Taking the bad with the worse

A reputation takes years to build up, but just minutes to tear down.
  I’m not sure who first said that, or even if my summation is word-for-word precise, but it definitely rings true. And once that reputation gets soiled, there may not be enough personal cleansing that can be done to completely remove all the grime.
  There are occasional exceptions — one business-world example involves the drug Tylenol. Tampered-with bottles of the product resulted in seven deaths in 1982, which prompted major changes in how Tylenol is packaged.
  In the incident’s aftermath, many people assumed the harm done to Tylenol’s name would be irreparable, but miraculously, it wasn’t. Not only that, but Tylenol gradually regained enough public trust to where it has again become one of the most popular choices to combat the pain caused by life’s miseries, such as the acquisition of a bad reputation.
  On an individual level, man typically possesses the need to feel loved and, by extension, thought of highly. This often results in him engaging in embarrassing sycophantic displays that never turn out well.

  In an attempt to curry acceptance from others, some folks will allow themselves to be used in the most shameless manner imaginable. Envision a fraternity initiation, but one without any sort of real payoff for the person filling the role of pledge.
  And, sad to say, sometimes occupation trumps personal traits when it comes to creating a character impression. Say “politician,” for instance, and one’s hands instinctively check to see if his wallet is missing from a pants pocket.
  Used-car salesmen, lawyers, bankers and, yes, journalists usually suffer a similar career-caused reputation nosedive, deserved or not. Nice guys really do finish last in the court of public opinion if they happen to earn income in some of the above-mentioned fields.
  Not to be ignored, either, are entertainers and sports figures, whose lives are under a more powerful microscope because of their high-profile workplaces. This is good for courting notoriety or if seeking to promote some sort of personal agenda, but not so good when trying to distance themselves from a sordid past.
  Still, Americans tend to be a rather forgiving bunch, at least if a negative-personality type appears willing to mend his ways. Or, in the case of sports, he can help a fan’s favorite team win a championship.
  That certainly seemed to apply to now-retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. During his farewell tour of 2012, Lewis was hailed as one of pro football’s most respected elder statesmen, a description that got enhanced by the Ravens’ capturing of last February’s Super Bowl.
  In the midst of all that feel-goodness, only the most callous individuals dared broach the topic of Lewis’ serious legal troubles of a decade earlier. And whoever did generally got roundly criticized for doing so.
  Authorities put Lewis under suspicion back then and subsequently questioned him about his connection to a double murder. Though initially a person of interest, Lewis was not charged after agreeing to testify against two other men who were involved.
  Outsiders will never really know his exact role in the incident, but time evidently healed most of Lewis’ self-inflicted wounds to his reputation. Michael Vick can only wish he were that lucky.
  As reported in a Forbes story, a California firm recently polled 1,100 people aged 13 and up to find out which players in the NFL ratcheted up their anger level. The survey uncovered the 10 most disliked pros, based on a variety of criteria, including awareness and confidence.
  And No. 1 in that dubious group was Vick, whose reputation very definitely preceded him. The part the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback played several years ago in a dog-fighting operation will never be forgotten, nor, it would seem, totally forgiven.
  Not that it should be, but I find it interesting that Vick is still so ostracized after he actually paid his debt to society. Being incarcerated for a crime is normally enough to take the heat off and let the offender resume something of a normal existence upon release from prison, but apparently Vick has done a better-than-anticipated job of demonizing himself.
  As far as his spot at No. 1 on the wished-they’d-constantly-be-hit parade, Vick fended off challenges from Manti Te’o and Ndamukong Suh for the dishonor. Those two men were second and third, respectively on the most-disliked list, and not because of any prejudice toward guys with hard-to-pronounce names.
  Te’o, you may recall, caused a stir late last year with a phony story about how his superb performance at Notre Dame was being spurred on by the memory of a dead girlfriend. Hey, he lied, but at least he didn’t kill, steal or covet his neighbor’s wife, all of which have been among the off-the-field activities of some past NFL deadbeats.
  Oh well, Te’o’s still a rookie. He’s got plenty of time to learn to do worse if he so chooses.
  As for Suh, his inclusion isn’t surprising, seeing as he is the NFL’s reigning bad boy when it comes to questionable blows struck during a game. According to his detractors, Suh delivers more cheap shots than a bad bartender.
  Six of the remaining seven names on the list are quarterbacks, which also shouldn’t come as a shock since they’re usually the faces of their franchises. And in the case of Ben Roethlisberger, No. 4 among the disliked, there is also some non-football baggage he carries. Although he was not brought to trial on either of two previous sexual-assault charges, Roethlisberger’s reputation nevertheless took a beating because of them.
  But what about Jay Cutler? Outside of the pained, my-drawers-are-too-tight expression he usually wears on his mug and the fact that an excavation team would be required to unearth any sort of personality, Cutler really hasn’t done anything to warrant the No. 6 position on the most-disliked list.
  And the same thing goes for Tony Romo and Tom Brady, unless being romantically linked to female celebrities is grounds for hatred, which it may very well be. I can understand Dallas fans being upset with Romo for not making the Cowboys more of a postseason threat, but that exact same thing would automatically ingratiate him to millions of other Americans who don’t share an affinity for the self-proclaimed “America’s Team.”
  New England fans don’t have a similar axe to grind with Brady, who has guided the Patriots to three Super Bowl championships and a total of five appearances in that over-hyped game. Perhaps his detractors think he’s lived too charmed a life, with a marriage to a supermodel thrown in with his football achievements. No guy deserves to have everything go so right for him.
  Other members of the most-disliked group include New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush. All in all, the 10 men comprise a so-so collection.
  None of them belongs in the same league as former pro baseball player Albert Belle, who created so much vitriol in sportswriters that they once denied him a Most Valuable Player award in a year he was probably the most deserving party. It was payback for all the times the antisocial Belle mistreated — and, in some instances, threatened — members of the fourth estate.
  And that’s not all. I also remember a number of people, fans and media members alike, virtually celebrating the announcement of Belle’s premature retirement from the sport due to a bad hip. I know being gleeful about another’s misfortune doesn’t say much for those who display such an emotion, but it sure spoke volumes about Albert Belle’s negative effect on his fellow man.
  Belle was a Hall of Fame-caliber bad guy, one against whom all would-be jerks must be measured. But you’ve also got to grudgingly admire anyone who just didn’t give a darn how badly he was perceived, as was true with Belle.
  Sorry Michael Vick, you’ve still got a lot of work to do to deserve that top spot among bottom-feeders.