Long before Charles Barkley pitched an Orlando fan through a plateglass window and Albert Belle chased down unruly trick-or-treaters in his Ford Explorer, athletes were soiling their reputations. At least past miscreants didn't have their misdeeds meticulously chronicled on jerkoftheweek.com. "Look, we understand that athletes have bad days," says Steve Hofstetter, who monitors hockey and basketball for the website, while his brother, Adam, keeps tabs on baseball and football. "Just don't spit on the fans."
Steve, 21, a senior at Columbia and a freelance journalist, and Adam, 26, an editor, named their first online Jerk of the Week in 1998. (He was Jose Canseco, for pleading no contest to domestic violence.) Each week they comb the AP wire and newspapers for likely targets and assign them Jerk points—for instance, three for a DUI and five for spousal abuse. The offenses don't have to be criminal ones: Dodgers leftfielder Gary Sheffield tops the 2001 baseball standings with 16 points, earned for his spring tirades against his club and his gripes about being underpaid, while baseball commissioner Bud Selig, whose decisions are often criticized on the site, is the alltime points leader (119). The career leader among athletes? Dennis Rodman, with 69 points amassed over 29 Jerk infractions, including such weirdness as challenging NBA commissioner David Stern to a nude wrestling match (three points) and being charged with disturbing the peace for acts that included landing a helicopter on the beach in back of his Newport Beach, Calif., house during his 40th birthday party (two).
The brothers are planning a miscellaneous category to tap into fertile areas such as boxing. Says Steve, "When athletes are in the police station with a plaque over their chest, we want them saying, 'Damn, I'm going to be the Jerk of the Week.' "