOHL/Associated Press

    Notable Liars: Pete Rose, 1919 White Sox

    This one's a little more player-specific, but I can't talk about sports liars without mentioning the man I so desperately wanted to believe for so long. Rose denied gambling on baseball for years before admitting he did it basically every night.

    I guess eventually you reach a point where lying isn't getting you into the Hall of Fame anyway, so telling the truth is your next best option.

    Things aren't looking too good for Pete. It's now been almost 100 years since the 1919 Black Sox gambling scandal, and the Hall hasn't budged an inch closer to carving out a plaque for Shoeless Joe.

    Now, if we wanted to really cover a broader selection of liars with this slide, we could have just gone with "I didn't do it!" For whatever reason, though, it just didn't seem like it'd be all that fun to bring up guys who have dealt with accusations of things like assault or murder.

    So instead, we'll just laugh at Pete for a while. He's a big boy. He can take it.

'I'm Not Going Anywhere'

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Notable liars: LeBron James, Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban

    True story:

    Dan Gilbert owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also owns the company Fathead.

    When LeBron James announced his decision to leave his home state to join the Miami Heat a few years ago, Gilbert got revenge by marking the LeBron James Cavaliers Fathead down from $99 to $17.41.

    Why $17.41? That seems oddly specific.

    Because, obviously, 1741 is the birth year of war traitor Benedict Arnold.

    Now, this seems like a bit of a childish reaction for a man who owns a professional basketball team, but at the end of the day, their anger is pretty justified.

    LeBron had promised to stay in Cleveland until he brought them a championship. For those of you who need to brush up on your sports history, that never happened.

    Loyalty can get you pretty far in life. Just not far enough, James learned, to win a title.

    Oh, by the way, the next time you want to ask me "Why do you have a Fathead of LeBron in the wrong jersey?" or "Why do you know the year Benedict Arnold was born but virtually nothing else about his life?," I'm just going to smile and nod and let you figure it out for yourself.

'It's Not About the Money'

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Notable liars: Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez

    This might be my least favorite lie in all of sports, and it's probably the most common.

    Look, guys, this is your job. Everybody loves money; everybody's got a family to feed and a nephew to send to college and a mother to provide with a new house and a car.

    So can't you all just own it and admit that cash is the driving force of every decision you ever make about where you'd like to play? No shame, fellas.

    Now, don't get me wrong, there are definitely some players who don't make their decisions based solely on money, namely guys who are focused on building a legacy and already have millions and millions stashed away.

    But don't tell me for one second that Robinson Cano didn't pick the Mariners because they were the highest bidders or that Alex Rodriguez would have stayed in Seattle if they had put together a World Series contender.

    When money talks, athletes listen. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

'I Guarantee...'

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Notable liars: These guys and more

    You could probably argue that misfiring on a guarantee isn't lying as much as it is guessing incorrectly, but when I hear the word "guarantee" I think "100 percent certainty."

    And when I hear 100 percent certainty, I believe 100 percent certainty.

    I didn't watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals because Chris Bosh had already guaranteed a victory.

    I stopped following the O.J. Simpson trial because Johnnie Cochran guaranteed the case was a loser.

    I bet my entire savings on the Seahawks after Matt Hasselbeck guaranteed they would score first in overtime against the Packers in a 2004 playoff game.

    Thanks to these liars, I've spent 10 years wondering how O.J. is doing in jail and a week waiting for the Heat and Spurs to finally play Game 6.

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you." I'm not mad, guys. We just have some major trust issues we need to work through.

    On another note, if anyone knows what happened to all of the money in my savings account, please let me know.

'My Girlfriend Died'

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Notable liars: Manti Te'o

    OK, so this isn't exactly a lie we hear over and over and over again. In fact, I sincerely hope this is a lie that only ever gets told once.

    But I'm gonna be honest, this might be the single funniest story in the history of sports, and I wouldn't dare write an article with the word "lie" in the title that didn't pay tribute to former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and his deceased fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

    If you're not familiar with the story, please, do yourself a favor and read it before you go any further. 

    This guy proved to be an absolute master of deceit and launched one of the most awe-inspiring displays of creativity and desperation for attention the world has ever seen.

    Personally, I've got a lot to thank him for.

    First, his story kept me entertained for a good couple of weeks.

    In addition, I've tried out his technique and invented a really beautiful girlfriend of my own. She's battling with some illness right now, but if she can make it through, I really think she might be the one.

    Think I'm a genius? An idiot? Let me know on Twitter