Things Athletes Do to Amuse Themselves
For most of us working stiffs, becoming a professional athlete would be a dream come true, but for actual professional athletes, playing sports is their day job.
And like any other day job, no matter how interesting and rewarding, there’s some downtime.
We fill that downtime in a variety of ways. Taking long lunches, but not long enough to get in trouble. Inventing reasons to wander around. Going to the bathroom just to wash your hands. And of course, screwing around on the Internet for hours on end.
Athletes have better jobs, so it’s only fitting that they have better ways to amuse themselves.
Making Prank Phone Calls
Considering the offseason, training camp, long road trips and time off due to injury, athletes have a fair bit of downtime together built into their schedules. Throw in one mischief-maker, and you’ve got yourself the perfect prank phone call storm.
Rockets big man Dwight Howard has a well-known love of such hijinks. In addition to the video above, there's an additional one on YouTube of Howard knocking on Derrick Rose’s hotel door before scurrying off in a giggle fit.
Very recently. Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson tweeted about prank-calling his (angry) teammates at training camp. Which is probably a pretty common occurrence, especially in a dorm-room setting.
Messing with the Media
Most athletes do the restrained regurgitation of team talking points with the media—most of the time.
But every now and again a guy gets saucy and has a little fun—like Wes Welker did back in January 2011. Referencing a weeks-old embarrassing scandal that broke involving Jets coach Rex Ryan’s foot fetish, Welker, then with the Patriots, worked in 11 different foot references in a single press conference.
With Welker it was a one-time thing, but for guys like Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster, messing with the media is a lifestyle. Last season, Lynch’s media blackout made him one of the biggest stories at Super Bowl XLVIII, while Foster’s comical disdain for the press has coincided with his decline in production on the field.
Busting a Move
Athletes dance a fair bit on the sidelines, particularly in the NBA. Something about basketball makes for a much more conducive dance environment—maybe it just feels more natural in an indoor venue.
A lot of teams have elaborate dance entrances at home which seem to get better each year. The whole thing must really amuse them because that stuff takes a fair bit of planning in advance.
Legally Changing Their Names
Like us normals, sometimes athletes change their names for practical purposes like marriage or because their given name isn’t particularly practical for marketing. Other times their name changes are simply to attract attention or for their own amusement.
The first name that probably comes to mind is the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, who is now known as Metta World Peace, and perhaps eventually will be known as The Panda's Friend.
Awhile back, Donte Whitner seemed pretty serious about changing his last name to Hitner, but has since backed off.
Chad Johnson-Ochonicno obviously has had second thoughts about his ridiculous name change, since he changed it back in 2012, though he’s often still referred to as Ochocinco in the media, probably because he deserves to be punished for that terrible lapse in judgment.
Check out some other name changes in this article from the Toronto Sun.
Maintaining Insane Traditions
Every locker room and clubhouse has their own set of games and traditions—when guys spend that much time half-naked in a room together, they’re bound to develop weird behavior after awhile.
Take the pie-in-the-face tradition many baseball teams have for celebrating a game-winning hit. Although it happens around MLB, nobody has embraced it with the same vigor and voracity as A’s outfielder Josh Reddick, who probably gives Coco Crisp pie-inspired nightmares at this point.
For professional athletes who once dreamed of being exactly where they are right now, those specific dreams of theirs have already come true, which means they can afford to work for minimal compensation as an offseason intern.
In August 2011, Clippers star Blake Griffin famously took an internship at FunnyOrDie.com, a comedy site founded by comedian Will Ferrell, to kill time and amuse us all during the NBA lockout. That same summer Brandon Jennings, then with the Bucks, had an epic internship at Under Armour.
And three years earlier, in the summer of 2008, former Rangers agitator Sean Avery spent the summer interning at Vogue. That one probably didn’t amuse him nearly as much as it amused the rest of us—Anna Wintour is not known for her sense of humor.
Although there are a handful of Vine stars out there, the vast majority of these six-second videos are incredibly dumb and usually only amusing to the person who created them—if that. Believe it or not, most athletes' Vines are just as useless and mundane as the rest of them.
They may be slightly elevated by the celebrity involved, but honestly, watching Steph Curry’s friends check their text messages and put on their shoes isn’t much more entertaining than watching my own friends do it. As long as they’re amusing themselves though, that’s all that matters.
Heckling the Opposition
Trash-talking the opposition is usually something players do in games or in the media, but as the great Bryan Trottier and Kevin Stevens demonstrate in this video (NSFW), heckling is a way for players to stay involved from the bench, although in this instance it's regrettable that they chose to do so.
Trottier and Stevens take trash talk to another level with their ridiculous taunting of former Minnesota North Star Brian Bellows—none of which can be repeated here. Apparently both teams were doing the same thing throughout the series, but the Penguins’ stars caught lightning in a bottle with his particular exchange.
Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors
Okay, this one is a little specific, but baseball games are about 14 hours long and there’s 900 of them per year, so these guys probably play games like this all the time.
Recently the Tigers’ Nick Castellanos and Ryan Goins were spotted playing Rock, Paper, Scissors during the 17th inning of a game against the Blue Jays. After a game that long, they were probably just fighting to stay awake.
We haven’t seen it yet, but you’d have to think other car games like Thumb War and I Spy are pretty common in the dugout as the season drags on into August.
Planning and Executing Elaborate Pranks
The clubhouse prank is an epic tradition in baseball, a sport with a very rich history of them. As The Wall Street Journal’s Scott Cacciola noted in 2011, these pranks are a valued tradition within the game and “run the gamut from innocent to extreme.”
"Innocent" includes stuff like putting chickens in the locker room, putting bubble gum on someone’s helmet and sticking a paper cup to it and putting your teammate’s shoes in the freezer.
Then there are the guys who really commit and take it to another level.
That’s what the El Paso Chihuahuas' Jeff Francoeur learned when he joined the team. Apparently, the whole team got together and managed to convince Francoeur for an entire month that Jorge Reyes, a relief pitcher, was deaf.
Officially the best prank ever.