The 10 Most Disliked Athletes’ Most Redeeming Qualities

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Even the most rotten, loathsome athletes possess some positive quality. For example something that makes you say, “I’d like to gouge his face with a salmonella-infested spork, but dammit, he was really nice to that sweet old lady.”

Forbes recently released its 2013 list of America’s Most Disliked Athletes, which is “based on the latest public surveys from Nielsen Sports and market research firm E-Poll.” But what are we — the fans, observers and members of the media — if we can’t recognize a silver lining, a wrinkle of pleasantness or charity? Unforgiving and cold, maybe.

Not buying it? We’re not sure either, but we’ve already committed to finding each athlete’s redeeming quality, so let’s do this s***.

Alex Rodriguez: “Job creator”

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Rodriguez is an admitted cheater who has once again been connected to a shady, possible drug supplier. Rodriguez is smug, oft-injured, washed up and can’t hit in the clutch, save for then 2009 postseason. He might be an overpaid bum, but did you know he owns a Mercedez-Benz dealership in League-City Texas that employs probably a couple dozen Texans, if not more.

Tony Romo: Camp instructor

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The face of “America’s Team” doesn’t deserve to be lumped together with criminals and cheaters, but that’s the cost of cashing Jerry Jones’ checks. Each summer Romo returns to his hometown Burlington, Wisconsin to host a free-of-charge youth football camp. Said Burlington’s coach Hans Block, “He gives an opportunity for 700 kids to come through, have a great experience, learn about football and learn about important aspects of life.”

Kobe Bryant: International collaborator

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It’s not easy for an accused rapist to make a public image comeback, especially one who’s a passionate competitor who doesn’t care much for playing nice with teammates or the media. Yet, Kobe may have a nice side: In 2011, Black Mamba teamed up with Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou to produce the song “The Heaven and Earth Challenge,” for which sales of online ring-tone downloads will support Project Hope, a charity that helps improve basketball facilities in China.

Manti Te’o: Natural born leader

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The (Crimson) tide turned quickly for the Notre Dame standout. He proved extremely gullible, and perpetuated a lie about his fake dead girlfriend who faked her own death. But on and off the field, Te’o is a proven leader, captain of the defense, an exemplary student athlete who won the FBS 2012 Senior CLASS award honoring achievements in four areas — classroom, community, character and competition. Lennay would be so proud if she were alive today.

Michael Vick: Humane Society spokesperson

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Tough sledding for a animal murderer. But we’re talking about redeeming qualities, and by extension, redemption. Since his release from prison, Vick has worked with the Humane Society, speaking with thousands of kids in an effort to “end dogfighting and to publicly acknowledged that his past actions were cruel and unacceptable,” according to the Humane Society. Woof!

Metta World Peace: Yearning for peace

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“Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” World Peace said in a statement released after he retired his given name of Ron Artest. And according to his publicist, World Peace chose the first name Metta because it’s a Buddhist term meaning “loving kindness.” Apparently he hasn’t inspired much positive sentiment among Forbes voters, but at least he hasn’t punched any fans in the face in the last nine-plus years.

Tiger Woods: Loving father

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Sure, he’s philanderer who teed up on a dozen or so washed up porn stars and busted waitresses, but he realized the error of his ways and said of his priorities recently, “Fatherhood is No. 1. Golf has always been a high priority in my life, but family has always been No. 1.” Known for his extremely close relationship with his late father Earl, Woods said of his young son and daughter in another interview: “They’ve made life better, plain and simple. When I’m with them, nothing else exists in the world.” 

Jay Cutler: Self-assured

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In an age when many athletes are preoccupied with protecting their “brands” or public images, Cutler just doesn’t give a s*** what anyone thinks of him, endorsements be damned. Compare with Dwight Howard, who’s “held back” by thinking too much about what people think, according to Kobe. So while he may be a dick, at least he’s comfortable in his … dickish skin.

Lance Armstrong: Philanthropist

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Duck duck duck goose. Liar lair liar philanthropist. Lance Armstrong‘s own cancer-fighting organization had to ostracize him during his reputation meltdown, what must have been a real stomach punch. His pseudo-apology-admission stunk, and let’s not forget Armstrong’s bullying and intimidation, but don’t the good deeds survive?

Kurt Busch: …um, well…

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Kurt Busch hasn’t murdered anyone, that we know of.

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Brett Smiley @brettsmiley is a lover, not a hater.