Back in April, Boston.com conducted a poll to determine the greatest sports villain in our town. Sixty-four nominees were offered in NCAA Tournament bracket fashion. More than 130,000 votes were cast and the winner/loser was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The Ginger Hammer won by more than 1,000 votes in each of six rounds, easily beating Alex Rodriguez in the final.
I demand a new vote.
I believe that at this hour, Kyrie Irving would be a runaway winner, defeating even the man who was so mean to those cheatin’ Patriots.
Our April poll featured a rogues’ gallery of folks who tortured Boston fans through the decades. We offered you (among others) Bill Laimbeer, George Steinbrenner, Ulf Samuelsson, Ben Dreith, Tonya Harding, Eli Manning, Harry Frazee, Jack Tatum, David Tyree, Matt Cooke, LeBron James, and Eric Mangini. The ballot was surprisingly light on sports figures who actually worked in Boston. Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon made the cut, but I would have encouraged consideration for guys such as Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, and Carl Crawford.
Think about it: Who was a greater Boston sports villain than David Price in the summer of 2017? Or John Lackey in 2011? Or Don Zimmer in 1978?
Which brings us to Kyrie Irving: easily the clubhouse leader as the most-hated man in Boston sports in the summer of 2019. Maybe ever.
In the list of the loathsomes, Kyrie is king of the hill. A-No. 1, top of the heap, and cream of the crop. He is the toppermost of the poppermost. He is the capo di tutti capi of our enemies list; the master classman of misanthropes.
I thought I’d heard it all about Kyrie until I read a recent column by ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. In her story, the estimable, ever-reliable Jackie Mac included this nugget: “At the completion of the regular season, the team set up 100 balls in a room for their charitable partners. Everyone signed all the balls except Irving. When pressed to do it, say team sources, he was neither aggressive nor confrontational. He merely said, ‘No, I’m not interested in that.’ ’’
What a guy.
Evidently it wasn’t enough to disrupt the franchise, lie to the fans, dump on his teammates, show up his coach, and choke in the playoffs; Kyrie had to top it off by blowing off local charities.
Forget about “Uncle Drew.’’ Kyrie’s movie should have been “Despicable Me.’’
Irving gets to officially announce he’s out of Boston Sunday night, and he’ll leave behind a trail of selfishness, betrayal, gagging and sheer goofiness when he makes his way to the Nets or whatever other franchise acquires his considerable talents.
Back here in Boston we’ll be left with perhaps Kemba Walker. Or Terry Rozier.
And we’ll always have memories of Kyrie’s two years on Causeway Street.
The night he bailed on his teammates to get plastic surgery before his new movie even though the Celtics were playing Game 7 of the conference finals (Irving was injured at the time) . . . Telling Celtics fans, “If you guys will have me back, I plan to re-sign here’’ . . . The night he told us he called LeBron James to ask how to handle young ballplayers . . . The time he was not healthy enough to play the final two games before the All-Star break — then was able to play in the All-Star Game . . . Griping to TV cameras when parading into the Garden for work . . . Showing up Brad Stevens when he didn’t like the play call at the end of a game in Orlando . . . Explaining Stevens’s plight, saying, “He’s never coached any player like me. I’m a great player. I know that. There’s not going to be another player like me and I understand that. I’m an actual genius when it comes to the game.’’
An actual genius.
And so much less.
Let’s do another poll. I say Kyrie wins in a landslide.