3 years

Sporting Hellraisers

Prodigiously talented, outrageously behaved

‘Hellraiser: a person who causes trouble by drinking, being violent, or otherwise behaving outrageously,’ so says the Oxford English Dictionary.

Here is a list of some of sport’s biggest raisers of hell; the men who, when they weren’t picking up trophies, would push the limits of excess in search of a good time.

Alex Higgins
Hailed as the George Best of snooker, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was born with a God-given talent that helped turn the sport from a minority game to one with millions of followers. He should’ve been hailed as one of the greatest players in history. Instead, his self-destructive nature meant he was all but ostracised from professional snooker. Addicted to booze and cocaine, too often his most memorable highlights happened away from the snooker table rather than on it. These included falling 30 feet out of a window, getting stabbed by a girlfriend and threatening to have fellow Irish snooker player Dennis Taylor shot.

James Hunt
Hunt’s career in Formula 1, which included becoming world champion in 1976, is often overlooked in favour of his more ‘colourful’ antics. Renowned for his eccentricities, he was the epitome of the good-looking, rebellious driver that is sorely lacking from this era’s batch of racers. A lover of drink and sex, often for breakfast, other habits included turning up to formal events in bare feet and jeans and having his pet dog be his dinner guest at lavish restaurants. Moving behind the microphone after his retirement, he would often irritate co-commentator Murray Walker by openly smoking joints on the roof of their commentary box. His walks on the wild side led Walker to say: “His devotion to sex in all its forms was mind-boggling.”

Diego Maradona
The only thing about as mazy as one of Diego Maradona’s runs with a football were the lines of cocaine he’d hose up. Burning, or in this case snorting, the candle at both ends had its consequences. It led to failed drugs tests, suspensions, overdoses, intensive care and even shooting at journalists with an air rifle as the TV cameras rolled. His treatment in hospital for alcohol abuse seems nothing more than a footnote in comparison. Still probably the best player of his generation though.

John Daly
Known for his Happy Gilmore-esque drives off the tee, earning him the nickname ‘Long John’, Daly has been the scourge of golfing’s establishment since he won the 1991 PGA Championship. It’s not hard to see why. As well as the unsightly wife-beating and assault of fans, Daly’s addictions have resulted in gambling debts of over $60 million, fluctuating weight and four marriages. A mercurial talent, his ability to deliver has regularly taken a backseat, causing his swing coach Butch Harmon to quit and remark: “The most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”

George Best
The first ever ‘celebrity’ footballer and arguably the most naturally gifted player of all time, even Pele said he was the best he ever saw. Yet, no matter how great George Best’s ability was on the field, it couldn’t make up for his fatal flaw; alcohol addiction. Tragically, he seemed to revel in the role of ‘rich alcoholic sports star’. As he once quipped: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” But Best’s drinking and hellraising, while perhaps initially fitting in with the zeitgeist of the swinging sixties, hid a destructive streak. As much a two finger salute to his strict Presbyterian upbringing, his fame only pushed him closer to the bottle. It began decades of booze benders, until his death in 2005. It was a testament to his prowess on the pitch he was remembered most my mourners at his funeral as ‘the beautiful boy with a beautiful game’.

Who do you think are sport’s biggest hellraisers? Let us know below.

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