The word alone is enough to make even the most casual reader cringe in his or her seat. Let’s just admit it; breakups suck. They suck a lot. For whatever reason, some relationships don’t last, no matter how fiery bright and passionate they become, and no matter how hard you fight to keep the fire burning long into the night.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You’ve separated the belongings, un-friended each other on Facebook, changed your Twitter, de-shelved the pictures and placed the reminders in a box to be safely tucked away in a forgotten closet, never to be opened until years later when you can look at the past with less animosity and anger toward the situation. Your mutual friends are left in an awkward middle, left to take sides in a battle of attrition even when they don’t want to.
“I’m so excited to initiate and/or be a part of this breakup!” said no one ever.
It sucks for everyone.
In light of the subject, here are some of the top sports breakups that have happened in my 27 years on this planet.
Ray Allen spurns Celtics and Danny Ainge, joins rival Miami Heat (2012)
After five wonderful years in Boston, shooting guard Ray Allen took his talents to South Beach and the much-hated rival, Miami Heat. Nearing the end of his career and chasing championships, Allen left a no-trade clause and more money on the table to play behind LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Boston gave Miami fits in the Eastern Conference Championship last season, and many fans expected Allen to return to the Garden for another shot at a championship with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. However, the front office focused on locking up Kevin Garnett first and reports out of Boston say Allen didn’t take kindly too being second-fiddle. Add in a tenuous relationship with the fiery Rondo and Allen was ready to pack his bags soon after the Game 7 loss.
Lifelong Cardinal Albert Pujols trades wings for halo, bolts for Anaheim (2012)
Nothing in sporting history made me happier when I heard ol’ Albert was leaving the Cardinals. He finally wouldn’t be terrorizing my Reds anymore. The Angels, looking to bolster a weak lineup, needed a big bat and Pujols was looking for a big payday.
Coming off of a World Series Championship and an adoring Cardinal fan base, I think it’s fair to say Pujols got a little big in the britches.
He declined several offers from the St. Louis front office, finally choosing to hit the West Coast circuit for nearly a quarter billion over the next 10 years. Hilariously enough, Pujols had a ridiculously slow start to the 2012 season and the Angels missed the playoffs, while the Cardinals went on to the NLCS.
LeBron James burns his own Cavalier jersey, heads for South Beach (2010)
Perhaps one of the most documented free agents of all time, it seems like everyone had an opinion (including me) when King James tossed in the chips and formed the NBA
version of the Marvel Avengers in Miami. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert was willing to rename Cleveland to Jamesland, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the King on his throne in Ohio, as James was inclined to play with former All-Stars and friends Bosh and Wade.
The chemistry is undeniable; after a 2011 Finals appearance and 2012 Finals banner, it does look like the perfect union for winning and happiness. However, a prettier broad looms in the distance, as Kobe Bryant has announced his retirement in 2014 from the Los Angeles Lakers, and rumor has it they’re looking at James as his replacement. Bless your soul, you’ve got your head in the clouds…
Davis trades Gruden to the Bucs, Gruden returns favor in 2002 Super Bowl (2002)
Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden had a fearsome horizontal passing attack that couldn’t be stopped, behind the stellar play of aging wideouts Tim Brown and Jerry Rice and a rejuvenated quarterback in Rich Gannon. The Raiders went 10-6 on the season, but lost all six games by a single possession and pushed forward to the AFC Championship.
It was there Tom Brady and the infamous “Tuck Rule” took place, and with a second chance Brady and company drove the field and Vinatieri kicked the game-winner in a driving snow, sending the Patriots to the Super Bowl and the Raiders back to the locker room.
Angry with the lack of speed on the field and another playoff dud, Raiders owner Al Davis traded Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for picks and cash. Vindicated and embittered by the trade, Gruden retooled the Bucs offense and stormed past the Oakland Raiders in dramatic fashion to win the 2002 Super Bowl.
Billy Martin hired/fired repeatedly by Yankees (1975-78, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1988)
You know what they say…fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not sure the late-George Steinbrenner and the Yankees ever got that message from Billy Martin.
The fiery, yet inspiring, player-turned-coach had a reputation for fighting with anyone who got in his way. Martin also had a documented history of problematic drinking and embarrassing public displays, usually detailed as altercations with players and coaches before, during and after games.
One of the most notorious incidents in Martin’s coaching career came on June 18, 1977. On national television, Martin pulled outfielder Reggie Jackson mid-inning for not hustling to make a catch at the warning track. The fight went all the way to the dugout, as Jackson and Martin had to be separated before the game could continue.
Despite repeated bouts with anger and aggression, Steinbrenner continued to hire and fire Martin season after season. He was set to manage the 1990 New York Yankees before his untimely death in a single-car accident during an ice-storm, thus ending the strained relationship with the organization.
Cheers, folks. Here’s to starting a new chapter in life.
Column by Ed Marlowe, Staff writer.