But who is the biggest active villain in Cleveland sports today? We've chosen 32 candidates for the honor. Some of these candidates are here because they're good. We hate them because they kick ass and take names against our teams. Others are here because they perform for our biggest civil rivals; others because they've betrayed the confidence and trust of our city in some way, shape or form; still others because, well, they're douchebags.
"Hate" is, of course, a relative term. We wish no ill will upon any of the men on this list- even Skip Bayless. But we're still going to take our shots. It's all in good fun.
Here is a rundown of the contestants, in no particular order. I tried as best as I could to break up the entries by sport- football, baseball, basketball, and a miscellaneous bracket of coaches and media members. The actual tournament is seeded, although the seeds aren't shown in the bracket, nor are they revealed here. There's no need. The cream will naturally rise to the top here...or sink to the bottom, if you will.
The Art Modell Bracket
Hines Ward: There are few more iconic Cleveland villains than "Whines Hard" whose crack-back blocks and ever-present smirk have bedeviled the Browns for a decade. He'd be a legend if he'd spent his career in Orange and Brown. But, he hasn't.
Ben Roethlisberger: He grew up in Ohio but hated the Browns, wears the same number as John Elway, plays for the Steelers, and absolutely kills this city's football team every time he plays them. Worse, he has a skull that is apparently impervious to windshields and concrete.
Joey Porter: Long before his running feud with Kellen Winslow, the ex-Steelers linebacker made no secret of his disdain for all things Orange & Brown. We're perfectly aware that the Browns have sucked- we don't need to hear it from the likes of Joey Porter.
Chad Johnson: Ocho Cinco has long maintained a lively joust with Cleveland, livening up the Battle of Ohio with stunts ranging from shipping bottles of Pepto-Bismol to members of the Browns secondary to diving into the Dawg Pound with the connivance of certain attention whores in the first row.
Ray Lewis: He's a great linebacker, but he also does stupid dances, jumps on piles to pad his tackle totals, has been known to hang out with murderers, and is the personification of the stolen franchise in Baltimore- all of which make him uniquely loathsome.
Rich Rodriguez: Congratulations, Michigan. You've got your very own version of John Cooper. Enjoy!
NE Ohio Steelers Fans: Thanks to the success of the Steelers and the woes of the Browns, these loathsome types have popped up all over the area, sprouting like toadstools on a rotten log. Of course, they still glom onto the Indians, Cavaliers, and Ohio State while they sell their NFL loyalties to Steeltown.
Carson Palmer: With his career sidetracked by injuries, selfish teammates and a lousy defense, Carson is free to take potshots at Ohio State fans and star in sexually ambiguous hot-dog ads. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The Michael Jordan Bracket
Rasheed Wallace: A great player who happens to be insane, ‘Sheed has provided a perfect heavy for LeBron's Cavaliers almost since arriving in Detroit, giving us memorable moments like his cheap shot on Z and his climactic ejection from Game 6 of the '07 Eastern Conference Finals.
Carlos Boozer: Not only did the Alaskan mercenary deceive a blind man, he stole a washer and dryer from the house in Westlake he rented from former Browns safety Percy Ellsworth. They're not real big on him in Salt Lake City these days either.
DeShawn Stevenson: It takes a lot of casabas for an 8.6-point-per-game career scorer to call LeBron James overrated, but that's what DeShawn did prior to the 2008 Playoffs. Then again, being a former first-round pick, DeShawn would know a thing or two about being overrated.
Gilbert Arenas: A master of Halo 3, online poker, blogging, and blowing critical free throws in playoff elimination games, Agent Zero has become a familiar spring sight to Cavaliers fans- and familiarity breeds contempt.
Kevin Garnett: The biggest bully in the NBA, Garnett enjoys picking on European point guards, disappearing in the fourth quarter, unleashing long blasts of profanity in the direction of the fans, and getting posterized by LeBron in playoff games.
Paul Pierce: Ever since he tangled with LeBron and spat in the direction of the Cleveland bench during a 2004 preseason game in Columbus, the Celtics swingman has been a persistent nemesis, turning every game between the teams into another battle in his personal war with #23.
Larry Hughes: Other than the awful contract, the line-drive jumpers with twenty seconds on the shot clock, the constant injuries, and that grating smirk, Larry's two-plus seasons in Cleveland were the stuff dreams are made of.
Brendan Haywood: A longtime tormentor of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the hulking Washington center served as the designated goon in Eddie Jordan's fruitless "Beat up LeBron" strategy during the 2008 playoffs.
The Jose Mesa Bracket
A.J. Pierzynski: The words "A.J. Pierzynski" and "asshole" bring back 26,700 results in a Google search. Just so you know.
Mark Buerhle: Buerhle has found Tribe bats and Tribe batters with frequency during his career: the White Sox southpaw is 9-12 with a 4.82 career ERA against Cleveland and nearly a quarter of his career hit batsmen- 11 of 47- have been Indians, including the fastball to Travis Hafner's face during the 2005 season.
Gary Sheffield: Perhaps the most memorable sight of the Tribe's frustrating 2008 season was that of Fausto Carmona delivering a flurry of rabbit punches to the side of Sheff's cranium during a September brawl at the Jake.
Jim Thome: Fairly or not, a lot of Clevelanders still nurse a grudge toward the good ole' boy from Peoria who proclaimed his loyalty to the Indians, then split for the dollars.
Jonathon Papelbon: Papelbon's smug countenance, Riverdancing over our graves in 2007, and constant showing up of hitters make him a case study of the Closer as Annoying Douche. He'd merely be bothersome if he pitched for Kansas City. The fact that he pitches for Boston makes him intolerable.
Milton Bradley: Uncle Milton hit .286 with 19 home runs in 720 at-bats for the Indians- production that didn't come close to compensating for the fact that he was a sociopath. At least Albert Belle could carry a lineup. All Milton Bradley did was carry himself out of town- thank God.
Alex Rodriguez: He's ridiculously overpaid and he plays for the Yankees. What other reasons do you need?
Dustin Pedroia: He's a terrific ballplayer. But he's still a pint-sized putz, a Napoleon Complex in cleats.
The Ted Stepien Bracket
Ozzie Guillen: Let the picture tell it.
Stephen A. Smith: Referred to contemptuously as "John A. Doe" by Dan Gilbert, Smith is the screaming-est in ESPN's lineup of screamers, and his entire shtick, particularly his constant, gleeful mantra that LeBron is gone to NYC in 2010, is beyond tiresome. I'd love for this guy to get laryngitis for a week. His head would probably explode like Krakatoa from the pressure of all those un-shouted takes.
Skip Bayless: Skip is the television equivalent of a message board troll- someone who exists solely for the purpose of stirring the pot. He has no ideas or insights of his own. He's just there to piss people off, something he's very good at, to his dubious credit.
Brian Billick: One of the all-time Kings of Smug, the former Ravens coach and current FOX analyst failed to put together a decent offense for the entirety of his tenure in Baltimore, despite being labeled an offensive genius when he arrived from Minnesota. Of course, Maurice Carthon could coach Randall Cunningham, Robert Smith, Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Jake Reed and look like a genius doing it.
Kobe Bryant Honks: Go to any NBA message board and you'll find them: Kobe fanboys who interpret the most modest compliment toward LBJ as a grave insult to their idol. Their language consists of insulting derivatives ("LeBronze," "LeChoke," "LeSwept") and meaningless clichés like "clutch" and "killer instinct" in place of analysis. They aren't the most annoying people on earth, but they may be most in need of a life.
Bill Belichick: He released Bernie Kosar, alienated football's hardiest fanbase, waited until he got to New England to become a genius, and produced Romeo Crennel from his coaching tree. Thanks a pantload, Bill.
Ricky Davis: Wrong-Way Ricky pretty much symbolized everything that was wrong about the late pre-LeBron Cavaliers, everything being, well, everything.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Yahoo Sports scribe is obsessive in his vision of LeBron James spending the next phase of his career in New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas- anywhere but Cleveland. Expect Adrian to add San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Nome, and Ulan Bator to the list of possible destinations for #23 in the next two years.
And there you have it. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or criticisms concerning this bracket, feel free to direct them to my e-mail address: email@example.com. Thanks for reading, and have fun.