I was having a discussion elsewhere on these here intertubes about character and likability in athletes. Some fans think these are ultra-important and wouldn't want to be a fan of a player who doesn't have enough of either one; others, like me, find character, niceness, and off-field things completely irrelevant.
The way I see it, I am never going to be best friends with an athlete; they're not going to be looking after my cats when I go on vacation, I'm not going to bump into, in this context, an Arsenal player at the grocery store and become pals. Because of that, their person-ness isn't all that important to me; far more important is how well they perform in their chosen field of endeavor.
FEEL FREE TO SKIP THIS SECTION IF YOU DON'T LIKE BASEBALL, I'LL TELL YOU WHEN IT'S SAFE TO RETURN
I was originally talking about this in the context of the Seattle Mariners, whose stated goal starting in the mid-00's was to field a team of "character guys" who the fans could get behind. A cursory glance at the cumulative record of the Mariners from 2003-2014 (898-1046, and that includes 2003's 93 wins and this year's 87) shows how well that worked out, but to this day there are Mariner fans who value character and personality over playing ability, which sets my teeth on edge - not that the two are mutually exclusive, but more often than not a player has a preponderance of one or the other.
I naturally extended this in my mind into wanting to assemble a team full of assholes, so that I could show people that that team could actually win a ton more games than a team full of nice guys. To that end, I came up with the following lineup of what are widely considered to be that position's biggest complete dickbags, using guys that have played since I started watching baseball in the early 1980's. My definition of "asshole" is loose, but it basically means "a guy who nobody seems to like either inside the game or out, and who gives off a large "fuck you" vibe to everyone and everything".
Given that unscientific restriction, I came up with the following lineup:
C - AJ Pierzynski
1B - Will Clark
2B - Jeff Kent
3B - Ken Caminiti
SS - Alex Rodriguez
OF - Barry Bonds
OF - Jose Canseco
OF - Manny Ramirez
DH (my team's an AL club): Steve Garvey
SP - Roger Clemens
SP - Randy Johnson
SP/RP - Andy Pettite
Closer - John Rocker
Now, this is a soccer blog, so I won't bore you with the advanced stats behind this team, but I will say that's a damn good ballclub right there.
OKAY, BASEBALL HATERS - YOU CAN COME BACK NOW!
Naturally, my brain turned to how this classification could be applied to soccer - many soccer fans love it when a guy kisses his badge, professes that the club for which he just signed a squillion-dollar contract for was his boyhood dream, etc. For me, though, I don't care if a player lives and dies for the club - I care that he gives 100% while on the pitch and that's really about it. So I tried to come up with my ideal soccer All-Jagbag Team (Jagbag = jackass+douchebag) and see if that team was capable of winning titles. What did I come up with? Assuming a flat 4-4-2 because I'm lazy, and assuming the same time constraint as above - that players on this team come from the era in which I have watched the sport (1992-now) - here's my starting eleven:
G - I couldn't think of a dickbag goalkeeper. Any ideas, please leave in the comments
D - Vinnie Jones. Would just as soon punch you as look at you.
D - John Terry. He's John Terry.
D - Kevin Muscat. One of the dirtiest players and foulest people I've seen. Made Ryan Shawcross look like Leo Messi.
D - Ryan Shawcross. Yes, he actually is that kind of player.
M - Roy Keane. Not a guy I'd want to meet in a dark alley after last orders.
M - Arjen Robben. Not a guy I'd want to meet.
M - Eric Cantona. Once karate-kicked a fan in the chest. During a game.
M - Paul Ince. Homophobe, moaned incessantly to referees
F - Luis Suarez. Hungry like the wolf. But for people.
F - Paolo di Canio. A fascist. An actual fascist, not a snarky-putdown-on-Twitter-of-someone-you-disagree-with fascist.
Having completed that exercise, I see the difference between soccer and baseball - it's not as simple as "character counts" in soccer, but this team, unlike my baseball team, isn't really a clear-cut improvement over any good Premiership team. I mean, Suarez and DiCanio up front are good, and any midfield with Keane and Cantona is going to be OK, but that defense is a big pile of red cards and no real skill, except for Terry.
As you can see, though, I need a bench. Who's on your All-Jagbag Team?