Famous flops

O, BY THE WAY

Wie, others paid without proving worth

On hyped athletes who have yet to impress

July 23, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Michelle Wie's odyssey remains one of the more bizarre sports career stories of all time, as the 18-year-old now tries to recover from a scorecard faux pas with one more shot at - of all things - the men's tour.

Last weekend, Wie was actually making good on the promise she flashed as a precocious adolescent, cruising along at 17-under par at an LPGA tournament in Springfield, Ill., when she was disqualified for forgetting to sign her scorecard after the second round. It was a missed opportunity to scatter the dark clouds that have hung over her young career.

Now, she courts further disaster - and criticism - by entering a PGA event, the Legends Reno-Tahoe, in a week and a half. It is her eighth PGA Tour event, and she has yet to make the cut in any of them.

Considering Wie has made just two cuts in the past two years in LPGA events, one might think it more prudent that she focus on the women's tour. It's estimated she needs to win about $80,000 in her final scheduled LPGA tournament this year, the CN Canadian Women's Open in August, to avoid being in the position of qualifying for the 2009 women's tour.

But regardless of how things work out in the weeks or even years to come, Wie does have the financial comfort of multiyear endorsement deals that reportedly pay her as much as $10 million a year.

Wie is hardly alone in the arena of hype far exceeding accomplishment (at least so far) in sports. Essentially, any NFL first-round draft pick who goes bust is in the same category. What makes her stand out is how much publicity and money was showered on her before she ever had to prove herself.

Here's one list of mega-hyped athletes who, as is the case with Wie, have yet to demonstrate they were worth all the attention and cash.

*Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers center, No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. The 7-footer from Ohio State signed a two-year, $8 million deal (with options for two more years) as a sure-fire franchise-changing force. But microfracture surgery on his knee prevented him from ever making it onto the court for a regular-season game as a rookie. He might turn out to be all he's cracked up to be, but the Blazers are still waiting.

*Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals quarterback, first-round draft pick in 2006. Before the '06 draft that also included blue-chip quarterbacks Vince Young and Jay Cutler, Leinart was considered the most polished because he had played in the pro-style Southern California offense. He has been on magazine covers and a staple on celebrity gossip Web sites since the day he was drafted, but he has not gotten his game in gear.

*Brady Quinn, Cleveland Browns QB, first-round pick in 2007. As a Notre Dame quarterback, Quinn couldn't escape the hype. You still see him on commercials and no one outside Cleveland even knows what the real starter, Derek Anderson, even looks like. Quinn isn't in Leinart's category yet because he hasn't had a similar opportunity.

*David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder. Before the British soccer superstar even had a chance to set foot in the New World in 2007, the Galaxy had sold a quarter-million jerseys based solely on his arrival. Last year, because of injury, Beckham was unable to make much of an impact on his new American team. This year, he has been a stout team guy, leading the Galaxy in games and minutes with five goals and seven assists. Still, he's hardly the pop culture-sports megastar here that he has been on the other side of the ocean.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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