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Lessons in anger management
Watching John Cena in the ring last Monday night was like seeing a time bomb tick away and then explode. But is his career about to self-destruct?
The WWE Champion's face reddened and trembled with rage after Raw General Manager William Regal announced that he would face Randy Orton, the man who put his father in the hospital, in a rematch for the title at Unforgiven on Sept. 16. As Cena advanced on him, Regal warned, "Don't do anything foolish. Need I remind you who I am?"
But Cena would not be deterred. After initially pausing, he pounced on Regal and clamped the STFU on the Brit. Cena's frustration and outrage over his now-personal war with Orton is understandable. But has the Legend Killer driven him so over the edge that he isn't thinking clearly? Will the WWE Champion's rage cause him to do something he will later regret?
Cena could face severe repercussions for putting his hands on a WWE official. In other sports, athletes have been fined thousands of dollars, suspended or banned for physical confrontations with officials. If Cena continues down this path, he may be forced to face similar consequences.
If he's lucky, Cena will join the list of other prominent sports figures that thumbed their noses at authority but were able to weather the storm:
- Four-time NBA All-Star Latrell Sprewell. In 1997, the then-Golden State Warrior got into an argument with head coach P.J. Carlesimo during practice and began choking his coach until teammates pulled him off.
As a result of the rage, the Warriors cut Sprewell and the NBA suspended him for the season. It looked as if his career had flat-lined, but he was signed the following year by the New York Knicks. He went on to help lead the team to the playoffs and endeared himself to the notoriously moody New York fans.
- In the late ‘70s, the phrase "You cannot be serious!" reverberated throughout tennis courts thanks to legendary player John McEnroe. The tennis prodigy fueled his notorious reputation by yelling at umpires who made calls against him, leading the British press to dub him "Superbrat."
But McEnroe's on-court tirades didn't stop him from having a Hall of Fame career. Though his tantrums generated the most headlines, he won seven Grand Slam singles titles -- three at Wimbledon and four at the U.S. Open -- and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999. As McEnroe's temper has mellowed over the years, he has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and today is hailed as one of tennis' most esteemed ambassadors.
- Possessing a McMahonian-like short fuse, former University of Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight is famous for his hot-blooded outbursts, including tossing a chair across the court during a game.
The final straw for Knight came in 2000 after he was accused of assaulting a UI student. The most successful coach in NCAA history was quickly relieved of his duties. Knight took the next season off and then took a head coaching job at Texas Tech, where he has improved their program and led the Red Raiders to post-season appearances in five out of his six seasons.
Or will Cena end up more like baseball's Carl Everett? Everett was once one of the game's top prospects, but his temper and penchant for controversy torpedoed his career. His temperament was just one reason he played for seven different teams in a 12-year period in the Major Leagues.
Everett's best season was in 2000, when he belted a career-high 34 homers. But he struck out when he ran up against his own ego. During one game, umpire Ron Kulpa questioned the legality of Everett's batting stance. Rather than reason with Kulpa, the combative slugger went nose to nose with the umpire and bumped him, earning him a 10-day suspension and engendering the scorn of Red Sox fans everywhere. Everett was never quite the same after that incident. Once one of baseball's most promising prospects, Everett is now trying to resurrect his career as a member of the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
As John Cena moves forward after brutalizing William Regal, will he learn from the sports figures that preceded him? Or is he too blinded by rage? The WWE Champion now has a critical choice to make -- get control of his anger or let his anger get control of him.