It started around the time I was 9. Like the Skynet program from Terminator, that was the time I became "self-aware". My parents split, and I'd officially pledged my lifetime allegiance to the Lakers, 49ers, SF Giants, and hip hop. What I knew about life was falling apart around me, and it seemed sports (through TV) were the one thing I had control over, so I clung to it.
I'll save the rest for my autobiography, but know that over my odyssey of following sports, I've always been fascinated by the marital divorces that happen within. It reminds me of the traumatic events that made me divert the bulk of my attention towards them in the first place (I'm big on nostalgia). Not the divorcing of players and teams (see: Johnny Damon and Boston Red Sox), or teams and fan bases (see: Supersonics and Seattle), or the divorcing of minds and logic (see: Philadelphia and Fans Expectations) but the divorces between actual men and women.
Make no mistake, the soap opera aspect to sports is what secretly drives the industry. ESPN didn't build their brand by simply showing game scores and highlights. That just brought people in the door. What made us stay was the drama.
Divorce is the apex of human drama when it comes to intrapersonal relationships. It goes against the natural impulse of people to forge relationships with others by signaling a permanent ending to one. Don't be fooled by divorce rates, people love to keep contact with other people, even if its in the most superficial sense (How many friends do you have on Facebook? When is the last time you were in the same room as them?). That's why divorces, long after they've become so commonplace, continue to get the attention they do.
Americans love watching others public humiliation. Its the tie that binds us together. Its fun to look at others struggle so publicly. It appeals to that same basic human instinct that makes us stare at car crashes.
The top 10 sports divorces that have happened within my time following serve as proof.
This one had it all. An all pro wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, and a multi-platinum R&B starlett from "TLC", domestic violence, strippers, and of course, the burning down of a million dollar mansion. The only reason its so far down on the list is because just like "mama and 'nem" the two never officially tied the knot, so their split, while sensational and headline-grabbing, was never recognized by the courts. This ended badly for Rison, who was never the same player, and eventually had to be forced out of the NFL so that Jerry Rice could have his jersey number 80 when he signed with Oakland in 2001.
Left Eye had a much worse ending. Rest in peace.
Finley was an all star pitcher for the California/Anaheim Angels (before the lates renaming), and Kitaen was the George Washington of video vixens, appearing in the classic Whitesnake video for "Here I Go Again". Really, the couple had a pretty uneventful marriage until one night in 2002, when Kitaen went all "OJ" on Finley, and had to be arrested on charges of, you guessed it, domestic violence. Finley filed for divorce three days later. We eventually found out that Kitaen had a substantial drug problem, and she appeared on Dr. Drew's "Celebrity Rehab", possibly causing the largest outbreak of "Masturbators Regret" that this country has ever seen.
Jeff Gordon spent many moons as the "Golden Boy" of NASCAR. He married his "Golden Gal" in 1994. There's was a marriage right out of the script for "Talladega Nights", right down to them meeting when Gordon won the Winston Cup, and Sealey was "Ms. Winston". Gordon was winning championship after championship, and Sealey was living the trophy wife life, right up until 2003, when they divorced.
Their story doesn't end there. After the divorce, Gordon remarried a super model (Ingrid Vandebosch), and Sealey had a cougar rendezvous with a kid named James Dixon II, that resulted in the birth of a baby boy, and then re-married a man Mullins Mcleod, who ran for governor of South Carolina. Sealey made the news recently because she attempted to have the new baby's last name be "Gordon", even though it wasn't his, AND she was married to another man.
Only in America.
The Wade's were this generation's rags-to-riches story. They grew up together on Chicago's south side. They were high school sweethearts. They werer partners through D-Wade's meteoric rise from little-used reserve, to blue chip recruit at Harold L. Richards High School, to his incredible Final Four run at Marquette that made him a number 5 overall pick by the Miami Heat (This is the point where the needle skipping off the record noise starts).
By all accounts, once the Wade's hit Miami, "that's when signals got crossed, and (they) got flipped" (Hov!). D-Wade was allegedly hitting everything moving, possibly even Star Jones (eww).
The couple filed for divorce in 2007. During the divorce, Siovaughn accused Dwyane of everything from adultery to giving her an unspecified STD (rhymes with "smerpes"). The divorce even played a role during this summer's free-agency, when the Chicago Bulls believed they had a shot at landing Wade, due to the custody battle. Ultimately, Dwyane re-signed with Miami.
2007-08 were not kind to A-Rod. Over that time period: 1.) He announced his intention to be a free agent during the World Series broadcast. 2.) A photo of he and a muscular exotic dancer/escort emerged from the tabloids. 3.) He was mentioned in connection with a madam (aka female pimp) who said their paths had crossed professionally. 4.) His wife filed for divorce. 5.) He was romantically linked to a 50 year old (so, so old) Madonna. 6.) He went on television and denied ever using steroids, only to have his positive test leaked to the public just before Spring Training in 2009.
Now, A-Rod has always been an easy target for people, but even the biggest detractor has to admit that was quite a bad stretch. Add to that, Cyntia sought comfort in the home of friend/rockstar Lenny Kravitz, who had to release a statement saying they weren't romantically involved.
Focusing on the divorce, Cynthia had demanded the $12 million home, as well as alimony, and custody of the children. The two settled in July of '09, but the terms were never disclosed.
Ironically, divorce has been great for A-Rod. He shed his "choker" label by helping the Yankees to their first World Series win in 10 years. He also hit his 600th HR, and has been romantically linked to actresses Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz.
(Numbers 5-1 coming tomorrow)