|The List: Sports' most harmful relatives|
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff
If Alexander Pope and Ted Williams meet in the afterlife, no doubt Pope will try to console the Splendid Splinter with the words he wrote hundreds of yers ago: "A family is but too often a commonwealth of malignants."
In other words, Ted, you're not alone in having a despicable relative who's despicable behavior has ruined your day, or year, or life, or eternity. ... But your offspring does top our list of the sports most harmful relatives.
John Henry first got our attention when he used dad's name and influence to get a shot in the Red Sox organization when a) he sucked, and b) he was old. Then came freezing dad, apparently against his will (literally), and talking about selling his father's DNA (talk about a walking bad advertisement for DNA). If, as planned, the whole family is "together again" in the distant future, Ted will probably immediately disown his son.
2. Miles Dabord (Bison Dele's brother)
3. Damir Dokic (Jelena's father)
Unfortunately, almost from the first day on the tour, she has had more than tennis to worry about -- she also has had to deal with her father's terrible behavior. Dokic, wrote Jon Henderson and Oliver Irish in the Australian Magazine recently, "became a serial nuisance at tournaments, almost from the moment Dokic joined." Damir was ejected from one tournament for calling club members Nazis, from the U.S. Open for throwing a fit about the overpriced salmon, and finally from all tournaments for six months. Jelena tolerated and defended her father, but all was not well. At one tournament, she refused her parents admittance. She eventually ditched her father as coach, and now travels sans pere.
It's got to be for the better. "It's as if all of her energy is devoted to simply maintaining her composure," wrote J.A. Adande of the L.A. Times during the U.S. Open in 2000. "She should be having the time of her life, advancing to the latter rounds of Grand Slams, traveling the world. But she always looks as if she is doing chores. She rarely smiles, even after victories. ... She must persevere, she must be tough, because her father is going to make things difficult for her."
Pat Croce, 76ers president and co-owner, did a double-take in April 2001 when he saw his brother, John, on video, doing a single-take -- swiping a few bucks from the pants pocket of Allen Iverson. Sixers GM Billy King showed Pat the tape, taken from a surveillance camera that was installed after players said money had been going missing.
"I looked at Billy, I looked back at the tape and I looked at Billy, and he was hurt. He couldn't even talk," the owner said. "I didn't know what to say. I felt sick, physically sick. Then I felt angry. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
John, the 76ers conditioning coach, was fired.
5. Marv Marinovich (Todd's father)
"He was the prototypical stage father," Sports Illustrated's Douglas S. Looney wrote in 1990. "In most ways, Marv didn't have a life. He had Todd's life ... 'I had a captive audience,' says Marv. 'I told him when to eat, what to eat, when to go to bed, when to get up, when to work out, how to work out. Now I have a hard time getting him on the telephone.' "
Then, things went very wrong Todd led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory his freshman year, but then he started cutting classes, was benched and suspended, and then arrested for drug possession.
Still, he was drafted by the Raiders in the first round in 1991, and given a three-year, $2.25 million deal. After his rookie season, it was all downhill. In 1996, when Newsweek magazine checked in on him, Marinovich was playing for a band called Scurvy for $60 a night. He played in the CFL, the Arena League, was busted for growing pot in 1998, then arrested for possession of heroin.
6. Jim Pierce (Mary's father)
But opponents weren't the only ones who suffered his abuse. Mary said, "Dad would slap me after I lost a match, or sometimes even if I had a bad practice." In one case, he threw a heavy equipment bag at her, chased her, and smashed her in the face, after which he was issued a restraining order.
7. Brooke Gordon (Jeff's ex-wife)
The former Miss Winston, when confronted with Jeff's counterclaim that she didn't deserve that much -- because he risked life and limb to amass his wealth --contended that she was entitled to at least half of his assets because, as one of her divorce court motions stated, "NASCAR is a relatively safe occupation."
"I think it's harassment, I think it's uncalled for, and if I could do something about it, I would," Gordon said.
8. Peter Graf (Steffi's father)
What is it about the fathers of female tennis players? Peter, nicknamed "Papa Merciless" by the German press, went to prison for almost four years after being convicted of tax evasion on $10 million of Steffi's earnings. Said Steffi, "When you know what alcohol and tablets can do to a person, it's difficult to be angry."
9. Mike Brown (Paul's son)
10. Roy Turner (Joey's father)