The term “bust” is a buzzword in the sports world like the word “junkie” is in the life of rough and tumble rock stars. There aren’t many people who can understand what it’s like to be a can’t miss sports prospect quite like a one-hit wonder can. They both share a “the whole world is mine” upbringing, and ultimately finish with a “the whole world is against me” outlook thanks to the curveball that both professions provide. Given the eerie similarities between the life of two professions that lends itself to performing in front of packed stadiums, the following is an exploration into 10 sports busts and the one hit wonders that sum up their careers.
Steve Chilcott & Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”
Steve Chilcott was the number one overall pick in the 1966 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Mets, selected right before Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. After playing six hapless seasons in the minors, Chilcott gave it up making him only the second number one pick ever to not at least make the show. Where as most busts at least have their moment in the sun so we can watch them cook without the aid of an SPF, Chilcott came and went before anyone knew what had actually just happened. The whole Chilcott-phenomenon was an enigma. Why him? The Mets were certainly befuddled.
The same can be said for Danish-Norwegian pop group Aqua, whose 1997 hit “Barbie Girl” came and went, leaving listeners questioning exactly just what the hell just happened. Of all things to latch onto in 1997 (No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak, Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” Sublime’s “Wrong Way”), we chose Barbie Girl as our horse. Again, why? Sometimes hits and misses come from the same place.
Winston Bogarde & OMC’s “How Bizarre”
Winston Bogarde is a retired footballer that spent time playing for Ajax, FC Barcelona and Chelsea. After falling out of favor with those making decisions at Stamford Bridge, the club demoted Bogarde to the reserve and youth teams in an effort to force him to leave. Bogarde responded, “this world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them. Few people will ever earn so many. I am one of the few fortunates who do. I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care.”
OMC came over the pond in 1996 with their tune dubbed “How Bizarre,” which in the grand scheme of things was pretty tame. Still, the album went on to sell a million copies in the United States alone. Similarly, nothing says “bizarre” like having a grown man paid buckets of money to play on a youth team. It actually sounds like the next movie coming out of the Happy Madison camp. Money makes people do very strange things.
Lawrence Phillips & The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men”
Lawrence Phillips was drafted sixth overall in the NFL Draft after a stellar, yet dubious college career at Nebraska that saw him scoring TD’s in between domestic disputes. When the Rams drafted him, they thought so highly of him that they traded away Jerome Bettis in hopes of graduating from a bus to a bullet train. Instead what they got could be likened to a Ford Pinto with a kilo of coke in the trunk, a dead body in the back seat and that guy with the hook hand from the urban legends is trying to give you a handjob. After countless domestic issues and felony assault charges, Phillips finally caught the big case when he was sentenced to 31 years in prison for attacking his girlfriend and for driving his car into three teenagers.
The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” debuted in 1982 and climbed to number one on the disco charts. Lawrence Phillips finds himself in a similar situation: it’s raining men in prison and he’s Andy Dufresne.
Freddy Adu & House of Pain’s “Jump Around”
Freddy Adu was supposed to put American soccer on the map. At the ripe young age of 10, he was slicing through top-tier Italian youth teams like a deli slicer on capricola, prompting Inter Milan to offer him a six-figure offer to play. Four years later Adu would make his professional debut for the MLS’ DC United, making him the youngest to ever do so. After playing very uneventfully in the United States domestic league, he took his talents overseas to play for second-tier Turkish side Caykur Rizespor, before bouncing around to Portugal’s Benefica, and brief stints at AS Monaco and Belenenses. Adu has often been criticized for his immaturity, and rightfully so given how young he was when he broke in. But even still, at 22 Adu remains a nomadic footballer.
House of Pain’s “Jump Around” serves as a rallying cry at most sporting events. Just attend a home football game at the University of Wisconsin. The DJ Muggs produced hip-hop classic is a great reminder that despite the promise of a long and illustrious career, Freddy Adu hasn’t stuck on any one club. We’re still waiting for final word if when Adu shoots, he shoots to kill.
Tony Mandarich & New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”
Tony Mandarich was selected just behind Troy Aikman, and before luminaries like Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders in the 1989 NFL Draft. Sports Illustrated called him “the best offensive line prospect ever.” After a lengthy holdout with the Green Bay Packers, Mandarich went all third person in saying, *“I am not like other players, I am Tony Mandarich, and they have to understand that. If they don’t like it, that is just the way I am and they are going to learn to like it.”
*Note: Replace Tony Mandarich with Ivan Drago and read with a Russian accent. We’ll wait.
Following his stint with the Packers, that was all she wrote for Tony Mandarich. He’ d later appear on the cover of the September 28, 1992 cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “The NFL’s Incredible Bust.”
The New Radical’s 1998 hit “You Get What You Give” climbed to number 30 on the Billboard charts. In a Time Magazine interview, U2’s The Edge, is quoted as saying, “I really would love to have written that.” It’s often speculated that Tony Mandarich got to where he was thanks to steroids, and ultimately failed with the lack there of in the pros. The message came about 10 years too late for him.
Michael Olowokandi and Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy”
As a rule of thumb, one must never draft a player who started playing said sport at the ripe old age of eighteen. Never. Ever. And certainly not with the number one overall pick. Michael Olowokandi’s career began by calling the University of the Pacific and telling the athletic department that he was seven feet tall. That’s right, he served as his own recruiter. After putting up 20 and 10 numbers his senior year, the always wise Los Angeles Clippers selected Olowokandi with the first pick in 1998. The Candy Man arrived like the Santa Ana winds and was out of there just as quick. While he managed a journeymen’s nine-year career, those years were spent riding the pine.
Bow Wow Wow released “I Want Candy” in 1982 to the chagrin of diabetes-inflicted Wilfred Brimley. Originally released by The Strangeloves in 1965, the song has been covered more times than a corpse by Horatio Caine in his time policing in Miami. It’s okay to want candy. It’s not okay to want Olowokandi.
Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson & Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”
In anticipation of the 1992 Summer Olympics, shoe manufacturer Reebok unleashed one of the most memorable athletic ad campaigns in recent memory. When it came to decathletes, a person was either Team Dan or Team Dave. There wasn’t even neutrality in Switzerland, that’s how serious it was. Then Dan failed to qualify for the Olympics.
Dave Johnson went on to take home a bronze medal and retired from international competition soon after. It should be noted that O’Brien went on to win a gold in 1996 in Atlanta. But as a pair, they were Blue Valentine dysfunctional.
Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” stood proudly a top the American charts for three weeks the very same year Dan and Dave were preparing for Barcelona. Sung from the perspective of an emaciated and ego-inflated fashion model, it oozed braggadocio. Despite Reebok’s attempt to brand O’Brien and Johnson as the top of the heap, it was Robert Zmelik of the Czech Republic who turned out to be too sexy for his gold medal.
Brian Bosworth & Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”
Brian Bosworth was named by ESPN as the sixth biggest flop in the last 25 years. Never one to shy away from controversy, The Boz was thrown off the Oklahoma Sooners by Coach Barry Switzer after attending the Orange Bowl, a game he had been suspended for because of the steroid use. The first look that most reporters got of Boz professionally was the beefy linebacker entering the practice field in a helicopter. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks he sued the NFL to be allowed to wear his collegiate number, and was on the wrong end of one of the most memorable moments in Monday Night Football history. Bo knows.
Vanilla Ice and his 1989 smash hit “Ice Ice baby” was the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts. While Ice said that the song described a drive by shooting he witnessed in Florida, his credibility was immediately questioned. For both Bosworth and Ice, you’ve certainly got to walk the walk after you’ve flapped your gums like a peanut butter fed thoroughbred. Not to mention both men’s affinity for terrible haircuts.
Ryan Leaf & Jermaine Stewart “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”
The 1998 NFL Draft had scouts and general managers divided on who should be taken number one overall. On one side, there was Tennessee’s Peyton Manning. And on the other, Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. While neither would take home the Heisman that year (finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively behind Michigan’s Charles Woodson) there was no debate that a QB was coming off the board first. Any casual NFL fan knows that when the Indianapolis Colts took Manning, they were making a King Solomon-wise decision.
To ensure that they had a chance to get at least one or the other, San Diego traded two first round picks and a former pro bowler to move into the second spot where they took Leaf, signing him to a $31.25 million dollar contract. On draft day Leaf commented, “I’m looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego.”
After winning his first two starts as a rookie, Leaf eventually lost the starting job after throwing 2 TD’s and 15 picks through ten games. His fate was ultimately sealed in the locker room, surrounded by half naked men and reporters, when he was caught screaming at beat reporter Jay Posner, “knock it off!” Perhaps Posner had asked him to take his clothes off.
Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” reached number five on the U.S. Charts, gaining notoriety after being used on Miami Vice. While the message of the song would come to avoiding the various pitfalls life has, the title itself and Leaf’s locker room melt down seem blissfully perfect together.
JaMarcus Russel & The Fat Boys “All You Can Eat”
JaMarcus Russell came into the league with expectations busting at the seams like a pair of jean shorts at Old Country buffet. After being named MVP of the 2007 Sugar Bowl, the 21-4 career quarterback was selected number one overall by the Oakland Raiders. He flat out stunk. The only high numbers he put up were his weight and his cholesterol. His most recent weigh-in found the plumpy QB checking in at 292 pounds during a workout for the Miami Dolphins in 2010. His final numbers in a Raiders uniform were a 52.1 completion percent, a 18-23 TD to interception ratio a passer rating of 65.2 and 15 lost fumbles.
Where as Prince Markie D of The Fat Boys once famously said, “$3.99 for all you can eat, I’m gonna stuff my face to a funky beat,” JaMarcus Russell took the 30 million dollars the Raiders handed over and did the exact same thing…except he threw a bunch of interceptions along the way.