Surreal in sports happens often on the field and in between the lines.
Recently, there was last year’s World Series Game 6, when one more out would have made the difference, or this past year’s Super Bowl rematch when it came down to a last play.
Also, the explosions of Tebow Mania and Linsanity had their surreal moments, as they led their teams to unlikely victories.
Record-setting moments like Usain Bolt in the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympics captured the public’s attention and created an aura of unbelievability, too.
Surreal is most bizarre, though, when not even a screenplay for a movie could have been written to match what actually happened.
Sometimes, what happens off the field seems to be more compelling than what happens on it…and the hardest to fathom.
Which of these surreal off-the-field stories over the last 25 years have most affected American culture and been the most difficult to accept?
#5) Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement
When it happened, it felt like a death sentence. Magic confirmed this in the recent documentary from ESPN about the announcement.
What made this story so surreal was that Magic was arguably the best basketball player in the world. And Magic was the first star athlete to report contracting the virus. To this day there have been few others.
Magic was also the most popular basketball player, possessing the biggest smile and an engaging personality. What a surprise, what a shock.
Some people wondered if he was gay. Everyone speculated how he had gotten it. HIV and AIDS were so…new.
And he, of course, had to retire from basketball.
Magic did come back for the 1992 NBA All-Star game and 1992 Olympic Dream Team. And this story has had a positive ending, as Magic has brought more attention to the disease and has helped to improve the lives of many who have had to deal with it.
4. Pete Rose banned for life
Pete Rose is the only living player on the ineligible list for baseball’s Hall Of Fame.
He is also one of the greatest hitters of all-time, holding the record for most career hits.
Rose’s nickname was Charlie Hustle because he played the game harder than just about any other player. That was his reputation. He was baseball’s cover boy for years because of what he meant to the game.
Rose was a manager for the Cincinnati Reds when he was found to have made his bets. Though he argues he never bet against his team, he now finally admits to the bets.
This has been such a hard story for so many sports fans because Pete, the player, meant so much to them.
What’s rare about this story, and similar to Magic and others in this Top 5, is that Rose was the only one caught doing this. No other players have been involved with betting on the sport since him.
Before Pete, there was the Black Sox scandal 70+ years prior, but no other gambling scandals have really occurred with major star athletes since. (Paul Hornung did gamble when he played, but admitted it and ceased doing it-Pete didn’t admit to it for a long time).
3. Tiger Woods’ sex scandal
Tiger Woods was caught having sex on the side with close to a dozen girls while married with young children to raise.
Starting late in 2009 with a car accident/rift with his wife over the Thanksgiving holiday, and lasting all of 2010 and into parts of 2011, controversy swirled over one of the richest celebrities in the world.
This one was a shocker because Tiger was not only considered the greatest golfer at the time, but many sports pundits considered him the greatest athlete of his generation. He had a string of years ranked number one in golf, and breaking Jack Nicklaus’ career record for Major titles seemed inevitable.
Tiger lost his wife in a divorce, custody of his kids, and dozens of sponsorships. He also lost his golf game, which has only now come anywhere close to returning to its previous heights.
Tiger was the butt of jokes around the world because most of the girls were floozies. He risked everything for quick sexual encounters…and lost almost all of it.
Give him credit as he admitted to his mistakes, and he has since tried hard to make amends to his family, fans, and to himself. His game has recovered some a few years later, but, he continues to go winless in majors.
The stories of Woods’ sexual exploits still remain salacious and fodder for pop culture junkies.
Only two stories are left, and you can probably guess which two they are.
Which one will be #1? Continue reading to find out.
Then cast your vote or which story you think should be #1.