Fans Week: Fast Five – Famous Fans

There are millions of sports fans, but some are more famous than others.

As Stiles on Sports Fans Week comes to a close, here’s a look at some of the most famous fans in the sports world.

Honorable Mention:  Marlins Man

Laurence Leavy, better known to diehards and casual fans alike as Marlins Man, is a famous sports fan after becoming a pseudo-celebrity through his attendance of many high-profile sporting events.

The 60-year old owner of a Miami law firm, who does most of his work from hotels on his laptop, travels the country to attend events in a variety of sports–particularly championship events and nearly every Sunday Night Baseball game–usually sitting behind home plate at baseball games and behind the bench at basketball games.

He wears bright orange Miami Marlins apparel, and typically stands out on television broadcasts (especially when orange is not a team color for either team in the game).  Leavy has over 71,000 Twitter followers, and is often seen taking pictures with fans at games.

 

5.  Darius Rucker

It is well known that Hootie and the Blowfish front man and country artist Darius Rucker is a huge fan of his alma mater, the University of South Carolina, where Hootie and the Blowfish was formed in 1986.  Rucker, 51, has often performed concerts wearing a South Carolina hat.

Rucker’s love for the Gamecocks was on full display this spring–he watched the men’s basketball team’s Sweet 16 game against Baylor on TV monitors while performing on March 24, then attended the East Regional Final at Madison Square Garden on March 26.  When the Gamecocks beat Florida to reach the Final Four, Rucker could not hide his emotion, and was moved to tears.

Rucker also used his platform to show his support for South Carolina:  At this year’s ACM Awards, which were held just hours after South Carolina women’s basketball won the national championship, Rucker said “Big ups to the Lady Gamecocks, national champions,” while presenting the Album of the Year award.

4.  Jack Nicholson

While all the Los Angeles teams have plenty of A-listers who frequently attend their games, none are bigger fans than Jack Nicholson.

The 80-year old actor, who has more Academy Award nominations than any male actor in history, has held season tickets with the Lakers since 1970.  He has sat courtside near the visiting bench for many years, first at The Forum then at Staples Center.

Nicholson has occasionally argued with game officials or even opposing players, and one official at a 2003 Lakers playoff game nearly ejected him for arguing a call.

3.  Presidents of the United States

Beyond the tradition of championship teams visiting the White House, the presidency has often been held a sports fan, with a few even having ties to the sports world.

Presidents have often thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day in Washington, with some even traveling to Baltimore in the periods Washington was without a team, and at World Series games, including George W. Bush at Yankee Stadium after 9/11, who even threw a strike while wearing a bulletproof vest.


Several presidents played football or baseball in college.  This includes Gerald Ford, who was an All-American center and two-time national champion at Michigan and turned down NFL offers to attend law school, and George H.W. Bush, who reached the College World Series as Yale’s first baseman.

Among presidents the last four decades:  Jimmy Carter is an Atlanta Braves fan, who attends several games per year; Ronald Reagan played George Gipp (“the Gipper”) in the film Knute Rockne, All American; George H.W. Bush often attended Houston sporting events before his health declined; Bill Clinton is an avid golfer and served as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s CareerBuilder Challenge from 2012-16; George W. Bush was head of an investment group that owned the Texas Rangers from 1989-1994; Barack Obama is a diehard Chicago White Sox fan; Donald Trump is a New York Yankees fan and a friend of the Steinbrenner family that owns the team.

2.  Spike Lee

There may not be a bigger fan of New York sports than Spike Lee.  The 60-year old filmmaker is an avid fan of the New York Knicks and New York Yankees.

Lee is a Knicks season ticket holder, sitting courtside and often interacting with players and officials.  This includes Reggie Miller famously taunting Lee with a hand gesture imitating a chokehold after the Miller’s Pacers completed a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Knicks in the playoffs.

In 2004, before Game 7 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium (in which the Boston Red Sox completed a comeback from down 3-0 in the series to win the pennant 4-3), Lee was asked to compare drama written into a film script to the epic drama playing out on the field in the series.

“Movies… that stuff is fake,”  Lee said.  “That’s why sports is the greatest–it can’t be scripted.”

1.  Bill Murray

There aren’t many people in America more famous than Bill Murray, and there aren’t many people who are bigger sports fans either.  The 66-year old actor and comedian has many sports connections, although the Chicago native is most associated with the Cubs.

Murray is a lifelong diehard Cubs fan, and was an occasional guest commentator on Cubs WGN broadcasts in the 1980s.  He is a frequent guest conductor of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the seventh inning stretch, including Game 3 of the 2016 World Series.  Murray was present when the Cubs clinched the World Series title, and was invited to participate in the champagne celebration with the team in the locker room.

Murray was also present when the Braves won the 1995 World Series at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, as a guest of then-Braves owner Ted Turner.

Multiple minor and independent league baseball teams are partially owned by Murray:  the Charleston RiverDogs, Hudson Valley Renegades, Brockton Rox and St. Paul Saints; Murray was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame in 2012 for contributions to the league as part-owner in Charleston.

Murray’s son Luke is an assistant basketball coach at Xavier, where Murray often attends games to support him.  Luke previously worked on the coaching staffs at Quinnipiac, Arizona, Wagner, Towson and Rhode Island.

Murray is associated with golf through his performance in the 1980 film Caddyshack, but is a decent player himself, and with PGA Tour pro D.A. Points won the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.  Murray worked as a caddy as a teenager in Chicago.

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If Sports Stars Became President

Today, the United States will elect its 45th president.

But after this dreadful campaign season, instead of imagining either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as the next president, let’s have some fun.  I’ve taken the liberty of looking at what might happen if some of the biggest sports stars in sports became president, using their sports careers as the framework for what might happen in their time in office (the real-life sports example is in parentheses).

Kevin Durant

After Durant has been president for one fairly successful term (nine seasons with the Thunder), he declines a second term (elects free agency) and announces he is moving to Russia (the Golden State Warriors) in an attempt to become the Russian president, claiming he thinks he has a better chance to be seen as a winner on the global stage (winning an NBA championship).

LeBron James

Similar to Durant, James left the country (elected free agency) after one term to try and become a legendary leader (NBA champion) elsewhere in the world (the Miami Heat).  After a successful term as the French president (two NBA titles in Miami), he decides to return home to the United States (the Cleveland Cavaliers) and try to become president again (win a title in Cleveland).  In a classic election (the 2016 NBA Finals), James comes from way behind (three games to one) to upset incumbent Stephen Curry in the election and become president again (win the NBA championship).

Tom Brady

After winning a fourth term as president (four Super Bowl titles), Brady is impeached for shredding the ballots of his opponent’s voters (deflating footballs) in the primary election (AFC Championship Game), and convicted by the Senate (suspended by the NFL).  Brady continuously appeals the impeachment ruling (appeals the suspension to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) and proclaims his innocence, but after multiple appeals finally accepts his fate, and vice president Jimmy Garoppolo (backup quarterback) becomes president (starting quarterback).

Dabo Swinney

After president Tommy Bowden resigns (Bowden resigned as Clemson football coach in 2008), Swinney, the little-known Secretary of Commerce becomes president (Swinney was promoted from wide receivers coach to head coach).  He is initially thought of as nothing more than a temporary figurehead (interim coach), but after he does a good job finishing Bowden’s term (4-3 to finish the season), Swinney wins reelection (is named permanent coach), and goes on to be one of the best presidents in American history (one of the best coaches in Clemson history).

Steve Spurrier

Spurrier oversees a period of great prosperity in his first stint as president (an ACC title at Duke, then six SEC titles and a national championship at Florida), but declines another term to seek other challenges (goes to the NFL).  In the next election, Spurrier wins back the presidency (returns to the college game at South Carolina), and after a slow start to his second stint (five-plus losses his first six seasons at South Carolina), Spurrier oversees the greatest three-year economic stretch in American history (three consecutive 11-2 seasons were the greatest run in South Carolina school history).  However, the economy quickly receded into depression (South Carolina fell back into mediocrity), and Spurrier resigned mid-term (he resigned after a 2-4 start to 2015), citing vice president Shawn Elliott (interim coach) as the new leadership the nation needed.

Peyton Manning

Manning, the son of former president Archie Manning (NFL Hall f Famer), came into office with much anticipation and momentum (entered the NFL as the #1 overall draft pick).  After a lengthy presidential career with many personal accomplishments (five NFL MVP awards), but little tangible evidence to show the nation’s progress (only one Super Bowl entering 2015), the nation has the highest GDP (the Broncos win the Super Bowl) in his final year in office (final NFL season), although much of the public realizes that in his lame-duck status he actually had very little to do with it (Manning was a shell of his former self in the playoffs, and it was the defense who guided the team to the Super Bowl title).

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt is the son of a political legend who died in office (Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in an accident competing in the 2001 Daytona 500), and rides his father’s popularity to become president (Earnhardt Jr. has consistently been the sport’s most popular driver since his father’s death), with a high approval rating.  His presidency is decent, but not overwhelming (26 wins in 18 seasons, highest points finish of third), before he is unexpectedly forced to resign due to a brain injury (he has missed the second half of 2016 with a concussion), and is replaced by rising political star Alex Bowman (Bowman will run a total of 10 races in Earnhardt’s car this season), who becomes the youngest president, while legendary former president Jeff Gordon comes out of retirement to be Bowman’s vice president (Gordon came out of retirement to run eight races in Earnhardt’s car this season)

Tiger Woods

Woods is the most dominant political figure of his time (he won 14 major championships his first 12 years on the PGA Tour), winning every election he ever ran in by a landslide (many of his major championship wins were not close), before he is forced to resign in disgrace after a sex scandal (he took a break from the PGA Tour in 2010 after a sex scandal).  Woods keeps trying to make political comebacks (trying to win more major championships), but each time faces a setback (multiple injuries and a struggling golf game), including most recently withdrawing from a Senate race just three days before the election (withdrawing from the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open three days before), saying he felt he would be “vulnerable” on Capitol Hill (he said he felt his game would be “vulnerable” on the PGA Tour).

Alex Rodriguez

Rodriguez is on track to become one of the greatest presidents in American history (one of the great players in MLB history), when evidence appears that he has been taking specially-designed and illegal drugs to help his performance as president (performance enhancing drugs/steroids), with the help of aide Tony Bosch (Rodriguez’s friend who ran the Biogenesis clinic and provided PED’s).  A-Rod denies the allegations (he denied using PED’s for many years), famously proclaiming “I did not have performance-enhancing drugs with that man.”

Bruce Bochy

A younger Bochy won the presidential nomination with the Padres party but lost to Joe Torre and the Yankees (Bochy’s Padres won the 1998 NL Pennant but lost the World Series to New York), and after moving to the Giants party, Bochy becomes president in 2010 (the Giants won the World Series).  In ensuing elections, Bochy always looks down and out, but he and his political team are gritty competitors and always find a way to win the elections in the even-numbered years (the Giants won the World Series in 2012 and 2014).

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz

After the United States returns to the Articles of Confederation system, in which a three-person executive panel leads the nation instead of one president, the trio of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz from the Braves party comes into power (the three pitchers were Braves teammates from 1993-2002).  They become known as “the Big Three,” and while they are all from the same party, Maddux and Smoltz lean to the right, but Glavine leans to the left (Maddux/Smoltz were right-handed pitchers, and Glavine left-handed).  While all three are most remembered with the Braves party, all of them switched parties before the end of their political careers (all three left the Braves before the end of their careers).

 

Bonus:  The Chicago Cubs 

The Cubs political party won the White House in 1908 (won the 1908 World Series), but lost each election for the following 108 years (did not win the World Series for 108 years), despite a passionate nationwide base who optimistically proclaims “Wait ’til next year” each time the party loses, while opponents call them the “lovable losers.”  Close calls include losing to a third-party bid by the Billy Goats in 1945 (the “curse of the billy goat” began in 1945), and to another bid by the Black Cats in 1969 (the Cubs blew a large division to the Mets lead after a black cat ran in front of their dugout at Shea Stadium in New York in 1969).  In 2003, the Cubs lost to the Marlins Party (lost the NLCS to the Marlins) after write-in candidate Steve Bartman, a private citizen with no intentions of the fame of public office, stole enough votes to cost the Cubs the election (Bartman, a fan, infamously prevented outfielder Moises Alou from catching a foul ball when the Cubs were five outs away from the pennant, and the Marlins came back and won).  The 2016 Cubs, with the ticket of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (NL MVP candidates), and under the direction of party chairman Joe Maddon (manager), came from behind with a late surge to beat the Indians party and win the election (came from 3-1 down to win the World Series), ending the party’s drought.