Top 5 Most Spectacular Falls From Grace by Philly Athletes
It looks like Terrell Owens has reached the end of the road, as he was released by the Seahawks a couple of days ago. He is and will forever be a lightning rod in Philadelphia. His explosive, record-setting 2004 season made him a hero in Philadelphia, and a Super Bowl performance that season made him an instant legend. And then … the bottom dropped out. There was the holdout, the dissing of McNabb, the sit-ups in the driveway, the press conference in the lawn. It went from the ridiculous to the sublime, and less than a year after one of the most inspiring Super Bowl performances in history, he was no longer a part of the team and was a pariah in Philadelphia. Never has there been a more spectacular fall from grace in this city’s sports history.
That said, there have been others. Here are a few more Philly athletes who thought they’d never have to pay for a steak in this town again, but through battles with management, the fans, legal problems, or saying the wrong things to the media, went from the penthouse to the outhouse. (Quick note: Athletes on this list must have played with Philly when the fall from grace happened. Therefore Michael Vick, Lenny Dykstra, and Pete Rose do not count.)
5. Ricky Watters. Perhaps the quickest fall from grace ever in Philly history. Watters was a highly sought-after free agent in 1995, and the Eagles signing him was considered to be a major power move by the franchise. He was 25 years old and entering the prime of his career. But all it took was one game for him to fall from grace, and it was a fairly spectacular fall. In the press conference following his first game, a reporter asked him why he didn’t dive for a pass at the end of a blowout loss. His answer? “For who? For what?” Those four words sealed his fate in Philadelphia, and he was disliked for his entire three seasons here, despite being one of the best running backs in Eagles history.
4. Scott Rolen. In 1997, Scott Rolen was named the NL Rookie of the Year. The next year, the third baseman won his first Gold Glove. It looked like, after years of frustration, the team finally had a young star to build around. It was not to be. Rolen and manager Larry Bowa didn’t get along, to say the least, and Rolen commented on how much he hated the Vet (hard to blame him.) When he didn’t play on Scott Rolen Day in 1998, things started sliding downhill, got worse when he began begging to play in St. Louis, which he called “baseball heaven.” He’s arguably the most hated baseball player in this town in the past 15 years (with the possible exception of JD Drew).
3. Ed Bouchee. After finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1957, it seemed like the sky was the limit for the Montana-born first baseman, who had 17 homers and 76 RBIs in his rookie year. But after that season, he was arrested for exposing himself to children. He was given psychiatric counseling, released, and returned to the Phillies, but he never was the same player he was his rookie season, and a Phillie who looked like a sure-shot All-Star disappeared.
2. Allen Iverson. In 2001, the baseball team was terrible, and B-Dawk had not yet assumed the title of “Philadelphia’s Most Popular Athlete.” It’s hard to imagine now that a basketball player could capture the heart of this city, but Allen Iverson, the diminutive guard, led the Sixers on an improbable run to the NBA Finals. Despite their loss to the Lakers, there was no doubt that Iverson was King of Philadelphia. It was not to last long. Less than a year, in fact. In May of 2002, Iverson memorably talked about practice. Two months later, he was arrested for allegedly busting into his cousin’s apartment with a gun while looking for his wife, who he had kicked out of the house. Many people in the city quickly tired of such antics, and the ensuing years were followed by more drama but not as many wins, and while he is still beloved by some, most Philadelphians see him more as an enigma than as a hero. And nobody is buying him steaks these days at T.G.I. Friday’s.
1. Smarty Jones. His win in the Kentucky Derby had Philadelphia elated. His victory in the Preakness sent the city and country into a frenzy. He took the early lead in the Belmont, and it looked like he would be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. But alas, a longshot named Birdstone came out of nowhere to take the title, and Smarty finished second. Disgraced, Jones never raced again. Two years later, his popularity would be far surpassed by local horse Barbaro. I think I recently saw Smarty in front of a cart taking tourists for a spin around Independence Hall.