Towards the end of the 2017 MLB season, pictures surfaced of young Aaron Judge sporting a Red Sox t-shirt as a teenager, despite playing for the Yankees. The greatest rivalry in all sports has led to the AL MVP runner-up wearing the sworn enemy’s shirt? What has the world come to? Judge grew up in California, but is he a closeted Red Sox fan? Well, Aaron isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last “fake fan” athlete. There’s a lot more players and coaches who have sported rivals’ gear and ink.
Reuben Foster – Foster was drafted 31st overall in 2017 by the 49ers out of the University of Alabama. Foster has a very notable tattoo of the Auburn logo. Foster actually decommitted from Auburn University as a senior in high school despite a very public presentation of his commitment beforehand that ended in him showing off his brand new arm tattoo as well. His Auburn tattoo still stands however, and it was probably the butt end of a few jokes in the Alabama locker room.
Shane Ray – Ray came under fire after posting this photo to social media showing off some of his new ink. Ray was born and raised in Kansas City, growing up as a long time Kansas City Chiefs fan. As an outside linebacker for the division rival Denver Broncos, a lot of NFL fans called him out. Defending himself, Ray posted “I love the Broncos and I bleed orange and blue. Don’t let a representation of pride and art upset you.”
Bret Bielema – Bielema reportedly has an Iowa Hawkeyes tattoo on his lower leg, however recently was the head coach of at Arkansas and before that the Wisconsin Badgers. He attended and played football at Iowa from 1989 to 1992, and he also actually coached their as the linebackers coach from 1994 to 2001 as well.
Clint Frazier – The current Yankees outfielder is consistently inconsistent. Frazier grew up right outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He claimed in an interview, however, that his favorite team growing wasn’t the Braves but the Philadelphia Phillies. Then, right before the 2013 MLB draft, Frazier was quoted saying, “My background on my phone was the Boston Red Sox. I pretty much knew that I was going to go there.” Frazier wanted to be in Boston and assumed the Red Sox were going to draft him as well. Instead, the Indians grabbed him two spots ahead of Boston, and then later traded him to the Yankees for Andrew Miller.
Alex Rodriguez – A-Rod’s been busy since his retirement with a surprisingly successful career in broadcasting. Before his days in the MLB, however, A-Rod grew up in Miami as a die hard Mets fan. In 2000, A-Rod signed the largest contract ever in professional sports at the time with the Rangers (10 years, $252 million). According to ESPN, “Rodriguez wanted to be a Met so bad that one person close to him still insists he would have taken less than the $252 million the Texas Rangers ended up forking over.” The Mets didn’t even send an offer his way at any point in his career, and reportedly only met with his agent once in his career in a meeting that was reportedly a disaster.
Roberto Luongo – Luongo was the best goalie in the NHL at one point in his career, arguably as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. So far in his 18 year career he’s played for the Panthers, Islanders, and Canucks. As a child, Luongo was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Rather than rooting for the hometown Montreal Canadiens, however, he was a diehard Edmonton Oilers fan, looking up to Oilers’ goalie Grant Fuhr. The Canucks and Oilers have always been significant rivals, and throw in his hometown team and it sure makes an even bigger mess.
Any English guy that played for Liverpool– Okay so maybe this isn’t true of all English players on Liverpool FC in the English Premier League, but it’s been somewhat common for Liverpool players to grow up as fans of their rival, Everton. For every season since 1980, there’s been at least one player on the Liverpool team who grew up as an Everton supporter. The streak begins with Ian Rush, who played with Liverpool from 1980 to 1996, followed by former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher, a member of the team from 1996 until 2013. Currently, Adam Lallana continues the line, joining the Reds in 2014 and still with them today. Those three aren’t the only players during this time period however. Robbie Fowler played for Liverpool twice (1993 to 2001 and again in 2006 to 2007) and claimed to switch team loyalty upon joining Liverpool’s academy at age 11, ‘When I was very young I used to watch Everton but I was at Liverpool when I was 11 years old – I’ve been a Liverpool fan from then on.” Michael Owen, with Liverpool from 1996 until 2004, grew up as an Everton fan thanks to his father, Terry Owen, who played for Everton as a forward. Steve McManaman (with Liverpool from 1990 until 1999) explained, “When I was younger I was desperate to sign for Everton but they weren’t as forthcoming as Liverpool. For a young player, 15 years old, your chances were so much better at Liverpool.” Finally, Steve McMahon, actually voted in the top 50 by fans of the top 100 greatest Liverpool players, was the only player on this list to actually player for his childhood favorites before coming to Liverpool later in his career. He played for Liverpool from 1985 until 1991, and he said Everton legend Alan Ball was his favorite player growing up and Everton’s FA Cup victory against Liverpool was his favorite childhood moment in an interview.
Isco – While Americans often cite the Red Sox and Yankees as the greatest rivalry in sports, the entire sports world is in agreeance that Real Madrid and Barcelona hold that title. Isco grew up as a fan of Barcelona his whole life, and actually continued to openly voice his passion for the team while a member of Real Madrid. Perhaps the best part of the narrative: Isco named his dog Messi saying, “I named my dog ‘Messi’ because Messi is the best in the world and so is my dog.” Real Madrid fans might want to have a word with him about who the best player in the world is. Other dog owners might want a word too.
Milan Lucic – Lucic grew up in Vancouver, played juniors for the Vancouver Giants, and was a Vancouver Canucks fanatic growing up. As a child, he probably didn’t imagine himself playing for the Edmonton Oilers. As a member of the Bruins, Lucic won a Stanley Cup in 2011 against the Canucks. In 2016 he signed a 7 year deal with the Oilers as a free agent, so Lucic will continue to face his childhood favorite team as division rivals.