5 at 10 - Top 5 polarizing individuals in sports

5 at 10 - Top 5 polarizing individuals in sports

December 20th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods, left, shakes hands with his former caddie Steve Williams after the Presidents Cup Golf Tournament at Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. The handshake between Woods and Williams was routine. The loss by Woods and Steve Stricker turned out to be the real drama in the Presidents Cup. (AP Photo/David Callow)

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods, left, shakes hands with...

Hello from the modest 5-at-10 compound. We're spending time with the 5-at-10 clan and getting ready for Christmas.

For those new to the show, here's how we roll when the sports editor takes a hiatus. It's a mini-5-at-10, more of a single topic with 5 items, per se. So it goes.

Before we get started, remember we're still looking for your bowl picks. The prizes are going to be pretty sweet - Jefe said when he wins he wants the prize to be a title belt and that every one must refer to him as "Bowl Champion" in conversation for all of 2012 (and we have to admit, that's a pretty sweet prize). The rules can be found midway down in last Friday's mailbag here .

Before we get started on today's mini-5-at-10, we owe a shout out to Jomo, who wanted to know why we thought a struggling UT basketball would win the Southern Conference last week. After Davidson's win over No. 11-ranked Kansas on Monday night, Jomo is correct that

UT would not be the favorite in the SoCon. So it goes.

From the "Mama McNabb stage at the Al Davis studio," here we go:

We had loads of fun spending most of Monday afternoon with friends of the show at SportTalk. We spent a solid chunk of time discussing Tim Tebow and his all-consuming effect on the current sports media world. It's over powering - Tebow's Denver Broncos against New England on Sunday was the NFL's highest-rated regular-season game since 2007. Whether its his religion, his every-man appeal or the fact that every analyst with a head set talks about his faults more than his strengths, there's that rare magnetic quality in Tim Tebow that draws attention.

Here's our theory: There are a select few teams that always generate opinion. Whether it's the Cowboys or the Yankees or the Lakers/Celtics or whomever, there are a certain breed of franchises that give you a rooting interest - either for or against - every time they play. The individuals that elicit the same response are even more polarizing, and Tebow is among them.

So, here are the top 5 polarizing individuals in sports in the last 10-plus years (and remember JordanRules, these are not the "best" of their sport as much as these are the guys that everyone has an opinion about and in turn everyone watches; guys like MJ and Tyson were can't-miss TV in their day because you did not want to miss the magic):

1) Tiger Woods: Even before it became common knowledge that Tiger was cuddling with half of the Eastern seaboard, Tiger was a love him/hate him guy because he dared to to make a run at Jack Nicklaus' major championship record. He was the rare belnd of the can't-miss TV because you did not want to miss the magic and the polarizing opinions that were originally divided by age.. Whether Woods gets to Jack's 18 majors or not remains to be seen, but Woods is the single biggest lightning rod in sports right now (in fact, more women watch golf than ever before to cheer AGAINST Woods). And if you don't believe Tigers the biggest draw in sports, answer this question: Whether you love him or loathe him, if Tiger was in contention on Sunday at Augusta next spring, what would it take for you NOT to watch?

2) LeBron James: James was the most popular athlete in all of professional sports before his made-for-TV break-up with Cleveland. Now, he is the most polarizing athlete in all of team sports. Admit it, you either want James and the Miami Heat to win big or lose big - and they very well are the only NBA team you care about. And we all know where you stand, JordanRules.

3) Dale Earnhardt Sr.: Yes, he died in 2001. But 3 was the ultimate "Love him/Hate him" sports figure before he died. Not unlike Elvis, Dale got more beloved after his untimely death. So it goes. But dude is still big-time popular, even if he's more appreciated today that he was when he was winning NASCAR championships. For crying out loud, he's still selling seven-figures worth of memorabilia, and here's saying that at least every third NASCAR sticker you see is the No. 3.

4) Tim Tebow: Not really sure why anyone would be anti-Tebow, but that faction exists. Dude has become a rock star if for no other reason than he embraces the things that we want our sports heroes to be. And he wins. Period.

5) Mike Vick: There are a lot of folks that could be No. 5 here - Barry Bonds, Brett Favre, etc. - but Vick's roller coaster ride has carried him from loved to loathed to polarizing. Strange trip indeed.

(Side note/list: Here's our top five of all-time:

1) Jackie Robinson

2) Muhammad Ali

3) Pete Rose

4) Tiger Woods

5) John McEnroe)

Thoughts? And remember the deadline for the bowl picks is Wednesday.